The “Mahalab” Thai Herbal Bulb Plants: Delightful and Auspicious!
In the Thai (Siamese) language, the term “Mahalab” actually means “Great Fortune” and “Great Wealth”, which is precisely why this herbal and bulbous plant is so popular in Thailand, especially among shopkeepers who keep them in front of their shops as an auspicious token.
Mahalabs are Thai herbal and bulbous plants with very light green stems and leaves usually no greater than approximately 10-15 inches in height. They love being pot-bound, and need replanting only every 2-3 years. Propagation is via planting of bulblets which are outgrowths of the parent bulbs.
When planting, make sure that the soil covers the entire bulb, and up about 1 inch up the stems. Malalabs thrive in rich potting mix and loams, and prefers large pots or locations with good drainage. They thrive in full to partial sun, so make sure that the location receives at least a few hours of sunlight each day.
Whether in large pots or in the garden, Mahalabs prefer to be watered approximately 2 to 3 times weekly, and they are pretty drought tolerant. In very dry conditions, the plants may shed their leaves, only to grow back again when moisture returns. These lovely plants are evergreen year-round when watered consistently.
Although the foliages of Mahalabs are the most dense and rich during Thailand’s wet monsoon months (June-October), they produce spectacular orange-reddish flowers atop long stalks during Thailand’s hot dry months of March-May. Pinch off the flowers as soon as they finish blooming to keep the plant vigorous.
Mahalabs are excellent tropical herbal and bulbous plants that thrive in heat, humidity, and sunshine. Hence they are great additions to any tropical garden, whether in large pots or in well-drained locations. They usually multiply prolifically via bulblets off the base of the parent bulbs, so you’ll soon have even more to share will fellow friends and gardeners!
In colder climates such as China, Japan, Europe, and the United States, Mahalabs make excellent indoor house plants. Just place them in a warm location near the window where there’s plenty of sunlight. Make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as these are tropical plants which are sensitive to cold conditions.
Once every 3-4 years, Mahalab bulb plants can be divided and propagated as they bushes and pots fill up with new, smaller bulblets. The bulbs can be carefully dug up and washed, prior to the replanting and propagation process. When digging the bulbs up, it’s best to be very careful not to injure the bulbs, as they are best replanted intact in order to avoid diseases and complications. If the Mahalab bushes are in pots, the entire ball should be slided out of the pot and then gently pried apart. The Mahalab bulbs can then be replanted in the new pots which are filled with rich, loamy gardening soil mix and organic fertilizers (I prefer processed animal manure and compost). The bulbs should be replanted so that they are approximately 3 inches apart in order to allow for new growth. Once the bulbs are replanted, cover them with soil so that the base of the bulbs are approximately 1-1.5 inches below the soil level. Water well.
Hope you’ll enjoy growing and propagating these lovely Mahalab tropical bulb plants, and be sure to share them with fellow gardeners and plant lovers! Mahalabs are also great as ground cover in a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden.
Your comments are welcome, and if you happen to know the botanical or latin name of this plant, please share it with me and everyone!
Gardening’s great, and it rocks! Thanks.
Happy Gardening, wherever you are and wherever you may be around the world, and Enjoy!
Lat (Ratasit C.)