Ornamental gingers – we’ve admired them whilst on holiday in tropical countries, or seen them curated in the glasshouses of botanical gardens, but how many of us have considered growing them in our own gardens? Surely gingers need more heat and sunlight than the British climate can offer? Aren’t they going to be hopelessly needy or plagued by pests and diseases? Well, I have news for you, gingers are easy to grow, and many require a lot less care and attention than you imagine.
If you don’t already grow ornamental gingers in your garden I hope that by the end of this post you’ll feel compelled to give them a try. Most gingers are easy-going, exotic-looking plants that return a lot of bang for your buck. Their demands can be summarised as regular watering and feeding, dappled shade and some winter protection; generally a deep mulch will suffice. Undisturbed in the ground they will develop into lush thickets of leafy stems, topped by colourful, highly scented flowers in late summer and autumn. Gingers are team players, working with other plants in many situations; at the back of a herbaceous border, in a large pot in a courtyard garden, as the centrepiece for summer bedding or as part of a jungly planting scheme. Five years ago I started with a single variety, Hedychium ‘Stephen’, purchased from Hardy Exotics in Cornwall. That small plant has now expanded into eight clumps, each the size of a dustbin lid. Now I have fourteen varieties of ginger and I’m adding to them all the time. I can honestly say that gingers are the amongst easiest and most rewarding plants I grow: pest free, rarely requiring staking, always a talking point and, best of all, deliciously scented like no other plant I know.
The ornamental ‘butterfly’ gingers, in latin Hedychium (heh-DIK-ee-um), belong to the Zingiberaceae family which also includes Zingiber officinale, the culinary ginger. They’re rhizomatous plants, growing from subterranean stems that look very similar to the ginger ‘root’ you’d buy in a supermarket. Most gingers grow 1-2m tall, producing long, plain green leaves on thick stems. They are very hard to tell apart from their foliage, although ‘Dr Moy’ and ‘Verity’ are variegated, which is a fairly unusual trait. Ginger flowers are much more diverse, varying in size, arrangement and colour. Some gingers produce a tall, candle-like inflorescence, whilst others produce a short cluster of bloom like a shaving brush. Ornamental gingers have been extensively hybridised, resulting in colours from white through yellow, apricot, orange, pink and red.
Hedychiums come from originally from the world’s tropical and semi tropical zones. Those most suited to UK gardens grow at a high altitude and can therefore tolerate lower temperatures at night and over winter. Although the Victorians considered gingers to be tender, we are now discovering that many are not so delicate as once imagined, hailing as they do from Himalayan forests. Here lie all the clues to successful cultivation:
1) Gingers like to be moist during the growing season. Growing on the floor of mountain forests they are used to ample summer rainfall and rich soil. During the winter the weather is drier and the rhizomes are protected from the cold by a thick layer of leaf litter.
2) Gingers don’t appreciate hot, midday sun – in the forest the tree canopy provides dappled shade. Gingers enjoy sun at the beginning and end of the day, but not being exposed to the midday sun. In too much sun the leaves will roll up to prevent water loss through transpiration, and eventually they will develop dry, papery patches where they have, effectively, burned.
3) Gingers enjoy a sheltered position – again, being woodlanders gingers grow best in sheltered, humid conditions. Courtyards, walled gardens and spots at the base of a wall or hedge, provided they are not too dry, are ideal for them. Gingers will take some wind, but if excessive the leaves will roll, burn and occasionally become ripped and tatty.
4) Gingers like light – The days further south in the northern hemisphere are more consistent in length and are filled with longer hours of sunlight. Outdoors during a poor British summer, some gingers may struggle to gather enough steam to produce flowers before winter arrives. Some, but not all, will die down in the winter, giving them only 6-7 months to grow and flower. Warm weather, a sheltered spot and maturity will help bring flowering forward.
Ornamental Gingers through the Year
- Buy rhizomes from reputable suppliers in April, or plants at any time during the growing season. I’ve recommended sources which I have used personally below. I’ve found gingers started from dry rhizomes much slower to establish than those purchased as growing plants.
