A Platform for Indian Homemakers

Indian Plants : Easy, Aesthetic and Useful

Posted by sudarsan on September 27, 2007

Seeing places abroad as well as commercial establishments locally, influenced a lot of Indians to move away from fruit & flower bearing trees to landscaped gardens with exotic grass, palms and evergreen shrubs.    Lets analyze this in detail and see what works well for us.

Home Garden

 Image Courtesy: http://www.casabaan.com

Korean Grass

Though Korean grass does not need periodic trimming it need a lot of water, periodic manuring, as well as well prepared landscape. Arugam Pull(used in prayers to Sri Ganapathy), is a versatile local variety that grows well without much personal attention, and does not need big investments nor maintenance.  A big plus with this grass is that it is soft and cool to sit on.  Crab grass from Malaysia or US ($10 seed+manure packet can cover 1000 sq feet) consumes less water, but needs periodic trimming to maintain the green patch.

Ornamental plants for landscaping

1. Ixora – This is a shrub endemic to India, and very popular in Europe as well.   Ixora has thin stalks with star like flowers that comes as a bunch (as a child we used to take one by one and suck out the little honey out of these flowers).  It comes in colours such as white, pink and coral red.   It can be maintained as a small shrub or can be allowed to grow as  a tree.   A bunch of flowers remain fresh for at-least a week and adds a mild fragrance to the breeze.   With this plant you will have tiny bees and butterflies visiting your home.  The flowers can also be harvested to string garlands.  This is a perennial, so you can see flowers throughout the year. A picture is shown below.


Image Courtesy: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com

 2. Turmeric, Ginger, Chitharathai, Yam – All these plants have a similar look and grows very well in our climate.    Suited for planting on the side of the pathways.  These plants can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

3. Climbers – Sweet potato (Velli Kizhangu), Jasmine (Nitya Malli) are excellent climbers that need very little soil, manure and water, but offer extensive coverage.   Nitya Malli flowers daily throughout the year.

4. Flowering plants – Chrysanthemum (Samanthi), Bhadrakshi, Jasmine (Gundu Malligai), Kanakambaram, Sampangi are nice flower bearing plants.  My pick is Bhadrakshi for landscaping as it is easy to grow and is a perennial.

5.Exotics – If you have a large home with huge grass lawns, adding a lotus/lily pond would be very appealing.   However you may have to populate the pond with some fishes and frogs to get rid of mosquitoes.

6.Trees – Arecanut (Paaku), Jackfruit (Palamaram), Gooseberry (Nellikai), Plantain/Banana, Casuarina, Bamboo, Teak, Badam are the best picks for trees that add to landscaping value as well as good utility value for homes.  Mangoes, Coconuts, Sappotta, Maghizamaram, Shenbagham are very nice trees too, but may not necessarily fit into a landscaping profile.

7. Plants for remote spots – You may have noticed hard-to-reach points in your building that would look nice with some plants.  At such places Perandai (Cactus variety, but can withstand downpours as well), Aloe Vera (Katrazhai) can grow well without letting in pests.

 It is a long Indian tradition that food itself is treated as medicine, so lets look at landscaping the Indian way: Easy, Aesthetic and Useful.

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9 Responses to “Indian Plants : Easy, Aesthetic and Useful”

  1. Vivek said

    @ sudarsan

    Let me be the first person to comment on your beautiful article. Only a few of us would have the luxury of maintaining a home garden. For these, your post would undoubtedly be a source of information/inspiration.

    My question to you would be regarding plants inside home. Some say it is not good, some say otherwise. In your opinion, can we have plants inside the home? If so

    a) Does it add any value apart from aesthetics?

    b) Do you have any location guidance for plants inside home ?

    c) What kind of plants can be kept inside the home? Any pros and cons of the same?

  2. Sudarsan said

    Indoor plants
    >>Some say it is not good, some say otherwise. In your opinion, can we have plants inside the home?
    I am not an expert on Vasthu or Feng Shui (but have heard that plants should not be kept at NE corner-Isaana Moolai, nor allow water to stagnate at SW corner-Kanya Moolai), but hold a simple belief on indoor plants. As long as the plant is happy indoors and you vice-versa with the plant, all is well. There are plenty of plants suited for indoor potting, but make sure you water it just right and keep the area clean, so that odours and pests, do not arise.
    Green plants: Money Plant, Bamboo, Ginger, Turmeric, Cactus, Chitharathai
    Flowering plants: Sampangi, Bud-rose, Cactus

    Of course you can try many more exotic plants like Orchids, Roses, Hibiscus, depending on the interior design and lighting of your home, but the above mentioned are easy to take care.

