Types of ginger plant

Contents

Ornamental Ginger Plants – A Guide To Flowering Ginger Varieties

Ornamental ginger plants can be a great way to add attractive and exotic color, foliage, and blooms to your garden. Whether they go in beds or in containers, these plants offer diversity without a lot of maintenance.

Growing Ginger Plants that Flower

Ornamental, or flowering, gingers are different from the edible variety. These are just for show, and they can certainly be beautiful, with a range of sizes, flower shapes, and colors. These are also tropical and sub-tropical plants that will not tolerate winters that are much colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).

If you do have a South Florida garden, or one in a similar climate, you can grow these ginger plants that flower and enjoy the blooms without much effort. In slightly cooler climates, you can grow them in containers and bring them indoors for the winter.

Ideal conditions for ornamental ginger include at least some shade, rich, moist soil, and good drainage. A dose of fertilizer once a month will give you even more

flowers.

Flowering Ginger Varieties for Your Garden

There are many types of flowering ginger, but most are large plants with showy foliage and even showier blooms. They thrive in the same conditions, so if you have the right spot in your garden, pick from among the varieties based solely on looks:

Red ginger. This grand ginger is tall and produces a big red flower spike. The red spike is not actually the flower, but it does provide the big show. Inside each red bract that makes up the spike, is a small white flower.

Malay ginger. The Malay ginger produces flowers that are about two inches (5 centimeters) across. They are ruffled and may be white or pink with yellow centers. The leaves are long and green, but there are cultivars of this ginger that have variegated leaves.

Pineapple ginger. This ginger will give you spectacular blooms. The flower spike is six to eight inches (15 to 20 centimeters) tall, has bright red waxy bracts and is shaped like a pineapple.

Butterfly ginger. The butterfly ginger variety produces pink and red flowers, which are not just pretty, but also emit a pleasant fragrance.

Torch ginger. The unusual torch ginger flowers bloom from colorful bracts that may be red, pink or orange. These make lovely additions to the warm climate garden.

Shell ginger. The flowers of the shell ginger are unique. They cluster together in a drooping shape and are often white, but sometimes pale pink. They have been described as a string of pearls.

Oxblood ginger. This variety adds color to the garden, not just from its white to pink flowers, but also the undersides of the leaves which are a rich, deep purplish red.

There are so many varieties of ornamental ginger plants that you’ll have fun picking out the ones that will add a little exotic flair to your garden.

Which Gingers are Edible?

Avon asks which gingers are edible:

Dear David,

I read your article in the recent Heirloom Gardener Magazine with great interest because I have grown ginger on and off for many years, especially when I lived in LA but have also grown it in pots indoors. My plants were made up mostly of leaves and I always wondered if those leaves were safe to eat. You said that they are and I am wondering if you have any reservations at all about eating them or using them for flavor, much like a bay leaf.

Also are all ginger plants the same or might some have toxic leaves?

Thank you for your time. (I did sign up for your newsletters and look forward to receiving them.)

Avon

First of all, it’s a great idea to grow your own ginger and I very much enjoyed having the chance to write for Heirloom Gardener magazine.

My article ended up making the front cover:

One reason to grow your own ginger is you don’t always know how store-bought ginger is being produced:

“Farmers in Shandong have been overusing an illegal and highly toxic pesticide to grow ginger for years on end, adding yet another concern to the country’s growing list of food scandals.

An investigative report by China Central Television (CCTV), which aired on Saturday, discovered farmers in Weifang city had been using the pesticide aldicarb “three to six times” above the recommended level. The pesticide is not approved for use on ginger.

Aldicarb – branded in China as Shennongdan – is a highly poisonous carbamate pesticide that the Ministry of Agriculture says can be only used on cotton, tobacco, peanuts, roses and sweet potatoes, albeit under strict controls.

Exposure in high quantities can lead to dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and respiratory failure. Just 50 milligrams of aldicarb is enough to kill a person weighing 50kg, the report said.

The CCTV report said farmers in Weifang had been using 120 to 300kg of the pesticide per hectare, nearly three to six times above the level considered safe.

One farmer interviewed by CCTV said she was aware of aldicarb’s toxicity and did not use it on ginger that her family ate. Another said he had been using aldicarb for more than 20 years since it was first introduced to the market.”

But Avon isn’t asking about toxic chemicals in store-bought ginger. She wants to know if all ginger plants are edible.

Let’s get digging.

Ornamental Gingers and Edible Gingers

When I worked in a plant nursery owned by some good friends of mine, I got to meet a lot of beautiful gingers. They had spiral gingers and butterfly gingers, shampoo gingers and blue gingers… it was a cornucopia of wonderful gingers.

Unfortunately, these were all “ornamental” types. Though that doesn’t mean they aren’t edible.

Edible Gingers

Many of the ornamental varieties are edible in certain ways. For example, butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) is reported to have edible roots and blooms.

Shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet) has edible roots but they taste bitter and are not worth eating. Trust me. I’ve tried them.

The “cardamom ginger” often sold in Florida (Alpinia calcarata), though it’s not the true cardamom, has leaves that have an earthy flavor and can be used like bay or cumin.

Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) has leaves that make a tasty tea.

Common ginger and its cousin turmeric are edible in all their parts, so if you have those – use them however you like. The leaves are coarse in texture, so they’re not good in salads, but they are good to add seasoning to dishes and for tea.

Torch Ginger has edible uses as well. According to Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers: “The unopened flower buds are edible and very flavorful, and they are used in Southeast Asian cooking.”

As for toxic leaves on ornamental ginger species, I cannot find any reports of poisonous ornamental gingers. I have heard none of them are toxic but I cannot say for sure. It’s safer to stick to eating known edible species. Ginger is a friendly family of plants but you never know.

Thanks for writing, Avon, and may your thumbs always be green.

For everyone else, you can subscribe to Heirloom Gardener magazine here. It’s a beautiful publication.

*Ginger image by Julian Fong. CC License.

Edible ginger is the rhizome of Zingiber officinale.

Edible or culinary ginger is the fat, knobby, aromatic rhizome of Zingiber officinale, a tender herbaceous perennial plant in the large ginger family (Zingiberaceae) native to humid, partly-shaded habitats in moist tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia. Ginger is grown for the hot, pungent flavor of the rhizome which can be used fresh, dried, ground or preserved (in brine, vinegar or sugar syrup). It was introduced to northern Europe by the Romans (who got it from Arab traders), was one of the most popular spices in the Middle Ages, and is an integral component of many Asian cuisines today. In Asia, the fresh stems are also used in many dishes. Ginger adds a spicy punch to fruit salads, teas, curries, preserves, and baked goods – gingerbread, gingersnaps, and other spicy desserts. In addition to its culinary value, it is used as a remedy for nausea and mild seasickness and medicinally in oral or topical preparations for several ailments. It does interact with some medications, including the anticoagulant drug warfarin.

Other plants in this family used as spices include cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), galangal (Alpinia galanga) and turmeric (Curcuma longa), while most of the other nearly 1,300 species in the family are grown primarily as ornamentals. It is not related to the wild gingers of the northern hemisphere (Asarum spp.) whose roots have similar aromatic properties, but should not be consumed as they contain aristolochic acid, a compound associated with permanent kidney damage.

Turmeric, Curcuma longa, plants (L), dug roots (LC), cleaned root with one end peeled to show the bright orange flesh (RC) and the edible ground powder with a fresh and dried section of root (R).

Also called ginger root (technically a misnomer, since it’s a rhizome, which is an underground stem, and not a root) this plant is now grown throughout the world in tropical climates. It is grown commercially in South and Southeast Asia (India, China, Nepal), tropical Africa, parts of Central America and the Caribbean, and Australia where it takes about 8-10 months from planting to harvest the crop. It is hardy only in USDA Zones 8 – 12 but can be grown in containers and moved indoors for the winter in colder climates where the season is too short for the rhizomes to mature.

Ginger rhizomes have a very delicate skin, especially when young (R – sold as “baby ginger”).

The thick, warty, branched rhizomes have a corky, brown to golden outer skin that is very thin and easily abraded, so they should be handled carefully to avoid damage that could lead to spoilage. The interior is pale yellow with a spicy, almost lemony scent. When young the rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste, but become hotter, more fibrous and drier as they mature. The characteristic fragrance and flavor comes from volatile oils and non-volatile phenolic compounds including zingerone, shogaol, gingerol, and gingeridione.

Ginger plants have narrow leaves.

Ginger plants grow shoots 3-4 feet tall from the rhizomes, gradually spreading outwards to eventually form a dense clump if not harvested. The shoots are actually pseudostems formed from a series of leaf sheaths wrapped tightly around one another. The blades of the medium green, alternate leaves are long and narrow (7 by ¾ inches), arranged in two ranks on each stem.