- Gingers can be grown in the ground or in pots. I find those grown in pots flower earlier than those in the ground, probably because they can be started into growth a little earlier in the spring, by keeping them in a warm, sheltered spot or an unheated greenhouse. (I wonder if black plastic pots absorb heat and promote an earlier growth too.) Gingers are greedy feeders, so use John Innes No.3 in pots, and add a slow release fertiliser to the surface after 6-8 weeks. If growing in the ground, add lots of rich, well-rotted organic matter from your compost bin to mimic the woodsy conditions gingers enjoy in their natural habitat. Good compost will also retain moisture. In pots I plant rhizomes so that their tops are exposed above the surface of the compost / grit. In the ground you can plant a little deeper, but the rhizomes will tend to haul themselves up over time. If growing in pots or containers, be prepared to go up a size or two each year. Ginger rhizomes are powerful and willful quickly distorting the sides of black plastic pots; they tend to decide which direction they are growing in and then grow! More often than not I am forced to cut my gingers out of their straining containers in order to divide or repot them. I would not recommend terracotta for this reason as it will likely shatter. You can cheat in the garden by plunging potted plants into a border, but you’ll need to be prepared to feed and water your plants frequently as their roots will not be able to venture far for sustenance.
- As soon as thick, red, pointed shoots start to emerge from the rhizomes – which can happen any time from late April to June – then you should commence watering, unless your site is very damp naturally. Gingers will flourish close to a pond or on the banks of a stream, as at Trengwainton in Cornwall. I grow 90% of my gingers in pots and stand these in a sheltered, shady passageway until they are about 3ft tall and ready to be moved into their final positions for summer.
- Ginger rhizomes are best divided in early summer when they are in full growth, simply by slicing them up. I use a sharp bread knife. Doing it at this time allows you to see where the new stems are and the exposed cuts will heal quickly. However, take care to avoid breaking any of the shoots in the process and don’t leave this job too late in the season. Your gardening friends will cheerfully accept any excess plants as gifts, although I find it very hard to part with them.
- Once growing, all gingers need are food, water, dappled shade and shelter. In warm weather they grow fast, almost in front of your eyes. I apply dilute tomato food weekly to supplement a more balanced slow-release fertiliser. Pests and diseases are mercifully few. I’ve occasionally seen a snail or a cabbage white take an interest in the foliage, but damage has been minimal. Healthy plants shrug off all but the most persistent attackers. High winds and scorching sun will be your greatest enemy, so provide shelter from those.
- Some gingers have the habit of throwing out stems at a slight angle, I suppose to help them search for light and spread their leaves to maximise photosynthesis. This arching habit becomes more pronounced in shadier spots. If you are fussy about this, you should stake your plants, although I feel this detracts from their natural grace and elegance. Hedychium ‘Tara’ and Hedychium gardnerianum are stronger and more upright varieties in my garden. In sun they will grow bolt upright to reduce the amount of light reaching their foliage. In the UK, most gingers will grow no more than 6″ in height outdoors, suiting most to a position at the back of the border.
- Following a warm spring, gingers might flower as early as late June, but most will bide their time until August, September or October. Try not to be too impatient, especially if your plants are young. Once flowering has begun each individual spike or cluster might flower for a week or so and, if scented, will emit a heavy, luxurious perfume at night. Some gingers will produce several flushes of flowers from the same spike over a period of days. Moths like to visit, especially those with an elongated proboscis, such as the Convolvulus Hawk Moth (Agrius convolvuli). I have not tried gingers as cut flowers – I think they look better in the garden – but I don’t imagine they would last long in a vase.
- Once spent, there is no particular need to remove the flower spikes but this is when I stop feeding regularly. The stems on which they are held will naturally begin to decline over a period of weeks and fleshy fruits may start to appear, turning red in the late autumn. I have not attempted growing gingers from seed, but this is something I’d like to learn more about. As the first frosts approach, the foliage will start to turn yellow. At this point any gingers you want to keep growing actively overwinter should be moved into a cool greenhouse or conservatory. Those from warmer countries do not die down naturally and must be kept somewhere warm and light until spring.
- As the first frosts approach, the foliage of most gingers will start to turn yellow. The yellowing occurs as the plants start to pull the plant’s energy back down into the rhizome. Each dying stem will then separate quite freely from the rhizome, snapping cleanly off in a very satisfying manner: take a deep breath and fill your lungs with the fresh, gingery scent. Unflowered stems may stay green and healthy outdoors all through winter; this is certainly the case for me. Only once, in early 2018, has the temperature dropped low enough to damage any remaining top growth. No harm was done to the rhizomes.
