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Friday, January 21, 2011

Buying Plants and Flowers for Chinese New Year 2011

Ornamental pineapple plants - Ananas bracteatus 'Striatus' (nanas merah)
Chinese New Year is a spring festival (春节). Flowers and plants are significant during this season as they represent the joy of reawakening of nature after the long winter gloom. Live plants signify rebirth and new growth and first we must have flowers before the fruits can form. Therefore, when plants in our garden start to bloom and bear fruits, we believe that it is a good sign that our efforts will bring forth rewards. We have a saying "Hua Kai Fu Gui (花开富貴)", meaning, "When Flowers Bloom, There is Prosperity", hence we fill our gardens with blooming plants and decorate our homes with auspicious flowers like the lotus, chrysanthemums, peonies, orchids and plum blossoms.

This is Part 2 of my visit to Ah Chui Nursery. I am preparing this fun post for general knowlege and I hope you learn something about our culture. I myself learnt new things as I was preparing for this post.

The above is a picture of ornamental pineapple plants bearing fruits. If you look closely, you'll notice that the pots are covered with gold wrapping. There are also no thorns on their leaves. The pineapple is called "ong lai" in Hokkien dialect which translate to mean the arrival of good fortune.

Sometimes, bromeliads such as guzmanias are used for the same purpose. Guzmanias are nicknamed "pineapple flowers" in Chinese.

Poted pussy willows
These are Pussy Willows (Salix caprea) grown in pots. They signify the arrival of prosperity and growth in prosperity. We grow them for their catkin flowers. You can buy those with lots of unopened buds and place them in the coolest area of your home, e.g. under the shelter of the porch or verandah. The silky soft blooms are silvery grey in colour. The blooms elongate as the tiny flowers open in cylindrical clusters but they don't seem to have any petals at all.

Pussy willows are called "Yin liu" (银柳) in Chinese which sounds like money flowing in. They are also sold as cut stems tied in bundles. We can place the stalks in beautiful porcelain vases and decorate them with auspicious ornaments to turn them into mythical money plants.

We want the pussy willows to bloom and send out green shoots as an indication that spring has arrived.

Mini pot of mandarin orange plant

This is a mini potted mandarin orange (tangerine) plant. The fruits look like gold nuggets. Notice that the leaves are allowed to grow upwards and not pruned off at the top, perhaps to denote rising succcess ( 歩歩高升  or bu bu gao sheng) ?

“Buying Plants and Flowers For Chinese New Year 2011”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on Jan 21st, 2011.

Cherry Chilli - Solanum pseudocapsicum
This is Solanum pseudocapsicum which we call the cherry chilli plant. Its other common name is Christmas cherry, winter cherry or Jerusalem cherry. The fruits which are inedible and poisonous, changes colour from pale green to yellow to orange to red which make them look like precious gems of jade, gold and rubies.

Ornamental red chili (Capsicum annuum)

These are ornamental chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum) plants. The fruits are firery red when ripe. Red is the colour of prosperity and happiness. Chilli is 'la jiao' (辣椒). 'Jiao' sounds like 'zhao' in the New Year wishes for wealth and prosperity 'zhao cai jin bao' ( 招财进宝), so it is used to ursher in wealth and prosperity.

Jade Plants

These jade plants (Crassula ovata) are symbols of wealth and abundance. They are also called money plants as the leaves resemble precious jade.

Kalanchoe pinnata (Setawar Kampung)

This looks like a Kalanchoe pinnata or Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi?
Do you remember our school days when we would use a leaf as a bookmark? We called this "Lock Day Sung Kan" (Roots will grow out when leaf touches the ground). Kalanchoe pinnata is called Setawar Kampung in Malay.

Kalanchoe is a genus with hundreds of species, the most common here being Kalanchoe blossfeldiana with masses of tiny star shaped flowers in red, purple, orange, yellow and white.

In temperate countries, Kalanchoes bloom in late winter / early spring.

Kalanchoes are called "wan zi qian hong" (  - million purple thousand red) which translates to an abundance of wealth and prosperity. In Cantonese, 'zi' for purple colour also sounds like money (银纸 - ngan zhi) and son (子 -zi). The pronunciation of "wan zi qian hong" also rhymes with "a million offsprings, a thousand fame and honour".


Azalea is called  映山红 (ying shan hong) or 满山红 (man shan hong) which means a mountain of red.

Azalea is the symbol of happiness, harmony and balance in life. It is used to foster and strenghten relationships. Azaleas are warm temperate plants that bloom in spring and the flowers last a few weeks. They like the shade and acidic soil. Choose one that has lots of unopened buds but before that you need to view 1 or 2 opened blooms to choose the colours that you like, e.g. pink, red or white and pink. However, as the new year day draws near, you can choose those partially open ones. It takes about 2 weeks for azalea buds to open fully, otherwise your plant may only start blooming after the first 15 days.