The terminal inflorescence grows on a separate stem (L) and produces a green “cone’ from which the yellowish and maroon flowers protrude (R — photo from Wikimedia Commons).

Container grown plants rarely flower, and the blossoms are not particularly spectacular. Clumps need to be at least two years old before they will flower. The terminal inflorescence grows on a separate, leafless stem from the foliage stem. The dense, cone-shaped flower spikes are composed of a series of greenish or yellowish bracts with translucent margins. Cream to yellowish green flowers, each with a mauve or deep purple lip, protrude just beyond the green bracts. Culinary ginger flowers are usually sterile, rarely producing seed.

Culinary ginger is rarely offered as a potted plant since it isn’t particularly ornamental. However, ginger can be grown from rhizomes purchased at supermarkets or other food stores. Commercial ginger is often treated with a growth inhibitor to keep it from sprouting before use, but sometimes pieces – especially those marketed as organic – will begin to sprout. Plump pieces with many swollen buds at the end of the “fingers” are best. Buds that have started to turn green are even more likely to grow. The rhizomes can be planted whole or divided into pieces (being sure there are at least two eyes per section). Allow any cut pieces to dry for a few days in a warm, dry spot and callus over before planting. Rhizomes can be soaked overnight in warm water before planting. Place the rhizomes about an inch deep in warm soil (whether in a container or in the ground, ginger grows only when soil temperature is over 68F and grows best with soil temperatures around 77F) with the growth buds pointing upward. Water lightly until growth begins. It may take a few weeks for shoots to show, as the plant has to develop roots first. Once leaves develop keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Some growers prefer to only partially fill the containers with growing medium before planting the rhizomes and then add additional growing medium in two increments a few months apart to encourage longer, larger rhizomes. In ground plants can be hilled up periodically to encourage larger rhizomes, too, but this is not necessary.

Ginger rhizomes purchased from grocery stores may sprout — look for pieces with swollen buds (L) or even shoots (C). Place the rhizome in the soil with the buds pointing upward (R).

Ginger growing in a Wisconsin vegetable garden (transplanted in late spring from greenhouse-grown container).

Plant ginger in the vegetable garden as a seasonal plant for “baby ginger” or “green ginger”, harvested after about four months while still immature; starting it in containers a few months ahead in early spring will enhance yield. The young rhizomes have thinner, easily bruised skin so care must be taken not to injure the rhizomes when digging them up. For larger mature rhizomes, grow it in containers to move inside before the first frost. A 14-inch pot easily holds three average rhizomes, and the plants don’t mind being crowded in a container.

Container-grown ginger sprouting in spring. The plants lose all their leaves in the winter.

In areas where ginger will not survive the winter, plants should be moved inside when night temperatures drop below 50F. The plants will go dormant and lose all the stems with the onset of our short winter days and cool temperatures. The rhizomes can be stored over the winter in the soil in the container or can be dug, cleaned and stored in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry place, but don’t refrigerate rhizomes for replanting. Growth will resume with new shoots in early spring if kept warm and in a bright spot. Plants grown this way can be dug to harvest all or just a portion of the rhizomes every year or two.

Ginger harvest at end of short Midwestern growing season.

Ginger loves hot, humid conditions and rich soil with lots of nutrients. In our cool climate the plants do well in full sun; in more southern locations the plants may need partial shade. Fertilize regularly during the growing season unless planted in very fertile soil. If planting in the ground, amend it first with lots of compost, rotted manure or other rich organic matter. Mulch in-ground plants to retain soil warmth and moisture, and prevent competition from weeds. Water regularly, but do not allow the soil or planting medium to remain soggy. Container grown plants should not be watered at all when leafless and dormant; resume watering when new shoots appear.

In the Midwest culinary ginger has no significant insect or disease problems. In commercial production, bacterial wilt (caused by Ralstonia solanacearum race 4) is the most important disease of ginger, but this is rarely a problem elsewhere. If plants develop leaf yellowing and curling followed by wilting of the plant, they should be discarded.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) can handle 5°F/-15°C. The rhizomes make a great tea and are
wonderful shredded into stir-frys or cooked with rice.

When I visit tropical and subtropical forest gardens I often see ginger, turmeric, galangal, and cardamom in the understory, beneath and between the fruit trees. In fact, according to P.K. Nair’s fantastic Tropical Homegardens, ginger and turmeric are universally found in tropical homegardens (ancient, traditional food forests) around the world.

I was thus very excited the day my copy of T.M.E. Branney’s Hardy Gingers arrived in the mail. This book profiles perhaps 100 members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and the related Costaceae. How nice to learn that many, many gingers can handle some cold, and are grown by gardeners in the US and UK as ornamentals.

Hardy Gingers also lists uses for many of these species. I went further and cross-referenced with Kunkel’s Plants for Human Consumption (listing 18,000 edible plants) and Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops (6,000 cultivated crops) and came up with a list of edible gingers for temperate climates.

Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria) is grown for starch, extracted from the roots. The spicy shoots,
leaves, flower spikes, and leaves are also used. Hardy to 5F/-15C.

I garden in USDA zone 6 (-10°F, -23°C), and have a protected area for more tender species. Last year I planted three edible hardy gingers there: mioga ginger (Zingiber mioga), with edible shoots and roots; butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium), with beautiful edible flowers; and zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria), a species of which almost every part is used as a spice. Currently I’m waiting for the snow to melt to see which ones survived. Plant Delights nursery taught me that you have to personally kill something three times before you know it won’t grow for you, so I’m on my way.

Mioga ginger (Zingiber mioga) has edible shoots, leaves, flower spikes, and rhizomes.
This is the winner at -10°F/-23°C. (Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons)

The uses of these crops fall into several categories:

  • Rhizomes. These are spicy roots used like ginger, turmeric, and galangal.
  • Starch. Some Curcuma roots are cultivated for extraction of starch (like Queensland arrowroot or kudzu).
  • Shoots. Eaten like asparagus. This is a major use of true ginger and mioga ginger.
  • Leaf. Some are used to wrap foods while cooking to add flavor, others are directly used as a spice.
  • Flower spikes. Eaten as a spicy vegetable.
  • Flowers. Edible spicy flowers.
  • Bulbils. Small spicy roots that grow on the flower head of Globba species.
  • Fruits, seeds. These are used like cardamom.

True ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the most important member of the family, with
edible rhizomes and shoots. Ginger can handle 15°F/-9°C.

Food foresters in warm (and cool) temperate climates might be interested in planting members of this useful and ornamental family of plants in their understory. Many hardy gingers are quite shade tolerant. The table below presents the results of my cross-indexing of Hardy Gingers with Kunkel and Mansfeld. You’ll notice that turmeric, galangal, and even true ginger grow beyond the subtropics. Pick up a copy of Hardy Gingers to learn more about cultivating this interesting group of plants.

Latin Name

USDA Zone

Minimum Temp.

Light

Edible Uses

Alpinia caerulea

20 F/-6 C

sun

fruit, root tips, leaves, flowers

A. galanga

10 F/ -12C

part shade

cultivated galangal: for roots, flowers, spicy fruits, leaves

A. japonica

10 F/-12C

part shade

fruits

A. nutans

15 F/ -9C

part to shade

fruits like cardamom

A. zerumbet

0 F/ -17C

sun to part

leaves as food wrapper, shoot tips, rhizomes, flowers

Amomum dealbatum

15 F/-9C

part shade

seeds, flower spikes

A. subulatum

15 F/-9C

part to shade

seed pods cultivated as bblack cardamomb

Bosenbergia rotunda

15 F/-9C

shade

cultivated for spicy roots, also shoots and leaves

Costus speciosus

0 F/-17C

part shade

shoots edible, rhizome

C. spiralis

25 F/ -3F

part shade

young leaves

Curcuma alismatifolia

15 F/-9C

sun to part

flowers

C. amada

20 F/-6 C

sun to part

rhizomes, cultivated

C. angustifolia

15 F/-9C

sun to part

cultivated for starch extracted from rhizomes, also flower spikes

C. aromatica

10 F/-12C

sun to part

starch extracted from rhizomes

C. aurantiaca

22 F/ -5C

sun to part

young flower spikes

C. longa

5 F/ -15C

sun to part

cultivated turmeric, rhizomes used fresh or dried, young shoots, leaves

C. petiolata

5 F/-15C

sun to part

used as a spice

C. rubescens

5 F/-15C

sun to part

starch extracted from rhizomes

C. zedoaria

5 F/-15C

sun to part

cultivated for starch extracted from rhizomes, also shoot hearts, flower spikes, leaves, young rhizomes eaten