- If your gingers are in pots then they can be put somewhere dark and frost-free until April. A garage, shed or cellar is fine. The rhizomes do not require any light and must not be watered. Some residual moisture in the compost is fine, but no more should be added. I do absolutely nothing to my gingers for the whole winter period, apart from checking once to ensure there’s no decay. I have yet to find any. Being greedy and vigorous, it is highly likely that the rhizomes will need repotting in a larger pot and in fresh compost every year. If simply repotting rather than dividing, I do this in April before growth begins, but do not water the plants until shoots appear.
- In the open ground, gingers should be given a thick mulch of leaves or bark or spent compost in November. This level of protection should be completely adequate for most varieties. If you are concerned or risk averse, dig up your rhizomes and pot them in clean, dry compost for the winter. However be aware that gingers don’t relish disturbance so are better left in situ if possible. They are great companions for spring bulbs as they start into growth so late in the year.
In comparison to most other plants I grow at The Watch House, hardy or tender, gingers are a breeze. They come up, do their thing and go away again. I have never killed one, nor has a pest or disease. They are always marvelled at when I open my garden, as if I have performed some small miracle. In fact I have done very little, apart from feed and water. If I had one criticism it would be that ginger flowers don’t last long. Growing several varieties and allowing them to make big clumps overcomes that issue by extending the flowering season and the number of flower spikes. The foliage alone is wonderful, providing a lush backdrop to other plants.
There are few sights as breathtaking as a clump of gingers in full bloom, and when you add the exquisite perfume on top, there’s little to rival their exotic allure. It’s not too late to buy plants this year – if they are a decent size you may even get flowers out of them – and in November you can sling them in the shed and forget about them until spring. Easier to grow than dahlias or lilies, and more remarkable than either, ornamental gingers are a must for every garden. TFG.
Gingers in My Garden
- Hedychium ‘Anne Bishop’
- Hedychium coccineum ‘Tara’
- Hedychium coronarium ‘Gold Spot’
- Hedychium densiflorum ‘Sorung’
- Hedychium densiflorum ‘Stephen’
- Hedychium ‘Dr Moy’
- Hedychium gardnerianum
- Hedychium greenii
- Hedychium ‘Helen Dillon’
- Hedychium ‘Luna Moth’
- Hedychium maximum
- Hedychium ‘Pradhan’
- Hedychium ‘Verity’
- Hedychium yunannense
recommended sources of ginger plants
- Jungle Seeds – the source of over half my gingers. Sadly it seems they may cease offering ginger plants at the end of 2018, so get in there quick for top-notch plants.
- Hardy Exotics – a plantsman’s paradise in West Cornwall. My first ginger plants came from here and I still love to visit.
- Urban Jungle – a great selection of gingers available via mail order.
- Springwood Nursery – one of the most extensive collections in the UK cultivated by a very experienced grower.
The plants are quite hungry feeders and require a good feed and plenty of water when in full growth. If allowing dying back for the winter then should not be fed after the end of August. They must not be waterlogged over winter as this can be fatal for them, opposed to when in full growth the can almost be aquatic.
The plants will start to grow in the spring when the average soil temperature gets above ten degrees centigrade. So I plant them with spring bulbs to give me any early flush of colour and as they fade the gingers start to grow through. The gingers will continue growth until the first frosts, and then they start to pull the energy back to the rhizome. The stem will then separate quite freely when ready and will literally ‘pop off’. If in a pot then it can be put in the garden shed for the winter or if you wish to keep them going, bring into the conservatory. Do not lift the rhizome like you do to Cannas as they take at least a year to ‘settle in’ and so if you lift it is difficult for them to flower in the following year.
The ginger rhizome is best divided in the early summer when they are in full growth, simply by slicing it up. Doing it at this time, allows you to see where the new stems are and the exposed sliced area will heal quite quickly. Late slicing as the plant slows, delays healing and can allow rots to set in.
Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Cornish Gardens, Flowers, Foliage, fragrance, gingers, Our Coastal Garden, Perennials, Photography, Plant Portraits, Plants in Detail, Practical Advice, Small Gardens, Tropical Gardens
86 comments On "How to Grow Ornamental Gingers in UK Gardens"
What a wonderful, inspiring, exhaustive post ! I am in awe of the care you take for your readers’ sake, and very grateful. I am definitely going to try to grow some ginger plants in the future, whether they fit in well with my other plants or not. Thank you Dan, your blog is of an unmatched quality.
You are very kind to say so. I feel if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly and I aim to give good advice, from personal experience. Meanwhile, I think you’ll be surprised how easily a ginger plant will slot in.
