About this time of the year many of our summer flowers are beginning to look a little faded but the fall flowers are coming into their own. One of these is the ginger lily (hedychium) which blooms mid to late summer/early fall giving your garden a vibrant burst of color. Ginger lily blooms are not only beautiful, but also have a heavenly fragrance. This carefree perennial spreads by underground rhizomes and can quickly form a sizable clump; in a few years you will have lots to share or to start a new spot in your landscape. I normally dig and divide in the spring. Make certain to plant them where you will have the opportunity to stop and smell the stalk-like flower on a daily basis. Ginger flowers grow on top of long stems; the plants have very large leaves. They prefer well-drained fertile soil and ample water during the summer. There are very large gingers that can grow 8 feet tall and the dwarf ones which may get just a couple of feet high. Gingers come in all sorts of colors. Although they can handle full sun, if their roots are shaded, gingers much prefer some light shade, especially from the afternoon sun. Gingers are tropicals and north of our zone 7A/8B they may not survive a harsh winter. Some gingers are less hardy in our climate zone. It is best to do a little research on the growing habits of a particular ginger before you add it to your garden. It is possible also to plant them in large pots but they will need additional winter protection if you do. Cut back the long stem at the first frost and mulch the roots well. The following summer the gingers will emerge from the ground soon again delighting your senses of smell and sight. Not only will they draw in the humans in the household, but the hummingbirds and the butterflies will also start visiting them.
A ginger in bloom reminds me of a trip to some far away tropical paradise; if you can’t make the trip in person, a ginger in your garden can still take you there.