Globba globulifera

20 F/-6 C

part to shade

spicy aerial bulbils

G. racemosa

15 F/-9C

part to shade

spicy aerial bulbils

G. schambergkii

15 F/-9C

part to shade

spicy aerial bulbils

Hedychium coronarium

5 F/-15C

sun to part

flowers and flowerbuds

H. gracile

15 F/-9C

part shade

used as a spice

H. spicatum

5 F/-15C

part shade

fruits, dried rhizome

Kaempferia galanga

15 F/-9C

part to shade

cultivated for leaves, rhizome

K. rotunda

15 F/-9C

part to shade

cultivated for leaves, rhizome, shoots

Zingiber cassumunar

15 F/-9C

part shade

flower spikes, rhizome

Z. mioga

-10 F/ -23C

part to shade

cultivated for shoots, also rhizome, leaves, flower spikes

Z. officinale

15 F/-9C

sun to part

cultivated ginger, rhizome and shoots

Z. rubens

10 F/-12C

part shade

seedpods

Z. spectabile

20 F/-6 C

part shade

flavoring

Z. zerumbet

15 F/-9C

part shade

rhizomes, shoots

Here are a few sources for hardy gingers:

  • Amulree Exotics
  • Aloha Tropicals
  • Gingerwood Nursery
  • Plant Delights Nursery

These are all in the UK or USA. Please post more sources for hardy gingers in the comments!

Ginger is a perennial reed-like flowering plant with a rhizome that’s widely used as a spice. It originated in the tropical rainforests of the Indian continent and Southern Asia and was among the first spices exported from the Orient during the spice trade.

The word ginger came from the mid-14th century Old English gingifer, which came from the Medieval Latin gingiber, which came from the Greek zingiberis, from the Prakrit or Middle Indic word singabera, from the Sanskrit srngaveram that’s a combined word for srgnam, which means “horn,” and vera, which means “body,” in reference to the spice’s root.

Ginger Nutrition Facts Chart

Now let’s jump into your ginger options.

Basic Types of Ginger Roots

Also called green ginger, pink ginger, spring ginger, young ginger, stem ginger, or new ginger, it is usually candied and stored in some type of basic syrup. It is very commonly used in baking and in pastries, and it can be used in everything from seasoned butter to mincemeat, and much more. What’s more, it is very easy to make and to find recipes for if you start with the Internet.

This type of ginger is compact, low in fiber, and bluish in color. It is somewhat bigger than other types of ginger, and it can turn from blue to purple as it matures. The interior color is beige, and it has a pungent aroma.

White Ginger

White ginger is also called African ginger, and it is a large Indian herb that is cultivated for its beautiful white, fragrant flowers. The rootstock is frequently dried and scraped before being used in various recipes.

Yellow Ginger

Yellow ginger is the most common type of ginger root used in the United States for recipes. It can also be called turmeric, and it is good for healing wounds, various types of pain, and even skin infections. Yellow ginger is an analgesic that is also anti-inflammatory, so it is a food product that serves numerous purposes.

Basic Types of Ginger Plants

Alpinia Ginger

Alpinia ginger grows vigorously and originated in southeast Asia. Growing up to eight feet in height, these plants have a fleshy pseudostem and very small flowers. In fact, the stems of this plant look a lot like the stems of a banana tree, with leaves that show off a closely folded pattern. They grow best with well-drained soil and prefer plenty of organic matter.

This type of ginger has cones shaped like beehives and is native to Thailand, hence its preference for tropical climates. It also does best in the afternoon shade and, in fact, doesn’t do well in the full sun of midday because the leaves will actually burn.

Butterfly Lily Ginger

This plant has many different names, including the Garland lily and the Ginger Lily. The flowers on the plant look a lot like butterfly wings, and the plant itself can get quite high – up to 19 feet in height. They come in a variety of shades, including yellow, white, orange, and red, to name a few, and even the leaves themselves have a lovely aroma. The Butterfly lily grows quickly and is used mostly for gardening purposes.

Dancing Ladies Ginger

Beautiful when placed in a vase, this flower has purple bracts with tiny yellow flowers growing from them, and they are meant only for gardens that get no frost. It will die down to nothing in the winter, and it likes well-drained soils and full shade.

Globba plants get around two feet in height and have flowers that hang from the stem. The leaves are long, but the stems are short, and they bloom starting in July. The Globba plant’s bracts are purplish mauve in color, and the plant grows best when planted in the shade and areas that are well drained.

Hidden Ginger

Much like the name implies, hidden ginger has leaves that actually hide the ginger itself, but it is also known as the Curcuma plant. It has green or variegated leaves, and it sometimes has a red blotch on its leaves. The stems are, sometimes, called pseudo stems because leaves arise from leaf petioles. You can easily grow hidden ginger in pots, but they will need frequent repotting because they grow very fast.

Moth Ginger

Moth ginger plants have white flowers with a great aroma, and they are much shorter than other types of ginger plants, getting only to around five feet high. Their flowers look similar to a moth, hence their name, and it prefers moist shade and regular cutting back of the old leaves.

Growing up to roughly six feet in height, the red ginger plants do best when it’s warm outside and can acclimate to many different types of climates. Their flower spires are elegant and are usually red or pink in color, so they are beautiful when placed in vases.

These flowers look like unfurling shells that are gold and red in the center. They can reach almost 10 feet in height, and they look great alongside a driveway. If you trim the plants when they start to look ragged, the plants will look much better, and they prefer rich moist soils.

Spiral Ginger

Originating from Southeast Asia, spiral ginger has bamboo-shaped stalks and form a circular pattern that looks like the stalks have been twisted. They grow well in a variety of climates, and their flower heads have green bracts with a reddish hue. Spiral ginger plants usually bloom in the summer, and they are good for ailments such as rash, fever, and even bronchitis.

The torch ginger plant has flowers of either red, white, or pink, and they have very wide flowers and very long leaves. If you’re interested in growing this type of ginger plant, you have to grow them in tropical-like climates only. Both the flowers and the flower buds are often used in Malaysian dishes, and they need a sheltered location and rich, moist soil to grow right.

Zingiber Ginger

Zingiber ginger plants have upright stems and a creamy-yellow color. Flowers are attached to bracts and have a shape similar to a pine cone. The bracts themselves are green but slightly translucent. One of its uses is in various types of shampoos, where a milky substance found in the cones can be included as an ingredient in the shampoo.

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Learn about 18 Types of Ginger Plants and their uses. These ginger family plants can be grown for ornamental and culinary purposes, both in pots and gardens.

Apart from common ginger, there are other species that are grown not just for taste but for their appearance as well. Here’re some of them–You can select your favorite ones from this list of types of ginger plants and grow them for edible rhizomes or exotic flowers. Also, there are varieties like shell ginger that become a great foliage plant.

Types of Ginger Plants

1. Common Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber Officinale

Other Names: True ginger, Jengibre, Jenjibre dulce, Ginger, Adrak, and Kion

Common ginger is a world-famous spice or herb, known for its aromatic and pungent rhizomes. It has significant medicinal and culinary uses and needs no introduction.

Growing Tips

  • Ginger thrives best in filtered sunlight.
  • You can grow it in pots as well. Check out our tutorial for more details.

2. Beehive Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber spectabile

Other Names: Ginger Wort, Malaysian Ginger

Beehive Ginger is famous as an ornamental plant due to its unique skep-beehive like yellow inflorescences that become red once mature. All parts have a strong gingery fragrance, leaves and rhizomes are ingredients in making local dishes and appetizers.

Growing tips

  • Avoid placing it in full sun, as direct sunlight can burn this plant.
  • It grows best in a humid climate.

3. Bitter Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber zerumbet

Other Names: Pinecone Ginger, Itter Ginger, Broad-leaved Ginger, Martinique Ginger, Pinecone Lily, Lempoyang, and Wild ginger

Also known as shampoo ginger, it tastes bitter as compared to the common ginger and added in food flavoring and appetizers. It’s used primarily in herbal medicines and making shampoos.

Growing tips

  • Feed the plant with 8-4-6 fertilizer every three months.
  • Grow it in bright and filtered light in warm soil.

4. Myoga Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber mioga

Other Name: Japanese Ginger

In Japan, Myoga Ginger’s flowers and young shoots are used as a tasty garnish on various food. It has a zesty and spicy flavor with a strong, pungent aroma. Myoga also finds many uses in Korean cuisines.

Growing tips

  • It is better to grow it in partial shade.
  • It thrives in moist soil.

