How to have flourishing pandan plants and propagate them
Since we established a gardening area in our home 2 years ago, one of my biggest pride and joy of my garden is my pandan plants.
Pandan plants are hardy and easy to grow in tropical weather as long as you give it the right conditions to survive.
In this post I share some tips on growing and propagating these fragrant leaves, and offer some ideas on using pandan for culinary use.
Conditions for growing healthy pandan plants
Pandan is a mangrove plant / shrub that belongs to the screw pine family. It is native to South East Asia, and is easy to grow in places with wet or clay like soil, under lots of sun or in mildly shaded area. Grown pandan plants will spread out and grow up to 2 meters tall.
Rich, relatively moist, slightly acidic soil
Pots / Containers:
Pandan plants can grow big and develop long and thick aerial roots that support the plant as it grow. The plant can become leggy and heavy on top. Therefore, it is best to use big pots (minimum 20L) to grow your pandan plants. The larger the pot, the bigger the pandan plant can grow because there is more space and nutrients for the roots.
Picture of my established plant growing really leggy and it almost fell out of the pot:
Pandan loves sunlight. However, if the sun is scorching hot and the plant is in a small pot, it is best to give it partial shade.
Pandan loves moisture and it can tolerate wet soil. They also don't seem to mind the rainy season when the soil is constantly water logged.
Pandan plants are very easy to grow and they are very hardy. It tends to grow better on land than in pots, but if you feed it regularly (once or twice a month) with compost or natural fertilisers (such as store bought fish emulsion, seaweed emulsion, chicken manure or sheep manure), they can become really productive.
Click here to see my earlier post about my home made compost soil and bokashi tea fertilizer
The most important tip for growing healthy pandan is to give each plant it's own pot, and a sizeable pot with rich and wet soil.
How to propagate pandan plants
Once your pandan plant is well established, they usually grow offshoots (extra stems with visible aerial root) from the main plant. It is easy to spot the newly grown pandan because the leaves tend to grow in bunches. Simply pull off the new offshoot with your hands, do not cut it because you might cut off the aerial roots too.
How to plant the offshoots:
Peel off the bottom leaves of the shoot to give the plant extra space to grow roots
If the offshoot is already quite well developed with a few big aerial roots, you can simply bury the plant deep in moist soil, with soil level up to the neck of the plant
Keep the newly planted baby in a semi-shaded area for a few days first, before introducing it to the direct sun. Keep the soil moist at all times
If the shoot is small and it doesn't have enough established aerial roots, I suggest that you soak the stem in a bucket of water for a few weeks for it to grow secondary roots first (change water daily), then plant it in soil
This is a picture of the newly propagated offshoots:
Propagate by cutting established plants into two pieces
When pandan grow big, they tend to become very leggy with leaves on the top to absorb more sunlight and aerial roots propping up the plant
One good way to keep the plant pretty and round is to chop off the plant into two pieces - cut the plant from the middle so you have two plants to grow
Peel off the bottom leaves of the top section, so at least 10-20 cm of stem is exposed. Bury the stem/neck into soil (same as growing offshoots)
The lower section of the established plant can be kept in the original pot. It will grow new shoots and look pretty again
1st pic: top section of the cut off plant
2nd pic: lower section of the cut off plant, growing new offshoots
3rd pic: lower section of the cut off plant, established as a new bushy plant
How to use pandan leaves?
South East Asias are experts in using pandan leaves! I am still learning, but here are a few ways we love:
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Click here for my treasured recipe! ^_^
Gula-malaka and pandan steam cakes (Stay tuned, I will share this wonderful recipe soon!)
Singapore's famous chicken rice - add pandan leaves, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and some chicken fat into the rice when cooking. The rice tastes heavenly!
Tea for medicinal benefits. Pandan is known for it's postprandial antihyperglycemic effect (reduce blood sugar after meals). Click here for the detailed research report
Fragrant soy milk by adding pandan leaves to the milk when boiling - it removes fish-like flavour in soy milk.
Hope you'll enjoy planting, propagating, and cooking with pandan!
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