Hi Dan. If you had to choose the best ginger plant which one would it be in your opinion. One that flowers and has the best scent possibly. I’d like it to stay green throughout the year too. Mmmmm. 🤔. Can’t decide. What’s your favourite ? Thank you. Fabulous informative post. Brilliant. Shall keep that. Rebecca
Hi Rebecca. Most gingers that are hardy are not evergreen unfortunately. However ‘Tara’ sometimes stays green for me through the winter, if there is no frost. I would always recommend ‘Stephen’ for ease, early flowering and scent. Hedychium yunnanense is also easy and very pretty with fleeting flowers and vibrant orange fruits in autumn. Dan
Definitely one (or two,or more) for an exotic look. Your garden looked equally as impressive this year despite the best from the east. One question though, when growing plants in pots do you cover the base with broken crocs. and stuff as with annuals? Would be good to know. Many thanks.
I do use crocks Pauline, although I am suspicious of their effectiveness. I always use a heavier compost purely because my garden can get very windy. Dan
I share your doubts about the necessity of crocks.
Great post Dan. ‘Stephen’ is going on my list. I grow my only specimen (H. gardnerianum) in full sun, but then we don’t get as much of that as you do! I’ve come to the realisation this year that, in fact, I’m running out of sunny spots as the trees are once again taking over. Clearly I should invest in more gingers!
I couldn’t agree more with Frog above! The details you provide really are the best! Right down to sharing how to pronounce the Latin name 🤓 RHS should hire you to upgrade their descriptions lol!
True! They leave a lot to be desired, however it’s a mammoth task so I can appreciate why. I think I’d get bored quite quickly!!
This is a group that I do not give much though to. Those that grow here grow like weeds. I do not bother with those that do not grow here. Some of the most tropical sorts are very sensitive to cool winter weather, even though it does not get too cold here.
Dan, your post was a timely reminder as to why my solitary ginger looks so sorry for itself! Putting it in a greenhouse position which gets loads of sun, forgetting to feed it properly or keeping it moist meant it’s curled up instead of flourishing. I’m now keeping your article to hand, but I do have a question; which of your 14 handles sun most readily? I want to put mine near a pond, but it’s only a few years old so doesn’t have lots of shady places.
I have seen Tara growing very happily in full sun at The Salutation, so give her a try. Meanwhile, rescue your other ginger pronto!! It will soon pick up if you give it some TLC. Dan
do you put your hedychium in a heated green house or do you leave in ground? also do you ever sell any of you hedychium? thanks
Hi Rosemary. I don’t have a heated greenhouse so it’s the garage / workshop or outside in the ground. I’ve not killed one yet …. in fact they seem very happy.
Sadly I don’t have enough space to be able to grow plants for sale. If only! Dan
I’m now completely inspired to grow a ginger plant or two!
Jolly good! Let me know how you get on Jan.
I had not realized that ginger lilies produced colored varieties like the ones you show here. My grandmother grew white ginger lilies from rhizomes her own grandmother had brought over from England sometime in the 1800s. Now, my sister has off shoots or cuttings from some of those rhizomes!
How fantastic! That sounds like it might be H. forrestii, which is one of the hardiest here in England and was possibly popular …. and relatively new to cultivation at that time.
Lost all mine due to greenhouse heater malfunction last year but did buy one at Felbrigg last month no idea what variety but noticed last week a huge flower spike coming! I hope it’s gardnerianum as I love it’s fragrance! Will try to look after them better after reading your helpful post! Actually I specialised in gingers at college as part of my plant science module!
You’re an expert in our midst Anne! I hope you manage to rebuild your collection. Perhaps don’t bother with the greenhouse next time and put them in a shed or garage where they can be covered with old carpet or newspaper for insulation?
I do hope you got H. gardnerianum as it’s certainly one of the most impressive gingers. Mine has flower spikes forming now. Enjoy the anticipation!!
Wow, such lovely blooms. I wonder where I can find gingers that I could plant here. We are in a tropical country with full sun most of the time.
I suggest doing an internet search and finding somewhere local that you can go and ask for advice. They will know which gingers are best suited to your climate. Good luck!
I quite agree with Frog’s comment, this is a glorious post! I was looking at the Hedychium at the Exotic Plants last month, but couldn’t decide on which to buy. Now I am armed with information I shall return and see if I can find a couple to replace growing lilies which always get attacked by slugs. I have a nice shady ‘woodland’ border that receives late afternoon sun in the summer. Though that might not be enough. Definitely worth a try though. Thanks Dan 😀
BTW What size black pots do you use? 10L, 20L? Yours look quite large.