Other Types of Ginger Plants

5. Crepe Ginger

Botanical Name: Cheilocostus speciosus

Other Names: Crape ginger, Malay ginger, and Cane reed

Known for its crepe-paper like showy white flowers that emerge from reddish-burgundy spiraled inflorescences. Having an acrid and pungent taste, this plant grows up to 10 feet tall. Its flowers and buds are also edible.

Growing tips

  • It grows under the canopy of trees.
  • Warm and humid climates are best for its growth.

6. Hidden Ginger

Botanical Name: Curcuma petiolata

Other Names: Queen Lily, Siam Tulip, Hidden Lily

Hidden Ginger is a Malaysian native. It has a spicy scent and a bitter taste. It produces beautiful flowers of bright purple, pink, or orange colors. The rhizomes are used for medicinal purposes.

Growing tips

  • This 2-3 feet tall plant becomes an excellent container specimen.
  • Growing it is similar to canna lilies.

7. Butterfly Lily Ginger

Botanical Name: Hedychium coronarium

Other Name: White Ginger, Flor De Mariposa, Mariposa Blanca, Dolan Champa

Thanks to its scented flowers that look like fluttering butterflies, it gets its name–Butterfly Lily Ginger. Its spicy edible roots are the main ingredient in flavoring soups, and the essential oil is beneficial in treating fever. Learn about more medicinal plants here.

Growing tips

  • The national flower of Cuba is very invasive in optimum growing conditions.
  • It’s better to grow it in pots.

8. Shell Ginger

Botanical Name: Alpinia zerumbet

Other Name: Variegated Ginger, Sannin, Getto plant

Shell ginger has ovate leaves with green stripes that make it an ornamental plant. It blooms clusters of pink buds, emitting luscious aroma. With clove-like flavor, it’s edible leaves are the primary agents in noodles and teas in Okinawan cuisines, rhizomes are used for medicinal purpose.

Growing tips

  • While it can grow up to 8-10 feet tall, it doesn’t exceed above 3-4 feet in pots.
  • It can be a beautiful houseplant.

9. Dancing Ladies Ginger

Botanical Name: Globba winitii

Other Name: White Dragon Flower

This showy ginger family plant is rare to find. It has unique flowers that emit sweet honeysuckle like fragrance and resembles dancing ladies when they move in the wind.

Growing tips

  • It can be grown in USDA zones 8-11.
  • A spot that receives part sun is best. You can also grow it in the shade.

10. Yellow Ginger

Botanical Name: Hedychium flavescens

Other Name: Cream Garland-Lily, Yellow Ginger Lily, Wild Ginger

Growing up to 5-6 feet tall, the fleshy rhizomes of yellow ginger are edible but not as flavorful as common ginger. Gardeners usually grow it for its highly fragrant flowers. It also has uses in herbal medicines.

Growing tips

  • Grow it in well-drained and moderately fertile soil.
  • It’s a shade-tolerant plant.

11. Red Ginger

Botanical Name: Alpinia purpurata

Other Names: Ostrich Plumes, Pink Cone Ginger, Jungle king, Teuila Flower, and Tahitian ginger

Rhizomes and stalks of this plant have a strong spicy scent. But what it’s famous for is the bright red or pink bracts that look stunning.

Growing tips

  • The national flower of Samoa prefers warm and moist soil to thrive.
  • Grow it under diffused light, avoiding full sun.

12. Torch Ginger

Botanical Name: Etlingera elatior

Other Names: Wild ginger, Combrang, Bunga Kantan, Philippine waxflower, and Red ginger lily, Indonesian Tall Ginger, Boca De Dragón, Rose De Porcelaine

This tropical plant can be up to 15 feet tall and looks glorious with its big and vibrant flowers that appear in red, pink, or orange color. The whole plant is edible, and fruits, seed pods, seeds, flowers stems are eaten in many ASEAN countries. Flower buds have a piquant taste and used in traditional Indonesian and Thai dishes.

Growing tips

  • You can also grow it in a large pot.
  • Protect it from intense afternoon sunlight.

13. Mango Ginger

Botanical Name: Curcuma amada

Other Names: Mavina Shunti, आम्बे हळद

Mango ginger is something between turmeric and ginger. The ginger-like rhizomes have a fragrant, spicy taste like common ginger with a hint of raw mango. It primarily used in Indian cooking in preparing pickles, chutneys, and soups.

Growing tips

  • Growing it is similar to common ginger.
  • In cold climates, you can grow it in warmer months.

14. Kahili Ginger

Botanical Name: Hedychium gardnerianum

Other Name: Fragrant Ginger Lily, Kahila Garland-Lily

This plant is native to Himalayan regions and grown primarily for the ornamental purpose–Large dramatic foliage and showy, fragrant flowers make it a truly exotic tropical plant. However, it does not have many edible usages.

Growing tips

  • It can be up to 8 feet tall. In containers, it doesn’t exceed above 3-4 feet.
  • You can grow it indoors, as well.

15. Thai Ginger

Botanical Name: Alpinia galanga

Other Names: Thai Ginseng Ginger, Krachai Dum Ginger, Lengkuas, Blue Ginger, and Greater Galangal

Rhizomes of Thai Ginger have a pungent aroma with a flavor of pine needles and black pepper. Its rhizomes, flowers, and shoots have extensive uses in Thai curry, chili paste, and pickles.

Growing tips

  • Unlike other types of ginger plants, galangal can tolerate more sun and grows best in partial sunlight.
  • Grow it in rich and moist soil.

16. Pineapple Ginger

Botanical Name: Tapeinochilos ananassae

Other Names: Indonesian Wax Ginger, Lipstick Ginger

Pineapple ginger has inconspicuous orange-yellow flowers and deep red bracts that grow on long cone-shaped inflorescences that resemble pineapples. It’s grown for ornamental purposes and used popularly in tropical cut flower arrangements.

Growing tips

  • It grows well in filtered sunlight.
  • You can also place it indoors in a spot that receives several hours of morning sunlight.

17. Resurrection Lily

Botanical Name: Kaempferia rotunda

Other Names: Peacock Ginger, Variegated Ginger Lily, Indian Crocus, Round-Rooted Galangal

It’s grown for dramatic foliage and lily-like flowers that emerge with sweet fragrance during fall and summer. The tubers have a not-so-pleasant spicy flavor and have similar uses like ginger. Young leaves are edible too.

Growing tips

  • It thrives well in moist soil.
  • Grow the plant in semi-shade.

18. Turmeric

Botanical Name: Curcuma longa

Other Names: White Turmeric, Turmeric Ginger

The must-have spice in Indian curries is not just used for food coloring–It’s a superfood. The roots of this ginger family plant have a peppery flavor with a slight hint of lemon.

Growing tip

  • You can easily grow several plants together in a medium-sized pot.
  • Everything about growing turmeric is here.

Types of Ginger Root and Ornamental Ginger Plants (Including Pictures)

Most people think of ginger as an edible spicy root but ginger is also a beautiful type of ornamental flowering plant. Ginger flowers come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Some types of ornamental ginger plants have red, pink, yellow, white, or orange flowers. Flowering ginger plants can look like shells, clusters of flowers in the shape of cones, or like small lily flowers.

Of course, most people think of ginger as the spicy root. Common yellow ginger has many health benefits and can help to spice up a meal. You can grate ginger root to make tea, slice it and add it to stir-fries, or take dried ginger root supplements.

However, if you want to add color to your garden, then you should use ornamental ginger plants. Some parts of ornamental ginger varieties may be edible. You may even find some types of ginger plants that are good for your garden or for growing indoors.

Before you think about adding ornamental ginger to your garden display, it is important to know that ginger is a sub-tropical plant. So, it may not grow in all climates. In this article, you will also find an interesting short guide to growing ornamental ginger flowers.

Let’s look at different types of ginger root as well as the unique characteristics of each type of ginger plant that flowers.

Common Types of Ginger Root (With Pictures and Names)

All types of ginger are flowering perennial plants. Some have long stems and thin leaves whereas others have large wide tropical-type leaves. Even ginger that is grown for its edible roots is a type of flowering plant. However, edible ginger root is usually harvested before the plant produces flowers.

First of all, let’s look at the types of ginger that most of us are familiar with – ginger root.

Yellow Ginger Root

The yellow ginger root is the rhizome of the common ginger plant

Yellow ginger root is the rhizome (stem-root) of the common ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). Ginger is a perennial plant of the Zingiberaceae family and there are many species in this group.

Ginger root is a thick fibrous rhizome that clumps together and stems out in various directions. In fact, the name “ginger” comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘horn-root.’

The yellow ginger root is covered by a thin brown skin that can be scraped or peeled before consumption.