  3. Thad E. Ginathom said

    Badam… we have a couple of these trees in our garden. The nut is tiny, inside a huge thick shell.

    Having removed the shell, I’m to exhausted to eat the nut! Any hints how to get to that nut without subcontracting to a bunch of squirrels?

    Please remember that India has every climate from desert to rain forest, so it would be helpful to be more specific than ‘our’ climate.

    Personally I love to have a neam tree. People say that they are not good for the foundations — in fact I guess most trees should be planted away from the house.

    We have a neam tree and a henna tree just outside our kitchen window. The sparrows and small birds are attracted to the thick foliage, and it makes a great view, watching them from the window 🙂

    Frangipani is a very attractive plant to add to the list.

    Always check out the size opf the full-grown tree before planting. Neem trees and Mango trees are *huge*. We don’t have children to cut them down at 12 years old 😉

  4. Sudarsan said

    Badam (not Almond tree though) is an excellent tree, as it has nice foliage, it grows tall without side-winding roots. The leaves can be used for serving hot tiffin like Vada, Idly, Halwa, Kichidi, Bajji (still remember Coimbatore Viswanatha Iyer sweet stall serving Badam Halwa on this Badam leaf). To extract the tiny seed from the shell, is a messy affair. As a kid used to pick the ripe ones (normally gets a pink coat when ripe, and they fall off), and use a hammer to squash the fruit on a hard granite stone (washing stone), and then crack the nut to take the seed out….very messy affair, and it can stain your clothes.

    Certain trees are not grown at small homes, as live trees should not be cut (religious belief). The list includes Peepal, Banyan, Neem, Vilvam, Jackfruit. All these trees can penetrate brick/cement mortar easily.

    I do like the Frangipani flowers…but if you believe in Feng Shui, Chinese reserve this tree only for graveyards, as they believe ghosts haunt this tree. In India too, ghost beliefs are tied to drumstick, Tamarind trees.

  5. deeptrance said

    Excellent article. This is often an overlooked piece in the bustling Indian cities – aesthetics. Not to mention that green is the color identified as a stress buster.
    Seasonal variations are not that great in India and should actually help a home garden to thrive. Apartment buildings without patio spaces will have a challenge in setting up gardens though.
    I believe ‘Money plants’ are the safest bet for people who don’t have green fingers.

  6. Lavanya said

    cool article.And one thing that came to mind was,”vegetables and herbs”.Most people like to grow their own vegetables in the garden.Growing your own fresh vegetables at home can be the most rewarding type of gardening,its fresh, clean and grown under your supervision,what more would you need?.I have a couple of friends and relatives growing tomatoes,potatoes,pumpkin etc in their gardens.
    And herbs they have a fine flavour and easily grown plants too.
    Corriander,basil..etc r grown in gardens.
    I have seen most of the houses in bangalore growing curry leaves.
    Sudarshan…how abt throwing somelight on these topic too.?.it would guide most of us to keep a “healthy” garden.
    And yes i agree with deeptrance, its a challenge in most of the apartment buildings to set up gardens.
    But i have seen a couple of apartments,providing spaces for garden in balcony(its a big balcony of course).and it looks really cool.(“A total environment project” ,bangalore…does this).
    But most of all..will having garden inside home…invite the most dreaded guest…mosquitoes? Is there any preventive measures for these?

  7. Sudarsan said

    Nice to see the interest I actually started on landscaping trees and plants, and the thread took us into plants for the interior. Since your request is for vegetable gardening, I will make a seperate post.

  8. Vivek said

    @ sudarsan

    It would be great to have another post from you on gardens 🙂

    Most comments are pointing towards interior plants because I think most of us do not have the luxury of maintaining an exterior one ! Just a thought.

  9. […] the plants. It is an excellent nutrient and helps you grow your own mini vegetable mart ! Check out this post and this from […]

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