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A beginner’s guide to growing plants in the UAE

Who doesn’t love the idea of a greener country and a greener planet? With the nation keeping its green thumbs busy, we should be doing the same! Contrary to popular opinion, there are a lot of plants and trees that grow very well in the UAE’s hot climate. While you may not be plucking a juicy pear off your tree in Jumeirah any time soon, a fresh home grown tomato salad is well within your reach!
If gardening is not really your thing, start small, with indoor plants. Indoor plants generally require very little care, and so it’s the best way to enter the world of gardening. These plants not only help brighten up your space, but are also great for your health. Indoor plants constantly purify the air we breathe, making it an ideal investment for your home or office. Most indoor plants don’t require sunlight at all; photosynthesis is generated with the help of indoor light. Depending on the type of plant, watering has to be done once in 3 to 10 days. Smaller pots require frequent watering, while larger pots have to be watered less frequently in larger quantities. The most common mistake people make with indoor plants is to over-water them! The rule of thumb to follow is to stick your finger into the soil and if it is dry for more than an inch deep, it’s time to water. Your plant shop should be able to give you specific instructions for each plant, so be sure to follow them. Also keep in mind if your indoor plants are flowering plants, their soil needs to be fertilized once a month. Non- flowering plants only need their soil fertilized twice a year. Outdoor plants require different and more frequent care. For one thing, they need to be watered daily, regardless of being in pots or in the ground. For another, they require at least two hours of direct sunlight every day. In the UAE however, be careful to avoid direct sunlight from 11AM to 3PM, especially during the hot summer months. A simple solution is to build a shade using green netting during these months to protect your plants. Outdoor plants also need to be fertilized once a month to help them grow properly. Use an NPK fertilizer (Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium) for your plants’ diet to keep them happy. Keep a sharp eye out for wilting, yellowed leaves. It could be a sign of over or under watering, or even over fertilizing your plants. Also look out for insects and pests. A simple method to keep your plants safe is to ring them with eggshells. Wash and dry eggshells, crush them in your hand and scatter them around your plants. They keep insects away and also nourish the soil. Neem oil is also a great natural insecticide for both indoor and outdoor plants. A mixture of neem oil, mild soap and water can keep most pests away from your plants, and is not harmful to the environment. In the UAE, it’s always a good idea to start your planting during winter. Seeds are easily available in the market, and it’s a joy to watch your seeds sprout and grow into beautiful plants. For those new to gardening, some of the easiest plants to start with are Sunflower, Mint, Tomato, Eggplant, Moringa, Basil, Pumpkin and Watermelon.

Check out our list of the easiest plants to grow in the UAE climate:

Indoor plants:
Money plant
Zamia
Areca palm
Peace Lilly
Snake plant

Outdoor plants(balcony/garden):
Desert rose
Jasmine
Bougainvillea
Texas Ranger
Plumbago

Trees:
Poinciana
Neem
Olive

There’s a wealth of information on gardening on the Internet. While generic articles and videos are very useful, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re usually made for a colder climate. Be careful to always take the UAE climate into account when following sources from different countries. Many outdoor flowering plants and fruit trees go dormant in harsh climates. While this refers to the cold winter in the northern and southern hemispheres, in equatorial countries like ours, it’s the hot summer months. If your rose plant seems very inactive during summer, don’t worry, it’s just hibernating. It will put out new leaves and flowers when the weather turns cooler. So get out your gardening kits, let’s paint this planet green!

Meet PlantNet – App for getting info about plants

Some scientists have estimated that there are about 400,000 flowering plant species in the world — that’s a lot of plants.

So you’ll be okay if you don’t know each and every one of them. But if you’re really curious about that one flower you walked past on the park, don’t worry there’s an app that will help you identify that plant.

PlantNet is an app that will help you identify a plant just by taking a picture of it — think of it as the Shazam for plants.

The app collects data from a large social network that uploads pictures and information about plants.

Now, go out there and start smelling the roses, or is it a dahlia… maybe it’s a calibrachoa.