On average, common ginger rhizomes grow between 1” and 6” (2.5 – 15 cm) long. The ginger plant also produces stems with leaves on it that can grow from 3 to 4 ft. (around 1 meter) tall. Depending on the maturity of the ginger root, it may be juicy and fleshy. Older yellow ginger root is drier and stringy.

Fresh ginger root has a strong aroma and spicy pungent taste.

Baby Ginger

Baby ginger is a younger ginger root with mild taste

As its name suggests, baby ginger is just a younger version of common ginger root. This type of edible ginger has a white color and the rhizomes are not as fibrous.

One of the differences between baby ginger and mature ginger root is the taste. Baby ginger is a much milder and less pungent than yellow ginger. It is also the freshest type of ginger you can buy. In fact, it is so fresh that you may be able to buy baby ginger with the stalks still attached.

The mild ginger taste of baby ginger makes this variety great for pickling or adding to stir-fries.

Blue Hawaiian Ginger

The Blue Hawaiian ginger root is a type of edible ginger

Blue Hawaiian ginger root is an edible type of ginger that has a blueish tinge through the rhizome.

When in its immature state, the roots of blue ginger look just like any kind of ginger plant. As the rhizomes mature, they take on distinct blue and purple hues. As with all types of edible ginger, Blue Hawaiian ginger intensifies in flavor and pungency as it matures.

This blue ginger variety is a cross between Hawaiian yellow ginger root and a species of Indian ginger.

Types of Flowering Ginger (Ornamental Ginger Plants)

Flowering ginger ornamental plants are prized by gardeners in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Before looking at the many types of ginger plants that flower, let’s look at how to grow flowering ginger.

Ornamental ginger plants need constant warm temperatures and humid conditions to produce flowers.

For ginger to mature and flower, it needs to be in temperatures of at least 50°F (10°C) for 10 months of the year. From this time, you need several months where the temperature is always above 70°F (21°C) This allows the ginger rhizomes to mature and produce flowers.

Another factor to consider when growing flowering ginger is the time it takes to flower. Sometimes, it can take up to 3 years from planting rhizomes of flowering ginger until it blooms.

If you live in cooler climates, you can still try growing ginger. You should plant types of flowering ginger rhizomes in large containers. Take them indoors when the temperature drops to prevent the rhizomes from becoming dormant.

Let’s look in more detail at the many beautiful and interesting types of ornamental ginger plants that produce flowers.

Beehive Ginger

The beehive ginger is a type of ornamental ginger plant

Ornamental flowering Beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabilis) is a stunning example of a ginger plant that flowers.

Beehive ginger plants have stems that grow to about 6 ft. (1.8 m) in height. When this ginger flowers, large flower-like bracts appear. Bracts are modified leaves that form a colorful type of cluster that looks like a flower. Often, the bracts on ginger plants are far more stunning than the flowers they produce.

The cone-shaped bracts of Beehive ginger can be in various shades of red or brown. Some Beehive ginger cultivars produce “flowers” in yellow, gold and pink. Because of its shape, this ginger plant is also called ‘pine cone ginger.’

As long as you live in warm, humid climates this species of flowering ginger is easy to grow outdoors. This ginger variety needs a lot of sun to flower. However, too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves and affect the plant’s health.

These ginger flowers also make good cut flowers as their color and shape hold up well.

Red Ginger

The red ginger is tropical ginger plant that loves warm climate

The ornamental ginger species called Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata) produces striking vivid red or pink cone-like flowers (bracts).

The stems of the Red ginger plant grow to a height of about 6 ft. (1.8 m). Its leaves are long and much wider than other ginger plant species. The blooms of Red ginger are showy displays of red or pink plumes that are in the shape of a cone. On top of these colorful bracts are dainty white ginger flowers.

Red ginger grows outside in warm places such as the Caribbean, South Florida, and islands in the Pacific Ocean. The ginger plant thrives in partial sun and moist, humid conditions.

You can also grow this ginger species for its flowers indoors or in greenhouses. The large showy “flowers” look stunning in flower arrangements.

A pink cultivar of Alpinia purpurata

Indian Head Ginger

The Indian Head ginger has a very large ginger flower

Indian Head ginger (Costus spicatus) is an ornamental ginger plant from the Costaceae family. This is another example of a kind of flowering ginger that has red blooming flowers.

This ginger plant with red flower grows up to 7 ft. (2.1 m) high. It has large wide leaves that can measure 12” (30 cm) long and 4” (10 cm) wide. When it flowers, large cone-shaped bracts emerge from the stem that are generally a fiery reddish-orange color.

As with most varieties of flowering ginger, Indian Head ginger doesn’t tolerate frost. Warm, humid condition and full sun are needed for this species to bloom.

Torch Ginger

The torch ginger has a big ginger flower with red, pink or white petals

Native to Southeast Asia, the flowering Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) is prized for its showy flowers with large red or pink petals.

This perennial ginger plant is also called the ‘Ginger flower,’ ‘Torch lily,’ ‘Wild ginger,’ or ‘Porcelain rose.’ The flower of this ginger plant has a tight cluster of pink to red petals that form an egg shape in the middle. From this, long beautiful petals spread out to form a star.

Unlike many other types of ornamental ginger, this flowering variety prefers full to partial shade to grow. However, warm, humid conditions are a must and, therefore, this is a true tropical type of ginger.

Although pink flowers are the most common type on this ginger plant, red and white are also popular.

Many parts of this ginger plant are used in Asian cuisine. Some people add the flower buds to chili sauce, stewed fish or to make a Thai salad.

White Ginger Lily

The white ginger lily is a type of ornamental ginger plant with delicate white flowers

This Indian variety of flowering ginger, the White Ginger Lily (Hedychium coronarium) has beautiful white flowers that look like jasmine. White Ginger Lily is also grown in Hawaii for its ornamental value and in China for its medicinal properties.

This perennial flowering plant prefers to grow in damp conditions such as rain forests and near streams. The rhizomes spread quickly and are considered invasive in some countries. However, the beauty of this white ginger variety is due to its flowers.

Delicate white flowers appear on the tops of long stems. These have a strong fragrance and butterfly shape. Another feature of the White Ginger Lily is its long elongated dark-green oval leaves. These leaves can measure about a foot long (30 cm) and 4” (10 cm) wide.

Globba Ginger

The Globba winitii ginger plant is a popular type of Globba cultivar

There are about 100 species of flowering ornamental ginger plants in the Globba genus. Flowers ginger plants from the Globba family are some of the most interesting of all the ginger varieties.

Globba ginger plant flowers are clusters of small flowers that hang down from the bracts. These flowers of varying colors are in the shape of a hook. The flower-like bracts can be stunning displays that droop down from the short stems. The showy bracts can be various shades of color from purple to white.

One of the most popular Globba cultivars is the Dancing Lady Ginger (Globba winitii). This exotic tropical ginger plant has mauve bracts with long stems and tiny tubular yellow flowers on them. The flowering period of this ginger plant can last up to a month.

Globba ginger flowers also make good floral arrangements as they can stay fresh for up to 14 days after cutting.

Shell Ginger

The Shell Ginger is a tropical ginger flowering plant

Another ornamental ginger from the Alpinia genus is the Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet). This type of ginger plant is also called the ‘pink porcelain lily,’ ‘butterfly ginger,’ or ‘variegated ginger.’

This tropical evergreen perennial grows in tropical climates. It is a clumping type of flowering plant that can reach up to 10 ft. (3 m) tall. When this ginger plant blooms, it produces clusters of tiny funnel-like flowers that look like a shell before they open. The flower shells are generally a white to light pink color with yellow petals when they open.

You can also grow Shell ginger plants indoors if you want colorful delicate flowers and lush greenery in a room. In containers, this species of ginger plant will grow between 3 and 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m).

As with many ornamental ginger plants, this species requires a lot of sun with partial shade. Conditions need to be warm and humid for the plant to thrive and flower.

Pineapple Ginger

The Pineapple Ginger has a striking ginger flower that looks like red pineapple

The Pineapple Ginger (Tapeinochilos ananassae) is a tropical reed-like flowering plant. This flower-producing ginger plant has a large colorful pineapple-shaped bract on the end of short stems when it blooms.

When it grows in full sun, the Pineapple Ginger can grow between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m). The tropical flowers (bracts) on this ginger variety can reach a length of between 8” and 12” (20 – 30 cm).

Although the plant looks like a reed, it has dark green leaves that wrap around the stems.

This flowering ginger variety looks similar to other bract varieties such as Red ginger and Beehive ginger. The red, waxy bracts have beautiful white or yellow flowers inside them which only add to its exotic appearance.

