INFORMATION ABOUT SHELLFLOWER GINGER…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Een Ar The Shellflower ginger is a member of the Alpinia genus, which is a large genus of the Ginger family. Commonly referred to as Ginger Lilies, Alpinias grow from thick fleshy rhizomes, which are ginger scented.
Although these are lovely plants, they generally require a tropical climate, with warm temperatures and high humidity. The rhizomes can be planted in full sun or partially shaded areas but must have moist, fertile, humus-rich soil and warm conditions to thrive. Plant them anytime after the flowering period.
During the growing season, the plants should be watered freely and given liquid fertilizer monthly. Do not let these plants dry out between watering. Continue to water moderately during the winter. Since these are tropical plants, they should be brought indoors for over wintering unless you reside in an appropriately warm climate. Plants require a minimum temperature above 45°F at all times.
Alpinia plants are attractive to bees, butterflies, birds. They usually have few pest problems, but the leaves will brown on the edges if the soil is not kept moist enough or if touched by frost. Propagation can be made by cutting and dividing the rhizome and re-planting in moist, dark soil.
The Shellflower ginger (A. zerumbet) sometimes called shell ginger, is a tall and dramatic landscape or container plant. The rhizomes produce a dense clump of arching, strap-like leaves and bamboo-like spikes topped with clusters of white and pink-flushed blooms that exhibit orange and red contrasting stripes. The individual flowers are reminiscent of small seashells, which accounts for its common name. The plant itself grows to about 6 feet tall.
A native to tropical regions of China, the species has been naturalized in Brazil as well and is also found in areas of central and south Florida.
Shellflower ginger is tolerant of a wide range of light conditions, from light shade to full sun, provided there is an adequate amount of moisture. However, partial shade is ideal with rich, fertile, organic soil.
Shellflower ginger is relatively easy to grow and not too needy other than frequent watering. If care is not taken, however, it may become invasive. This exotic-looking plant brightens up dark areas with its lovely, fragrant blooms during summer. This plant also makes an excellent cut flower.
Another alpinia species, the Red ginger (A. purpurata) is from Malaysia and also found in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Central America. There are two varieties, one red (Jungle king) and one pink (Jungle queen). This plant has deep red or pink spikes of flowers with small, show-stopping white blooms that emerge from the bracts of the spike. Either variety will grow in partial sun to light shade in well-drained, moist soil and makes an excellent tropical container plant. Red ginger pretty much takes care of itself, other than occasional pruning. It flowers nonstop during summer with leaves that reach about 8-feet tall. The flowers can be brought inside to make nice floral arrangements that last a long time.