By Nikki Phipps
Curcuma is a genus of about 80 tuberous rhizome species. A relative of ginger, curcuma is an attractive perennial plant with ornamental foliage and trumpet-shaped flowers that grows 3 to 5 feet high in the tropical regions of Southern Asia. Keep reading for tips on growing curcuma plants.
About Curcuma Flowers
Also referred to as turmeric, hidden ginger or queen lily, this plant is both fragrant and bitter tasting. The rhizomes are mildly fragrant and produce large lance-shaped leaves. Dense spikes of clustered flowers appear from late spring to mid-summer. These flowers usually last for more than 3 weeks. After the flowering period has finished, the plants become dormant.
Curcumas make excellent flowering container plants and, in some cases, the flowers will actually emerge before the foliage. Some varieties make good cut flowers too. Used in landscapes, curcumas provide interesting texture and a momentary splash of color.
The species C. longa is the source of the spice turmeric, which is derived from its rhizomes after boiling, drying and grinding. The largest quantity of turmeric cultivated is used as a condiment, but it is also used in medicine, cosmetics and in the dying of fabrics. C. longa makes a good cut flower as well as a flowering container plant. The pale yellow flowers (tinged with pink) emerge in spring directly from the rhizome before the leaves and they are very fragrant.
How to Grow Curcuma Bulbs
These plants are tender perennials that do especially well in warm, wet climates (USDA zones 8-11). Under ideal conditions, they can become invasive but, in most conditions, they are not a nuisance.
The rhizomes can be planted from February to June in well-drained soil. Curcumas can grow under different warmth and light conditions. In general, most of them grow well in light shade. Full sun is recommended for only a few varieties.
They need moisture at all times during the growing season but care should be given not to over water.
In areas outside their growing zone, they should be dug up and stored. Curcumas are seasonal plants that are deciduous in winter and can be over wintered quite easily if kept dry. A number of them will also withstand very light frost.
As for problems with diseases and pests, leaf spot and rhizome rot are considered the most common curcuma diseases, while pests affecting curcumas include shoot borers, leaf-eating insects, sucking insects and nematodes.