Malay Ginger (Crepe Ginger)

The Malay ginger is a beautiful type of ornamental ginger plant

One of the most beautiful types of ornamental ginger plants is the Malay Ginger (Costus speciosus). Due to its thin wavy flowers, this flowering ginger is also called the ‘Crepe ginger.’

Native to Malaysia, the Malay ginger grows well in warm humid climates. This species of ginger also grows and flowers well in Hawaii.

The stems on this ginger plant can grow up to 10 ft. (3 m) tall. When the plant flowers, reddish-purple bracts appear that form a conical shape. This group of bracts then produce stunning small white flowers with a faint yellow center.

Alpinia Ginger Flowering Plants (With Pictures and Names)

The Alpinia Ginger includes cultivars such as this Alpinia hainanensis ‘ Shengzhen’

The largest number of species of flowering ginger plants are those in the Alpinia genus. Some of these types of flowering plants can grow to over 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall. Usually, the bracts on these ornamental types form a cone or spike shape that have small flowers.

Being a member of the ginger Zingiberaceae, these are aromatic plants that are rich in essential oils.

Clockwise from top left: Australian native ginger, Lesser galangal, Dwarf cardamom and Blue ginger

Apart from the flowering Red ginger and Shell ginger, other notable species in this genus include:

  • Australian native ginger (Alpinia caerulea) with bobble-like blue capsules that contain white pulp. The leaves of this ginger plant are sometimes used in cooking instead of ginger root.
  • Lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum) has red and white flowers and an edible rhizome that is aromatic and spicy.
  • Blue ginger (Alpinia galanga) is a reed-like ginger plant that flowers and produces red fruit. All parts of this type of ginger, including the root, are used in cooking.
  • Dwarf cardamom (Alpinia nutans) is a type of bushy flowering ginger plant with long thin leaves. This ginger produces flowers that look like porcelain shells at the end of foot-long (30 cm) stalks.

Ginger

Description

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is an erect, herbaceous perennial plant in the family Zingiberaceae grown for its edible rhizome (underground stem) which is widely used as a spice. The rhizome is brown, with a corky outer layer and pale-yellow scented center. The above ground shoot is erect and reed-like with linear leaves that are arranged alternately on the stem. The shoots originate from a multiple bases and wrap around one another. The leaves can reach 7 cm (2.75 in) in length and 1.9 cm (0.7 in) broad. Flowering heads are borne on shorter stems and the plant produces cone shaped, pale yellow flowers . The ginger plant can reach 0.6–1.2 m in height (2–4 ft) and is grown as an annual plant. Ginger may also be referred to as true ginger, stem ginger, garden ginger or root ginger and it is believed to have originated in the Southeast Asia.
Ginger plant
Ginger plant
Ginger foliage
Ginger plant with flower
Ginger foliage
Ginger rhizomes with buds ‹ ×

Uses

Ginger is popularly used as a spice in cooking and can be used either fresh, dried or powdered. The fresh rhizome can be used to extract ginger essential oil. Ginger may also be used to flavor beverages. Ginger continues to be a popular folk remedy in China and India.

Propagation

Basic requirements As a tropical plant, ginger grows best in warm and sunny climates in a deep but well draining soil loam that is high in organic matter. The optimum soil pH for growth of ginger is between 6.0 and 6.5 and the plant requires a minimum temperature of 15.5°C (59.9°F). Ginger plants require an average annual rainfall of between 250 and 300 cm for optimal growth and development and require additional irrigation where rainfall is not adequate. Ginger plants will not tolerate waterlogged soils. Propagation Ginger is vegetatively propagated from small sections of the rhizome, called sets. Sets are produced by cutting a small 3–6 cm from a living rhizome. Each piece should possess at least one living bud which will produce shoots. The ginger sets can be pre-sprouted in pots or nursery seed beds by covering with a layer of soil or they can be planted directly at the final planting location. The bed should be prepared for planting by digging to soil to a fine tilth and removing any weeds that are present. The addition of lime to the soil adjusts the pH while helping to provide the calcium required by the plants during their growth. Lime should be added to the soil in appropriate amounts in the Fall prior to planting. The sets should then be planted in early Spring at a depth of 5–12 cm, leaving 15–35 cm between plants and 25–30 cm between rows. For optimal growth, the soil temperature at planting should not fall below 25°C (77°F). General care and maintenance Ginger has a tendency to grow horizontally and the soil can be hilled around the growing stems to force a more vertical growth habit. Soil should be hilled 3 to 5 times during the growing season. Any exposed rhizomes should be covered with soil and weeds should be removed from the bed. Ginger will benefit from the addition of a complete fertilizer as well as phosphorous, calcium and organic matter prior to planting. During the growing season, additional fertilizer can be applied as a side dressing. The side dressing should be made 25 to 30 cm (10-12 in) from the row of plants due to ginger being easily damaged by fertilizer applications. Side dressings should be made every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season to ensure the ginger is suppied with adequate nutrients. Harvesting Ginger is usually harvested after the leaves senesce, dry out and the stem falls over. Ginger roots are harvested by digging. Commercially produced ginger is harvested with the use of cutter bar which is pulled by a tractor. After harvest, the ginger should be cured for 3 to 5 days to prevent the development of mildew on the rhizomes.

CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2012).Zingiber officinale datasheet. Available at: http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/57537. . Paid subscription required. Nishina, M. S., Sata, D. M., Nishijima, W. T. & Mau, R. F. L. Ginger root production in Hawaii. Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service. Available at: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/CFS-GIN-3A.pdf. . Free to access.

Months of hot, humid weather make summers in New Orleans a challenge for many plants (and people). But as some plants languish in the heat, a wonderful group called gingers thrive and delight us with bold foliage and attractive flowers. Native to tropical or semi-tropical regions, gingers flourish in the heat, rain and humidity.

Despite their tropical origins, many gingers are cold hardy here and make excellent, permanent additions to the landscape. Gingers produce a thick, fleshy stem that grows at or just below the soil surface called a rhizome. With a good, thick mulch of leaves or pine straw, the rhizomes are easily protected during the winter. If the shoots growing from the rhizomes are killed by hard freezes, the rhizomes will resprout and send up new shoots in the spring.

Mid-summer is an excellent time to add tropical plants to the landscape. They establish in the garden nicely despite the torrid heat of July. An advantage of planting gingers now is that they will have more time to settle in before their first winter in the ground. A well-established plant is more resilient during winter freezes.

Most gingers belong to the Zingiberaceae family, although Costus gingers are in the Costaceae family. Their vigorous clumping growth habit and large leaves – which are sometimes variegated or attractively patterned – create an effect of tropical luxuriance. Many feature beautiful flowers as well, and some of the blooms are wonderfully fragrant.

Vegetables to plant in July include cantaloupe, collards, cucumbers, luffa, okra, hot peppers, pumpkins, Southern peas, squashes and watermelons. Plant the following seeds in pots or flats to produce transplants for planting in August: tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and Chinese cabbage.

Keep colorful flowerbeds well groomed and weed free. Try to deadhead as regularly as possible to encourage continued flowering.

For late summer color, continue to plant heat-tolerant bedding plants. Excellent choices for sunny areas include angelonia, torenia, periwinkle, melampodium, salvia, scaevola, purslane, pentas, blue daze, lantana and verbena. In part-shade plant caladium, impatiens, begonia, torenia and coleus.

Small, yellow aphids on your butterfly weed or milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) will not damage the plants or affect the feeding of adult and larval monarch butterflies. Do not attempt to control them as this could be detrimental to the monarch caterpillars. Give plants a little fertilizer now to encourage vigorous growth and blooming.

Sharpen your lawn mower blades. They have generally gotten dull by this time of the year. Mow regularly. It is unhealthy for the grass to allow it to get too tall and then cut it back short. Try to mow frequently enough so that you remove no more than one-third of the length of the leaf blades when you mow.

The plants we call gingers actually include many genera with different sizes, growth habits and flower shapes. Low-growing gingers, like Kaempferia pulchra, and smaller species of Curcuma or Globba, make great ground covers or clumps at the front of shady borders. Medium-sized gingers, 3 to 6 feet tall, include species of curcuma, Hedychium and Costus, while the shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) grows 10 to 12 feet tall. These larger gingers are excellent choices for accent, screens or at the back of a border.

Gardeners who are working with shady areas will find a gold mine of shade tolerant plants among the gingers. In their natural habitats, most gingers grow under the canopies of trees in filtered light, although some grow in the open at the edge of water and in sunnier conditions.

Most gingers will do best where they receive direct sun for about two to four hours a day, and should not be planted in hot, sunny, dry locations. Shell ginger and some species of Curcuma and Costus will, however, grow in full sun.

