Plant Passport – Singapore

No city on earth combines modern urban life with ancient jungle landscapes quite like Singapore does. Known as the “Garden City” and located on the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, Singapore is known for its mix of stunning modern architecture and lush foliage. If you’ve seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s a picture-perfect city for plant lovers- everywhere you turn, there are plants in some form or another. The houseplant community in Singapore is one of the strongest anywhere since the climate and location are perfect for raising and collecting rare tropical species, which means that the plant shopping scene is just as mind-blowing (hello, Punggol). And luckily, there are plenty of ways that visitors can experience the foliage of Singapore as well.

Changi Airport

The plant lover experience in Singapore starts literally the minute you step off the plane- which is just how we like it. Singapore Changi Airport is one of the largest air traffic hubs in Asia, and is essentially a mosaic of beautiful, foliage-filled spaces and world-class amenities. It has won numerous awards over the years (we’re talking over 600) for its general excellence, and Changi’s stunning collection of gardens have played a huge role in those wins.

One of the main highlights of the airport (and arguably the most Instagram-famous) is the Jewel- a huge rain vortex with adjacent walking trails, dining, a hedge maze, and other amenities. The massive water feature comes spilling in from the ceiling, creating an other-worldly scene packed with natural elements.

The other five themed gardens located within Changi are the Sunflower Garden, Butterfly Garden, Enchanted Garden, Orchid Garden and Cactus Garden, the later of which includes an open-air bar and occasional live music. There is even a dragonfly-inspired garden right inside the entrance of the airport to greet visitors.

Singapore is a common stopping point if you’re traveling between countries in or near Southeast Asia, making Changi a great place to hang out and explore even if you’re only there for a layover. No matter where your flight comes into the airport, you’ll likely have enough time to check out at least one, if not several, of their many gardens. They also encourage those departing from Singapore to arrive for their flights early so they have enough time to experience the Jewel.

COVID-19 note: some of the attractions at Changi Airport are still closed at the time this was written, but will re-open in the future. Make sure to check online for available activities before you travel.

Into the Gardens –

Gardens by the Bay

When it comes to botanical gardens, Singapore boasts some of the best in the world. The most famous of them is the Gardens by the Bay, a truly eye-catching landmark most will recognize as “the Supertrees.” 

The “trees” are actually man-made structures built to mimic the look of a forest, architectural showpieces that fit seamlessly into the landscape of the gardens. The Supertrees don’t just look cool- they serve as vertical gardens, they harvest rainwater and solar energy, and they act as venting ducts for nearby buildings.

One of the most stunning attractions within the gardens is the Flower Dome, an air-conditioned greenhouse that is home to a massive collection of plants from around the world. Besides the central flower field, there are different sections housing plants from South Africa, Australia, California, the Mediterranean, South America, and more.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

It doesn’t get better than being able to access a gorgeous garden for free. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are the only tropical gardens on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and are home to tons of historic landmarks, sculptural art pieces, and of course loads of trails through the stunning gardens.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the gardens or simply want to know more about them, volunteers conduct free tours of the trails on a regular schedule. There are also several restaurants located throughout the park, with some (like Corner House and Casa Verde) offering outdoor dining that allows you to experience the glorious foliage while enjoying your meal.

Urban Jungle 

One of Singapore’s claims to fame is their “urban jungle” vibe, referring to the juxtaposition of sleek modern architecture and dense city center with lush green landscapes. There are so many places throughout the city to explore, to step away from the rush of urban life for a moment and be surrounded by nature.

Green Corridor Railway Track

The bustling Bukit Timah area of Singapore is home to several natural spaces, including the Green Corridor railway track. Once an active train track, it has now been turned into a nature trail that reaches from coast to coast across Singapore (roughly 24 kilometers or 15 miles). It is being transformed into a heritage site, highlighting the flora, fauna, and human history of Singapore.

Thomson Nature Park

Nestled in a more secluded area of Singapore, Thomson Nature Park offers visitors multiple experiences that combine local history, lush jungle foliage, and native wildlife. Those who are interested in exploring a piece of Singapore’s history can take the Ruins and Figs Trail, which winds through the park to an abandoned (but carefully maintained) Hainan village from the 1930s. 

For those interested in local wildlife and foliage, the park offers the Streams and Ferns trail. This trail focuses on aquatic freshwater habitats and a wide variety of ferns, but the park is an incredibly biodiverse place. It’s smart to keep a lookout for the critically endangered Raffles’ Banded Langur, since Thomson Nature Park is a key conservation site for these primates.

For even more beautiful natural spaces to explore in Singapore, make sure to check out the National Parks Board website, which is packed with options for travelers to visit and important information for each park. 

Whether you’re stopping through and just getting a taste of the Jewel or spending a week getting lost in the lush urban jungles, Singapore truly is a paradise for plant lovers and a must-have stamp in your plant passport.

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