Thank you 🙏 The larger pots are 35 litres and have handles, which helps with moving them inside for winter. I buy them from Amazon. They are perfect for gingers.
Too much shade and you may struggle to get your gingers to flower. Dappled shade is just right if you can manage it. And not too dry. Go for it though – no lily beetles or snails to contend with where gingers are concerned! Plus welcome flowers when everything else is looking tired. Dan
35 litres? Wow! I’d never lift one of those, handles or not. Best keep any gingers I buy small. If I grow them in containers then I suppose I can move them to a sunnier spot. Or what about north-facing where I get plenty of light but no direct sun?
They are heavy, I admit. However if your gingers are happy they will not remain small for long. North facing should be fine provided it’s bright shade.
Thanks Jude . . . I have visited and am now hooked!! I have a gardening mission for this year now 🙂
I have never dared divide mine and only repotted it once! So how do you know where to cut the rhizome? I will have a go next summer.
I think you’ll know instinctively, but I’d divide a rhizome evenly between two growing points and at one of the junctions where it narrows. So long as it’s a clean cut with a clean knife I don’t think you can go far wrong.
I have to learn a lot about gardening! Thanks a lot for this post
We all have to start somewhere and we never know it all, but it’s a rewarding process!
Thank you for posting this.
I’ve been thinking about growing these wonderful plants but was taken aback thinking it was difficult. I’ll definitely give these a go in the very near future.
Not difficult at all Ollie. In fact very easy. Much easier and more rewarding than many more common plants.
Inspired by your blog I’ve ordered some Hedychium from Jungle Seeds. I plan to grow them in pots. I have some very large plastic ones. Is it best to pot the smaller pots on gradually or can I put them straight into the very large pots (mindful that they don’t like disturbance) ? Thanks
Hi Sally. When they are delivered they will likely be in quite small pots. Given it’s late in the growing season I would pot them up into slightly larger pots, but not huge ones. They won’t grown a huge amount more now and you don’t want them waterlogged in winter. Then in early summer when they are growing strongly you can go up to your very large pots. As a rule it’s not a good idea to over-pot, especially when a plant isn’t actively growing. My comment on disturbance applies more to digging up from the ground than repotting, which they don’t seem to mind at all.
Good Luck. Dan
Dan, I have just spent the last week in Falmouth, and spent a reasonable amount of time admiring and photographing these gorgeous plants. They all appear to be enjoying their late summer immensely ! (Great images – thank you )
Lucky you Sally! I can’t wait to get back to Cornwall later on this month. I miss it. Cornwall has a great climate for growing hardy gingers. Mild and damp is how they like it.
You should check out The Sandy Duck, an excellent place to stay in Falmouth, and v.close to lots of hardy gingers.
Thanks for the tip 🙂
Ok, ok. I’m gonna try them!
ooh this is fabulous. I recently saw a photo of a ginger and wondered if I could grown them, and then the fabulous Jude of Cornwall in Colours directed me this way. Your post has worked I am going to have a go this year myself 🙂
Hi Becky. Assuming you are in Portugal, you should have no problem. However I would recommend keeping your gingers out of full sun (they are woodland edge / stream bank / understorey plants) and very well watered in the growing season. If potted, you should also feed regularly as the nutrients will quickly wash through the compost. Good Luck! Dan
Oh thanks Dan this is really helpful. I spend half the year here and half in England so thinking growing one in England might be better as I’d be away in the dormant months.
Yes, England might be easier. Rarely a shortage of moisture here!! In warmer climates gingers do not die down – many of mine, including H. ‘Tara’ stay green through the winter.
I’ll keep you posted! So looking forward to this 😊
Hope you dont mind a question. I have a large pot of I think Hedychium which overwinter in my unheated conservatory. No flowers in 2018 but a lot of growth outside last summer. No sign of the leaves dying down – shall I prune them to base level and repot next month ? The rhyzomes came back from Madeira 4 years ago and have flowered once. I live in North Norfolk.
Hi Jane. My advice would be to leave unflowered stems intact. If you are lucky, they may flower this summer and earlier than they might otherwise. You will still get new shoots, and the old leaves will help to fuel their development. Add a slow-release fertiliser to your potting mix and feed regularly with a high potash liquid feed during the summer to encourage flowering. Good Luck. Hope storm Freya doesn’t give you too much trouble tonight.