Gingers thrive in moist, fertile soils, rich in organic matter. When planting gingers into the landscape, choose a location with appropriate light and generously amend the soil with compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss. A two- to four-inch layer dug into the upper eight inches of soil would be fine.

Also, the addition of fertilizer will help create the nutrient-rich conditions in which gingers thrive. Sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer like 15-5-10 or something similar, following label directions, and incorporate it along with the organic matter into the bed prior to planting.

Under favorable growing conditions, many gingers grow vigorously and form clumps that should be periodically dug and divided. This keeps gingers from spreading into areas where they are not wanted and prevents the clumps from getting too large. This is best done in late March or early April, although many gardeners successfully divide gingers through the summer if new divisions are kept well watered.

Depending on how fast the plant grows and the amount of space allotted to it, dividing and replanting is generally done every couple of years.

Gingers, such as Curcuma, Globba and Kaempferia are completely dormant in the winter. Their foliage turns yellow and brown in the fall, and the plants should be cut back at that time. Mark where they are growing, lest you forget and accidently dig into them. They will sprout up again in the spring and bloom during the summer. Keep them well mulched over the winter.

Other gingers are evergreen and bloom on new shoots each year, although old shoots persist from the previous season. Plants in this group, such as butterfly ginger and spiral ginger, may be cut back to the ground if frozen in winter, much as you would cannas.

Shell ginger is evergreen and blooms on the previous year’s growth. Stalks that grew the summer before should not be cut back unless killed by freezes during winter. Recent winters have been mild, and shell gingers bloomed spectacularly earlier this summer, and many are still in bloom. Once individual shoots have bloomed, they may be cut back to the ground as they will not bloom again.

The variegated shell ginger is shorter growing than the standard species reaching 4 to 6 feet. The green foliage with brilliant yellow streaks has made it one of the most popular gingers today.

People often wonder about the edibility of garden gingers, as several types of gingers are used to flavor foods. Do not consume ornamental gingers, however.

Although not very attractive, you can grow common edible ginger, Zingiber officinale, the same way we grow other types. It has the flavor we are looking for when a recipe calls for ginger. Rhizomes purchased at the supermarket as fresh ginger can be planted just below the soil surface of a shady, well-prepared bed and will grow here.

Two other edible gingers can be grown here – turmeric (Curcuma longa, which many people are familiar with in its powdered form) and galangal (Alpinia galangal, popular in Thai cooking).

To see an outstanding collection of gingers, the best public display is at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park.

If you’re looking for ginger to plant, check the local nurseries. Many are beginning to carry different varieties of these tropical eye-catchers.

To get a tropical look in a warm temperate garden, there is a short list of plants that fit the bill. One of my favorites is the little-known genus Curcuma which includes Curcuma longa the culinary spice turmeric. Curcuma, or hidden cone gingers, is a genus of mostly tropical plants known for their dramatic bold foliage, flamboyant floral show. Curcuma can range in height from just under 2′ to over 7′ tall. The slightly hidden flowers resemble psychedelic pinecones…a nice trip back to the 1960s. We urge our readers to visit the garden on our Open Nursery and Garden Days in summer and fall to see our Curcuma collection. One of the reasons that Curcuma have never reached a high level of popularity is that they haven’t begun to sprout during the spring garden center season, but because of this, they can be interplanted with spring bulbs such as daffodils, which go dormant before Curcuma emerges. Curcuma are plants that you must purchase as a leap of faith, then sit back and enjoy later in your garden.
Curcuma ‘Sulee Sunshine’

How to grow Curcuma…Grow your own Turmeric Plant!

In their native habitats, Curcuma longa emerges during the monsoon season and are triggered to become dormant by dry weather. This roughly corresponds to the winter/summer cycle in temperate gardens. Ginger expert, Tony Schilling, says “treat them to monsoon conditions – warm, wet and well fed in the summer, and cool and dry in the winter.” If you let your Curcuma get too dry, they will lose their leaves and stop flowering. Moist, but well-drained, organically-rich, slightly acidic soils produce the best flowering. Curcuma longa prefers sun for at least a couple of hours, but most species will also do fine in high, open shade.

We have also found that Curcuma will perform best if lifted and divided every 5 years in order to maintain their vigor. In doing so, keep in mind that if you divide the plants when they are too small, they may not flower for a couple of years. At a minimum, leave 3-5 eyes (the creamy pointy things) per division, but more is better. Dividing is best done in spring or summer. When re-planting, place the rhizomes 4-6″ below the surface to give them some cold protection, although the rhizomes will eventually grow to the depth that best suits them.

After frost kills the tops, you may cut back the stems and compost them or leave them alone and the stems will detach from the rhizomes naturally. In climates where the Curcuma aren’t winter hardy, lift and store the rhizomes inside in a box of sawdust or peat moss (to prevent desiccation) where the temperatures stay above freezing.

Curcuma longa also makes a great potted plant, however, gardeners will need to re-pot the plants often because the thick rhizomes quickly grow large enough to split open a pot. Potted specimens require lots of water (daily or even more frequently) when they are active and root-bound.

Curcuma Pests and Diseases (aka: Ginger ailments)

Luckily, Curcuma are not bothered by many pests, with slugs and snails being the worst…especially on the unfurling leaves. In containers or in a soil that is too dry, mealy bugs and spider mites may become a problem. In old plantings, a fungal disease called mushroom root rot may occur. The first symptom is the browning and loss of the top few leaves on the stem. If you cut open a rhizome and find brown flesh with white specks your plant probably has root rot. Cut off all of the infected parts of the rhizome, dust the remaining healthy parts with sulfur powder and replant in a new location.
Curcuma zedoaria ‘Pink Wonder’

How to Propagate Curcuma

Most Curcuma are sterile, leading to the current assumption that most plants in the trade are hybrids, so don’t expect to see any seed unless you have access to wild collected species. In the wild, specific Curcuma pollinators are also present that are not present in the temperate garden. Thus Curcuma will not set seed in the garden unless you hand pollinate them during the summer. If you manage to actually get seed, they are relatively easy to germinate. Seed should be collected as the seed pods open in the late fall and must be surface sown (don’t cover) immediately. The seed may take several months of warm temperatures to germinate.

Curcuma History – Ethnobotanical and Economic uses – Curcuma longa and Turmeric

Cultivated for more than 4000 years for the spice turmeric, Curcuma longa rhizomes have been a source of food, spice, and medicine…so many uses that Turmeric is sometimes called the world’s healthiest spice. Curcuma longa rhizomes are dried and ground into the spice turmeric which gives curry powder its distinct yellow color and odor. Turmeric has several purported medicinal uses including reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, slowing down Alzheimer’s disease, and relieving pain. Turmeric is quite popular in traditional chinese medicine and with western herbalists and health nuts. The rhizome of Curcuma longa is also a source of a dark yellow dye used in cosmetics and food coloring. Another species, Curcuma amada, has rhizomes that are eaten fresh and used as both anti-inflammatory medicines and contraceptives. Curcuma zedoaria rhizomes are eaten as a spicy, but bitter vegetable, and are also used to combat flatulence…move over Beano®. Oils from Curcuma are used in perfumes and, of course, many Curcuma are grown as cut flowers. As gardeners discover that many of the curcuma species are winter hardy, there is tremendous growth potential in this market as well.

Curcuma Morphology

Curcuma is a deciduous herbaceous perennial with thick, fleshy, branched rhizomes. Their “stems” are not true stems, but actually pseudostems, because they are composed of long, succulent, interlocked leaf petioles from which the leaves arise. Pseudostems with clasping leaves are common in this group of plants and can also be seen in both canna and bananas (Musa, Musella, Ensete). All the genera in the family Zingiberaceae have food storage rhizomes with a “gingery” or “lemony” scent. The leaves, which are similar to a canna, can be solid green, variegated, or have a red central blotch.

Curcuma have flower spikes that arise from the top of the pseudostem or sometimes on a separate stem directly from the rhizome. Flowering may occur early in the growing season, just before the leaves unfurl or along with them late in the growing season, depending on the species. The bracts near the top of the spike are colorful and showy, but do not have florets. The florets are held lower down on the spike amongst less-showy bracts. Like poinsettias, the actual flowers are not the featured attraction. The florets are white, yellow, pink or orange in color and the bracts can be a variety of colors including white, pink, yellow, green, burgundy, or multicolored. The overall effect is that of a technicolored pinecone. Curcuma need heat to trigger flowering and thus do well in warm climates such as the Southeast US. In mild climates (like Great Britain) Curcuma may grow well but never bloom.

Although Curcuma come from warm parts of the world, they go through a dormant period in which the plants die back to the rhizome and then are slow to re-emerge in the spring. Many gardeners assume that they have lost their plants but are relieved to see them finally emerge in June and July when the soil temperatures heat up.

