When you think of ginger do you think about the spice you find in grocery stores or do you think of beautiful tropical perennials grown in Texas gardens? Chefs and great culinary artists are well aware of ginger, but gardeners are just beginning to learn about this fantastic group of tropical plants.
Edible ginger represents only a few of the nearly 1,300 species of plants in the Zingiberacea family. Prized for their tropical look and durability, gingers have been used and enjoyed for centuries in the Far East. However, it's only recently that lustrous leaves and exotic ginger flowers have caught the eye of curious Southern gardeners.
The hidden ginger, so called for the way the blooms "hide" below the leaves, is blooming now. Everyone who sees these gorgeous flowers wants to know what they are and how to get them.
There are eight common kinds of gingers available in the marketplace today. These include Alpinias, Costus, Curcumas, Globbas, Hedychiums, Kaempferias, Siphonochilus and Zingibers. The plants in these groups range in size from ground cover to several feet tall, require shade to full sun, include those with large attractive flowers or small, discreet blooms. If you look long enough you will likely find a ginger for nearly every garden spot or situation.
Besides butterfly ginger, the most recent additions to my garden are two from the Curcuma group. Last summer I added Curcuma cordata (Hidden ginger) and Curcuma alismatifolia, (Siam tulip). This growing season, the foliage of both gingers emerged in May from the rhizomes planted last year. Gingers need warm soil, above 55 degrees (F) to get them started.
Most of us have seen the beautiful white flowering version of butterfly ginger, Hedychium coronarium, but there are other outstanding butterfly gingers with flowers of yellow to peach, delicate orange, flaming orange, and white with yellow center.
Plant ginger in loose soil or directly into a pot at the same depth they were previously growing as indicated by markings on the rhizome. Water thoroughly. From then on keep moist, but not wet. To increase plants, divide in the spring.