Thank you so much – will look forward to this summer. Freya whistled thro overnight but my tough garden survived fine.
That’s good to hear. Didn’t amount to much in Broadstairs, thankfully.
I’m so excited to find this site and blog, last year my hubby and I travelled to Maui where we came upon the most amazing ginger plants – I had no idea there were so many varieties and so beautiful.
Sadly it’s not possible (I’ve been told) to grow in the U.K. the wonderful torch ginger that I fell in love with, but two weeks ago I went to the RHS garden show in Malvern (which was brilliant) and purchased my first three gingers from the lovely Rob and his wife on the Hardy Exotics stand and display. I’ve already started off incorrectly they’re in full sun in the greenhouse so I will correct that but they are growing really fast. I can’t wait to put them in the garden.
I was also really excited to see Monty Don last night giving a brief mention to the gingers in his greenhouse on gardeners world.
My biggest decision I suppose is do I put them into beds or pots – decisions decisions!! We live in the South East (Reigate), what do you think?
I was given some seeds of some ornamental ginger or other a couple of months ago. They have begun to germinate so I was pleased to find your extremely thorough post on successfully growing in the uk. I think I will grow them on in black pots for now. I doubt they will do much this year, but I have a suitable spot for stashing over winter and time to decide on final positions. Thanks for sharing your experience here, very helpful.
In my first year of growing gingers I have had some success and my tallest ginger produced some beautiful flowers (receiving lots of loving praise from me for being such a clever plant🙊😊) After reading your latest blog about the season you prefer not to name (A) and going by the current weather I am wondering if it is time to bring my gingers into the porch (which is light and cool and not dissimilar to a cool greenhouse – my greenhouse will be heated). Should I continue to water sparingly or should I leave them alone?
Hi Donna. I’d recommend you leave them well alone. They have a good 6-8 weeks left and many types won’t have even flowered yet. When they are ready to go into hibernation the leaves and stems will go yellow and snap off cleanly at the rhizome. Unless it gets very cold very quickly you are safe. Otherwise keep watering and stop as soon the stems snap off.
If you want to keep them growing over winter you’ll need heat and space and to continue feeding and watering throughout. Dan
I have just read your post on hedychiums..very helpful thankyou.
I have H.gardnerianum in a big plastic pot, it is now sending up shoots but all at one side of the pot.
You say they dont like disturbance, but also say that you can slice them up and replant end of april Early may.
If I did slice them now (11 may) would that affect flowering this year? Thanks…Ant
Great post. Thanks. I planted some in May, pretty shallow, in large wooden containers outside in a sunny spot. They have become a bit more exposed over time and weather however i have seen absolutely no sign of shoots or growth yet!! What can i do, if anything?
Your information on hedychiums is inspiring ! Thank you!
Wow great advice ,I’ve finally just purchased 3 from urban jungle soooo excited ,I think I will over winter in the pots they arrived in ,in my out building ,and repot in spring
Exciting site! Do you know the Ginger Garden in the Singapore Botanic Garden? That, too, is inspiring. This year I have rescued some seeds from shredded plants in a windswept garden nearby (North Cornwall – a wind-tunnel) and have managed to germinate some by soaking them and filing the testa, but there is a substantial failure rate from fungal attack on the young seedlings. Am I over-watering them perhaps?
Hmmm, perhaps. I have not had that issue. Maybe try something sterile like Perlite to get them going in?
It’s a good ten years since I have been the Singapore Botanic Gardens and I’m always a bit distracted by the orchids and that cool fern house for some respite from the heat. Next time I shall focus on the Ginger Garden.
I am very familiar with Cornish conditions since my family are from St Agnes. Wind, rain and mist seem to go with the territory. Still no place I’d rather be though! Dan
Thanks, I’ll try it. Best wishes from St Eval.
I am new to ornamental ginger lily growing and my dried rhizomes have arrived in the post. I am trying to work out which was round to plant them. I read you lay them on their sides… does it matter which way round… if that makes sense?
Hello Louise. Yes, what you have read is correct. Lay them on their side, half below and half above the level of the compost. If you can already see any buds breaking (they look like an angry spot, or a pink claw if they’re a bit more developed), then have these pointing upwards. If you can’t, then it really does not matter. Keep moist and warm but not wet or dry. I have found dried rhizomes can take a very long time to get going, so be patient if nothing happens for a few months.
Thanks ever so much
Absolutely fantastic guide – I have gone out and bought some rhizomes now!