Curcuma Taxonomy

Curcuma belong to the ginger plant family Zingiberaceae, which includes many useful herbs and ornamental plants. The spice, ginger (from Zingiber officinalis), is the best known and most widely used. Important ornamental cousins include Alpinia (Shell Ginger), and Kaempferia (torch-ginger). The gingers are more distantly related to other common ornamental plants such as Musa (bananas), Heliconia, Canna, and Maranta. All Zingiberaceae share a common trait in that their flowers produce just one true stamen.

The genus Curcuma consists of between 80 and 117 species of medium-sized plants. Their center of diversity is in southeast Asia, but some species extend to the Himalayas, Southern China, Australia and the Pacific Islands. The name Curcuma was coined by Carl Linnaeus and refers to the Arabic word “kurkum” which is their name for the yellowish color of the root.

Curcuma are commonly known by a number of common names, including turmeric, Indian saffron, Siam tulip, zedoary, and hidden lily. The first two names refer to its use as a spice and the name “hidden lily” refers to the fact that some species have short inflorescences that are obscured by the leaves.

List of Curcuma Species, Cultivars, and Hybrids

Below is a list of some of the interesting species and cultivars that have been successful at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. There are many more possibilities available for gardeners from Zone 8b and south. Recent genetic work in Curcuma is showing that many of the plants which we think of as species are actually ancient sterile hybrids…that work continues while we strive to find species that tolerate our central North Carolina climate (Hardiness Zone 7b, 35ºN latitude).

Curcuma elata (Spring Hidden Cone Ginger) has stood out in our trials as one of the finest cold-climate garden specimens in the genus Curcuma. The huge, bold-textured, canna-shaped green leaves compose the giant 6′ tall clump. For us, this is the earliest Curcuma to flower, mid-June in NC, when the 1′ tall pinecone-like spikes sprout from the base of the plant. Each flower spike is topped with bright pink bracts which serve as mini-umbrellas for the yellow flowers that poke from the side of the cone below. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least).

Curcuma longa (Turmeric) (syn. Curcuma domestica) is one of the toughest Curcuma that we grow. The 3′ tall pleated green leaves of Curcuma longa are adorned, starting in early September, with colorful pinecone-like flowers that are nestled among the leaves. (Hardiness Zone 7b-11)

Curcuma myanmarensis (Burma Pink Hidden Cone Ginger)(aka: Smithatris myanmarensis) is an amazingly hardy and floriferous hidden cone ginger. Curcuma myanmarensis hails from Burma (Myanmar), where it forms slowly multiplying clumps in the moist woodlands. In the garden, the central stalk is adorned by two light green leaves, then topped by a terminal 18″ tall stalk that ends in a short pink torch. Curcuma myanmarensis is the longest flowering ginger plant that we grow, with flower stalks being produced from late spring into October (NC). Curcuma myanmarensis is an easy-to-grow sister to the more difficult and less hardy Curcuma alismatifolia. We recommend planting at least 6″ deep if your soils are prone to freezing in the winter. (Hardiness Zone 8-10 guessing)

Curcuma ornata (Ornate Hidden Cone Ginger) has a tropical appearance in the border or in a color bowl. It’s hard to beat this Asian species, which resembles Curcuma zedoaria, except that the leaf is much larger: 28″ long and 8″ wide. Each textured green leaf has the same fabulous reddish purple stripe down the center. In addition to the larger leaves and larger stature of the clump, Curcuma ornata has a reddish purple cast to the lower stem. The hidden pinecone-like flowers of light pink are attractive for nearly a month in June. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 guessing)

Curcuma petiolata (Hidden Cone Ginger) has large, tropical looking leaves (10″ long by 6″ wide) that form a 3′ tall clump. The foliage grows out of a short underground rhizome, making an upward growing small clump. The flowers resemble purple pinecones and are formed in the middle of the clump from mid-to late summer. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 guessing)

Curcuma petiolata ‘Emperor’ (Striped Hidden Cone Ginger) This Tim Chapman introduction from Thailand makes an easy-to-grow, 2′ tall by 2′ wide clump of pleated green leaves (18″ long by 6″ wide), each with a dramatic white border. This is the only known variegated curcuma. In early summer, you will enjoy the pinecone-like flower of purple and green at the base, and for the rest of the growing season you will adore the tropical foliage. It has survived 0 degrees F in our garden with no protection, but in colder climates it makes a great house plant. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)
Curcuma zedoaria

Curcuma zedoaria (Hidden Cone Ginger) is a spectacular ginger plant that garners all the attention from our visitors…especially since it has survived 0 degrees F in our garden. The large, tropical-looking green leaves (2′ long by 5″ wide) have a dramatic, wide, purple-red stripe down their centers. As the leaves emerge, so do the flowers, resembling oversized ’60s psychedelic red-and-yellow pinecones on 1′ scapes. Each plant makes a clump to 3′ (taller in warmer climates) by 2-3′ wide. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Curcuma zedoaria ‘Bicolor Wonder’ (Bicolor Hidden Cone Ginger) was selected for its attractive bicolor flowering bracts…solid white except for purple fingernail-sized tips on the end of each bract. The 6′ tall, bold, aspidistra-like foliage, with a maroon stripe down the leaf center, emerges in mid-June alongside the pinecone-like inflorescence. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Curcuma zedoaria ‘Pink Wonder’ (Pink Wonder Hidden Cone Ginger) The foliage of this selection resembles a fancy aspidistra on steroids…6′ tall green leaves with a central burgundy stripe. The flowers on this selection emerge like pinecones on separate 1′ tall stems alongside the foliage. Curcuma ‘Pink Wonder’ was selected for inflorescences that are white at the base and bright pink on the top. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Curcuma zedoaria ‘White Wonder’ (White Wonder Hidden Cone Ginger) The 5′ tall pleated green leaves, without the maroon stripe, are adorned in fall with pure white “cones”. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

List of Curcuma Hybrids

Curcuma ‘Pink Plush’ (Pink Plush Hidden Cone Ginger) This is a wonderful Tom Wood hybrid. The 30″ tall clump is composed of long green leaves, each highlighted by a central purple stripe. The clumps are adorned with 1′ tall stalks of lovely pink pinecone-like flowers from late August into October. So far, this has survived 8 degrees F with no protection. (Hardiness Zone 8-11)

Curcuma ‘Sulee Sunshine’ (Sulee Sunshine Hidden Cone Ginger) is a hybrid from Thailand breeder Annop Ongsakul. Developed for the tropical cut flower market, Curcuma ‘Sulee Sunshine’ has come through two mild winters (15ºF) in our garden. This splendid selection flowers for us from August through October with 9″ stalks, topped with long-lasting 8″ flower “cones,” dipped in pink and yellow. As a background, the 18″ long by 8″ wide pleated green leaves naturally fold away from the flowers unlike many of the other curcumas. (Hardiness Zone 8-10 at least)

Curcuma ‘Summer Snow’ (Hidden Cone Ginger) The green leaves only reach 3′ in height, adorned by the cone-shaped flowers which are nestled about 2′ off the ground in September. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Don’t forget to check out our other ginger plant articles: Hedychium, the hardy ginger plant and Zingiber myoga, the Mioga ginger.

Branney, T.M.E. (2005), Hardy Gingers including Hedychium, Roscoea, and Zingiber, Timber Press, Portland Oregon

Chapman, T.S., (1994), Ornamental Gingers – A Preliminary Guide to Selection and Cultivation

Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Gardening with Hardy Tropicals

Ravindran, P.N., et. al., (2007), Botany and Crop Improvement of Turmeric, in Turmeric: the genus Curcuma, 1st Edition, CRC Press

Spencer-Mills, L. & K. (1996), Glorious Hedychium, The Garden magazine, December 1996, pp. 754-759

Wood, T. (1999), Ginger Lilies, The American Gardener magazine, November/December issue, pp. 40-45.

Etlingera Species, Torch Ginger, Wax Flower

Category:

Perennials

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Partial to Full Shade

Foliage:

Grown for foliage

Smooth

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us

Height:

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

Spacing:

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us

Danger:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Color:

Pink

Red

Gold (yellow-orange)

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

Unknown – Tell us

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Homestead, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Miami, Florida(2 reports)

Saint Petersburg, Florida

Venus, Florida

Hoschton, Georgia

Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii

Honomu, Hawaii

Kailua, Hawaii

Kaneohe Station, Hawaii

Keaau, Hawaii

Kihei, Hawaii

MILILANI, Hawaii

Maunawili, Hawaii

Orchidlands Estates, Hawaii

New Orleans, Louisiana

Humble, Texas

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