Human Flower Project

Growing Luck in Malaysia

Can one lottery winner inspire a new floral tradition for the lunar year? A Malaysian nurseryman chirps, yes!


In Malaysia, this variety of pedilanthus is a favorite for the lunar new year.

Photo: The Star

The lunar new year arrives late this year, February 14, but horticulturists and florists worldwide have long been preparing. Traditional plants of the celebration

include bong mai, yellow chrysanthemum, flowering plum and narcissus, all early bloomers. The trick is handling them just so they flower on the holiday itself.

This year, along with the old customs, there’s 21st century spin in the marketing of holiday plants. If Apple, Google and Scott Brown can do it, why not nurserymen?

image“Tall slipper plant”—companion plant to a lottery winner

Photo: Steph’s Green Space

In Malaysia, we learn, there’s a new seasonal favorite—seow niao hwa (“little bird flower” in Mandarin). “Customers like its beautiful blooms and they believe the flowers bring a lot of luck,” Ng Meng Hak told reporter Farik Zolkepli of the Star. As it happened (or is said to have happened) one customer at Ng’s nursery won the lottery late last year after buying one of these plants.

While most Western holidays center around meals and drinking, gifts, parades, and family reunions, at lunar new year the focus is on luck. Signs are everywhere. The color of each garment, the order of visits, and especially the plants in bloom that day are all harbingers of fortune in the coming year.

According to the Star, this is a variety of Pedilanthus, very possibly Pedilanthus tithymaloides, with its canary-shaped inflorescences, a plant that rivals Joe DiMaggio for nicknames: Devil’s Backbone, Christmas Candle, Jacob’s Ladder, Japanese Poinsettia, Redbird Cactus, Slipper’s Spurge, Zigzag Plant…. Malay garden blogger Steph, who spotted one last September at a nursery, says that in her part of the world this is also called “tall slipper plant.” Since many varieties in this family of succulent shrubs do well in Texas, perhaps neighbor/readers can tell us if we’ve gotten Malaysia’s “bird” right.

We don’t know how widespread or enduring the seow niao hwa custom will be (China’s plum blossom tradition goes back many centuries), but for Ng, owner of Ming Nursery in Johar Bahru, Year of the Tiger has already begun auspiciously.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/29 at 03:30 PM


What a fabulous little plant… very interesting. The colors are gorgeous.

Posted by Dirty Girl Gardening on 02/11 at 03:20 PM
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