Just one question – I have heard these things can be invasive – though am I right in assuming that’s in hot countries with year round warm weather – rather than here (the Devon coast)?
Not in Devon, no! I think you’d be famed throughout the land if you managed to grow them that prolifically. Good luck
Paul. Let me know how you get on.
So Tara seems to be doing very well, Greenii rotted!! Dr Moy is being average and I’ve also tried the other variety – Cautleya Spicata gingers – which are doing very well indeed! Definitely enjoying seeing these grow – I agree no garden should be without them.
Just a quick question, can I move gingers easily and when’s the best time to do it. One is probably too close to my fatsia which has suddenly had a growth spurt!
Hello Paul. I am not an expert on moving border-grown gingers but I’d have tended to do it when the shoots were emerging in late spring. However, provided you dig the plant up with a good ball of roots and water in thoroughly I reckon you could get away with it now. Better that that have it shaded out. Plenty of time for it to reestablish before winter.
Do try again with greenii as it’s generally quite forgiving. It also produces plantlets at the end of the flower spikes which means you have spares if the worst happens.
Here’s hoping you get lots of flowers later in the year. Dan
Good morning Dan, could you please advise me on the size of pot in which to start off my hedychium Gardnerianum tubers? Do you go straight into very large (15L) pots, or start off smaller. Not sure how much growth I should expect in their first year. Many thanks.
Hi Sue. I find this is usually dictated by the size of the rhizomes. I would use a pot where you can lay the rhizome or rhizomes down on the surface with a couple of inches spare at either end to grow. Until they start growing you don’t want them to be too soggy, nor too dry. The amount of growth in year 1 will depend on how fast they sprout, how warm the weather is and then how much you feed and water them. As decisions go this isn’t one to worry about too much. If you start small you can always pot on mid season. Dan
Thanks so much Dan, this is really helpful. I saw the photo of your pots lined up so thought maybe I should go big, but I guess your plants are more established. This will be my first job tomorrow morning. Your advice is much appreciated. Sue
Thankyou for all your very helpful hints to grow Ginger rhizomes. I purchased a piece in Funchal flower market 2 years last December and it did nothing for 6 months but I left it in a corner of the garden for the summer and got a shoot. It lived in the cool, dark spare room for the winter but suddenly got into action this month and now has 5 shoots. I will indeed put it outside next to the pond this summer but will keep it as a pot plant so I can move it around, just in case it flowers.
I first saw it growing wild on the old extinct volcanoes of Hawaii Island and fell in love with the flowers. I have named it Bert and hope we have many happy years together.
Hello! I’m a first timer with ginger lilies, and very eager. Thank you for this blog; it has given me confidence. I ordered rhizomes online and received them last week. They were in transit for a week. Each had shoots and have been planted into pots with general potting mix. I have them on the patio where they get partial sun. I watered very thoroughly the first time, and just light watering twice more after feeling the media to be dry-ish. The temperatures have been very hot (20s to 30s). Two of the smaller rhizomes with smaller shoots have dried up though. The larger shoots look ok, but slightly drier than when I got them. Any tips to try to bring them back? When do you recommend to start fertilizing?
Hi Lee. I’ve never had a great deal of success growing gingers from dormant rhizomes. I would keep doing what you are doing but don’t let the media dry out or get too wet. Once the rhizomes start to produce roots they will plump up. At the moment they are putting all their reserves into producing shoots, which is making them shrivel. Only feed when they’ve produced roots and started to grow at a decent rate.
I’d generally recommend buying plants in season as these will be as actively growing and much easier to establish.
Hope this helps!
Thanks very much, Dan. I am delighted to give a report on the gingers. Unfortunately, 3 of the 4 shoots dried up and withered away. However there is new growth of leaves in one planter, as well as a new shoot in the same planter as the last remaining shoot. The last remaining shoot is still looking quite good. It’s still hot and humid over here in Ontario Canada! I shall plan to keep them outside until Autumn when temperatures still to cool. Then move them to the garage or basement cellar. I will not water or touch them as they overwinter. My endeavour is not fully for myself, but this has intention be a birthday gift to my mum this Autumn. I had only learned in recent months that the ginger lilies are her favourite flower, which she hasn’t seen in over 40 years since she’s immigrated from Asia. Your blog is brilliant, and I have started following you on Instagram as well. Thank you for sharing your passion.
