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Planning a tropical vacation this year? No? Then create your own tropical oasis in your yard. Include gingers. These unusual plants produce both lush, exotic foliage and cool flowers or brachts.
Related to Curcuma Longa, commonly known as turmeric, these gingers are the attractive members of the family. Siam tulips produce straight stalks topped with bright pink brachts in summer and the White Wonder and Pink Wonder zedoary plants grow long, wide leaves, each decorated with a cranberry mid-vein. The "Wonder" flowers are other worldly, poking up out of the soil on stems that grow next to the foliage and originate from the underground rhisome.
These gingers originate from tropical areas in Thailand, India and Indonesia. They prefer a little shade in hot regions and are happy under open canopy trees or planted along a fence that provides afternoon shade. With large leaves that catch the wind like sails, it’s usually best to select a site that’s not too breezy.
Gingers prefer moist but not soggy soil. Rich humusy garden soil is ideal and average garden soil that's been heavily amended with compost also works. Adding a slow release fertilizer when you plant provides nutrients to support the substantial growth gingers produce each season. For beds, mulch after the rhizomes have sprouted to keep the soil cooler and reduce watering needs.
Plant outdoors when frost danger has past and your soil is about 60 degrees. Gingers are tropical plants and respond well to cold soil or cold nighttime temperatures. A good rule of thumb is to plant your gingers outdoors when temperatures are suitable for tomatoes.
Gingers rhizomes typically have several eyes or growing points, similar to those on a potato. Place your rhizomes horizontally in the soil with the eyes facing upwards. If you can’t find the eyes or they are opposite sides of the rhizome, don't worry. The eyes will sprout even from a downwards facing position and will find the soil surface. Cover with 2” of soil. Water well to settle the soil around the rhizomes.
Plant gingers 12 – 18” apart in beds and borders. In containers, you can plant more closely with partners. Keep in mind that a small amount of soil supporting a number of plants in a mixed container will require supplemental nutrients.
Gingers require little care during the growing season. Provide supplemental water if rains are irregular. Gingers prefer lightly moist soil.
Gardeners living in zones 8-10 can leave their gingers in the ground for next year. As temperatures cool and the season winds down, your gingers will prepare for dormancy. Their leaves will yellow. This usually occurs between September and December depending on your climate. When you see this, stop watering.
In colder climates you can choose to treat gingers like annuals; ignore them when the cold arrives and start over in the spring. Or you can lift the rhizomes and overwinter indoors. To lift, wait until after the first frost, dig the rhizomes, brush off the soil and cut off the top growth. Store the rhizomes in very slightly moist peat moss in a cool (45-50+ degrees), well ventilated area. Replant come spring and enjoy for another season.
Light: Light to partial shade
Soil: Rich, humusy soil
Depth: Cover with 2” of soil
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Large containers, beds and borders
Tip: Fun and unusual garden additions
They Start Out looking Like This:
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