If you have ever traveled to Malaysia or Singapore and tasted laksa (spicy noodle soup), you’d be amazed by the distinct taste of a must-have herb used in the dish, so much so, that it is commonly known as laksa leaves in the region. Other common names include Vietnamese coriander, rau ram (Vietnamese), and daun kesum (Malay).
Here’s an image of Penang laksa from Pixabay:
Slurp, slurp, yum.
I never thought I’d find this plant in Taiwan. As a beginner and (hopefully reformed) brown thumb, I didn’t recognize the leaves at first. But oh the smell. And there wasn’t any way of not knowing that this was it.
As a start, I trimmed off as much of the brown and yellow leaves as possible. However, Ms. Laksa still seemed overcrowded. The foliage was so dense that I couldn’t see much of the soil, and I guesstimated it wasn’t good for the plant to be all cramped together. Potential problems that came to mind include poor air circulation and hotbed for pests. Roots were also showing from the bottom of the pot, screaming: I need more space!
Hence, my first experience in transplanting store-bought plants into larger containers.
After a few tries, I learnt that it was easier to dig up the plant by thoroughly wetting the soil and roots. After finally able to struggle out the entire plant + soil + roots, I found that the roots of the plant had morphed into the shape of the pot. It was compact and there wasn’t much loose soil. The poor roots must have felt squeezed in the small pot.
I moved the plant (roots, soil and all) into a wider container and added in well-draining potting soil.
Next, I tried my best to untangle the crowded, intertwining stems, which was quite a challenge. I imagine it would feel similar to untangle knotted hair that hasn’t been combed for a year…
I started out much more gentle, but after a while, I was using scissors to trim some stems to help sort through them.
Looking at them side-by-side, I wonder how it had fit in the much tinier pot.
With all the mud, trimming, and untangling, it looked like a MUD EXPLOSION.
Side note. While sorting out the mess, I encountered huge amount of green, unnatural-looking, pill-like stuff, which I’m guessing are chemical fertilizer. I removed as much of them as I could find, and it was quite challenging at times, with many of them hidden among the knotted stems. I consequently added in some organic fertilizer instead.
Here she is an hour later and after much washing. Looks airier! Not so good on my poor, aching, back though.
I freak out a lot as a beginner farmer. One moment I was feeling relived that I was finally done, but then the next moment, I was starting to feel a little dreadful. Sure, I could finally see the soil, but is this really better? Should I have untangled the stems? Did I do more bad than good?
Well, no turning back now. Here’s my game plan “keep Ms. Laksa alive (no matter what)”:
- Water thoroughly daily – keep soil damp, additional moisture by water-spraying the exposed, leafless, stems.
- After acclimating the plant in shade for a day, provide as much sun as possible
- Be brave in pruning the stems, especially those that are overflowing. Pruning = encouraging more growth.
Couple days later, she is looking much better!
Three days after the transplant, I trimmed off all stems overflowing the container and gifted it to my husband to experiment with dishes at his restaurant. (Curious to find out what he will come up with, spicy laksa-ish flavored pizza?)
Today is the sixth day after the transplant, and yup, she is still looking quite good! I see new growth and it is now growing upwards (previously it was growing downwards). With the rate that she is growing, I’m guessing I might need to move her into an even bigger pot in the near future. OR, I should constantly trim lots of it, and feed myself with lots of Penang laksa.
Further experiments with propagating from cuttings
There were a number of trimmed ends leftover from the transplant. I decided to try propagating them, some in soil and some in water.
I placed the ones with longer existing roots in soil.
Six days later, can’t say much about those in soil. A few days ago, the leaves were drying off, so I trimmed them out. Here’s what they look like today. A little sad, I know. Still not going to give up on them yet, will continue to water generously and place in shaded sun.
On the other hand, I placed the cuttings with less roots in water.
These, in water, are growing really well. On day four, they started sporting newly formed white roots:
These plants just want to grow, grow, grow! Here’s what they look like on day five (just one day after the above image):
I trimmed off the older, pre-existing black-brown roots, just to make it look cleaner. I recently got some water crystal gel 魔晶土 and will be experimenting with planting these water-loving laksa leaves in crystal gel, which might be less fussy to bring indoors.
Not sure how it will go yet, but excited to try it out!
The Vege Girl Project: Day 27