You will  notice that during the Chinese New Year season, some temperate plants like narcissus, hyacinths, azaleas, chrysanthemums, pussy willows are brought into our warm equatorial country of Malaysia. For cut flowers, we can find many varieties of the scented and lovely asiatic lilies or star gazer lilies too. This is the time to try them out. I do enjoy my once a year love affair with these gorgeous temperate plants, even though they do not last long.

Do you wonder why the gorgeous roses are not the highlight of this season? It is because most of them have thorns which is regarded as poison arrows which we wish to avoid.

Always remember, you do not need to overspend. Many choices are availble to suit your budget. It is not advisable to spend lots of money on a new plant with an auspicious sounding name invented by the growers. What's the use if we are not familiar with the new plant and it dies soon under our care. Even if you do not buy any, it is important to keep your plants alive and healthy, the garden lush and green.

Just to let you know, I have purchased 2 calamondin lime trees, a pot of budding pussy willow, a Kalanchoe, a flowering jade plant, 2 pots of azaleas and a bunch of lucky bamboos. I intent to buy some chrysanthemums as the New Year Day draws near.


  1. Hello AB,

    Absolutely adorable plants! I haven't see such cute pineapple or oranges.

    Happy weekend!


  2. Very informative post, thanks for sharing the significance of each plant.

  3. Hi, Now I understand really well what the meaning of each plant for CNY. I really enjoyed the post. Autumn Belle thank you so much for the card, I have received it. Warm hugs, Diana.

  4. What a great post! Thank you for sharing some of your culture with us. I enjoyed the meanings of plants.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  5. Wah! So many plants that are so auspicious for CNY, I only know 'kum' and pussy willows. Very interesting post Autumn Belle! So what plants did you buy?

  6. I would never have guessed all these meanings behind the plants... ignorant me...
    The mandarin oranges look lovely...

  7. Love learning the meanings of these plants.

  8. loved seeing these incredible plants...loved the oranges and pineapples!!

  9. Such an interesting post. I learnt so many things about Chinese culture.

  10. Autumn Belle: Awesome post about Chinese New Plants! Love those ornamental pineapples and that Kalanchoe flower. I so wanted to find some real pussy willows to decorate my house. I just love them!!! Last year, I asked my sister in China sent me lots of plants pictures sold there before the new year, and did a similar post about those and their meanings. We have so many in common! :) Wish you "Hua Kai Fu Gui (花开富貴)"!

  11. You certainly know your stuff, thanks for sharing.

  12. Thanks for the education this morning! I too see pussy willows in bloom as a sure sign that spring has sprung! Great photos.

  13. Love the little pineapple plants. I used to have one of those. I also like your photo of the kalanchoe. Your post is nicely done.
    Blessings, Beth

  14. Thanks for that very informative post... :)

  15. The photos of plants are quite beautiful...I'm familiar with many of them. Am learning about your culture...thanks so much for sharing!

  16. Oh my goodness, it's wonderful to see all those luscious plants and to learn about their significance! The ornamental pineapples are so colorful!

  17. You really know the meaning of the plants well, Autumn Belle :)

  18. Greetings from Southern California :-)

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You, ~Ron

  19. That looks like a great nursery to visit! I am sure you had fun
    Is interesting, the kalanchoe we know here is a bit different. the plant looks similar, but the flowers are upright. I wonder if they are variations.
    Good luck with your projects for the year! happy new year!

  20. I knew there was a good reason I like azaleas. Happiness, harmony and balance in life. Good to know.

  21. Such a wonderful post. Would love to have the tangerine plant! Looks wonderful.

  22. NEVER stop shocking me with beautiful things I had no idea existed!!! those pineapple plants are fantastic!!!
    great post this week as usual...thanks so much for linking in!!! I can't wait to see what you share next time!

  23. ok, this is REALLY helpful. I should be able to find SOMEthing to bring for CNY dinner...

  24. hello Autumn Belle, a fascinating post as ever....

  25. Thanks for sharing infor on CNY plants!
    Have a wonderful Chinese New year!

  26. So many pretty flowers. Each has a different meaning. Looking forward to Chinese New Year.

  27. Hi Autumn Belle, it's fascinating and wonderful that your New Year is so strongly associated with plants and flowers. And I enjoyed your interesting details, for example that thorns aren't desirable in plants for this celebration.

  28. HI,
    Crassula Ovata / Jade plants are really easy to grow as cope with very little watering and can seed new baby plants easily.

    What is the Cantonese for Jade Plant/Crassula Ovata/ Money Plant?


    1. Crassula Ovata is 翡翠木 (fei cui mu) in Chinese characters... cantonese is fei chui mok meaning jade plant.


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