Lee, since your shoot has only just started to get going, I would be tempted to keep it growing over winter if you possibly can – a bathroom or a spare room should suffice. I suggest that purely because the rhizome needs to replenish itself and I worry that if you let it die down when it’s only barely started, it won’t have the energy to come back again. It will certainly do no harm to let it keep growing and you might get earlier flowers in 2022. Fingers crossed.
Hi Dan, I’m happy to report that my gingers grew from rhizomes over the past year very well. I had one flower bud bloom and it was exhilarating. As your blog described of healthy growth, there are numerous strong and healthy shoots in a row. The round plastic pots look to be oval shaped shaped now from the strength of the rhizome stretching them out. Autumn temperatures in the low to mid teens are upon us. I’ve gone ahead to spray them with an insecticidal soap in prep to bring them indoors. However I feeling daunted as plants are massive and I have three pots, with little space indoors. They’re still green and lush, and there’s even one bud ready to bloom. Should I cut them down? Dig them out of their pots? We do have a garage too, but with minimal light and space. What are reasonable steps to take to so that they overwinter safely? I anticipate needing to divide them in the spring!
Hello Lee. Congratulations on your ginger flowers! I’ll take your questions one by one!
– don’t cut them down or dig them out of their pots. If you damage them, they might not heal at this time of year. When gingers want to lose a stem, they’ll turn yellow and come away of their own accord. If you want to divide them, do so when they’ve started growing in spring but be mindful of the delicate new shoots.
– They’ll be fine squished together in a garage with minimal light. That’s exactly the conditions we give ours. They can cope with no light, although they will die down in the dark and you should not water them.
– In short, bring them in and forget about them until April when they start to reshoot. If you have stems on the brink of blooming, find somewhere indoors where you can enjoy the flowers or take a risk and see if they flower outside before the first frost.
Good luck! Dan
Tried gingers from rhizomes for the first time this year (I’m in Manchester). Sadly no success whatsoever – no sign of shoots or roots although rhizomes are still firm and not rotting. Will take Dan’s advice and search out plants in full growth. Also tried Caladiums and Colocasia all of which rotted in the pots. I’m sure it’s all down to me as Dan’s advice is so clear and thorough. My favourite site for advice and inspiration. Good luck.
Great article. I wish more people would try growing hedychium. Here on the coast of SW Wales they are a doddle and provide terrific drama and late colour. Two I would recommend are Wardii and Ellipticum. The later may need a year or two to settle in but the flowers are amazing. Both have developed flower heads now in mid August.
Thanks John. That’s interesting. My H. wardii is yet to flower this year but we’ve enjoyed yunnanense (always the first), ‘Stephen’, ‘Sorung’, ‘Helen Dillon’ and ‘Tara’. H. greenii is up next. I would love to try H. ellipticum but I am quickly running out of space.
I imagine your climate in SW Wales is very similar to Cornwall and good for many ‘exotics’?
Hi, I have been playing with hedychium for a about four years trying to solve the problem of how to get them to flower. I live in south Nottingham. I bought a trio from Crocus (just for a bit of fun) H.gardnerianum, flavescens and densiflorum. This year I have grown them in a polycarbonated greenhouse and have achieved flowers buds which are now just flowering. From 3 small rhizomes I have large quantities of plants. After having read they do not like being disturbed I left them in pots until they burst the pots. This year I decided to butcher some of them with a bread knife. This achieved the best results with densiflorum (the most butchered one) it produced a flower spike from each shoot. I do find it hard to determine which parts of the rhizome will be the most productive and which part to depart with. Do they grow like some iris with the centres of a cluster becoming less productive? I have tried over wintering them inside the house but keeping them fairly dry, this didn’t seem to have any advantages so this year I thought I might try a few inside keeping them fed and wet. I am quite successful with cannas and lilies (this year I used Dalesford bulb compost with excellent results). This years experiment is to build a new bog garden bed and drop the pots into the bed for the summer. This will be in a half shaded area near the pond. I haven’t fathomed out why I can not get flowers earlier in year.
I came across this website some time ago. I always find here a fresh piece of inspiration. Great article.
Thank you for the extensive information on ginger plant and planting. I bought a pot grown plant about 3 years ago and has flowered the last 2 years. I’ve just acquired 3 new rhyzomes, Gold Spot, refurbishing and flavum and ready to plant them, your information has been so very helpful 👍👍
I’m glad Marion. I hope you get on well with your new gingers – you clearly have the knack. Gold Spot is a favourite of mine, although it did not flower last year sadly. Dan