Hedychium – growing Ginger Lily inside tips
The tropical ginger lily is a relative of the common kitchen ginger. Like ginger, the ginger lily is a tropical plant that grows from an underground rhizome in stiff canes with oblong leaves. In its natural habitat or under excellent conditions, some species of ginger lily can easily grow to 7 feet tall, although the most common variety is considerably smaller. All told, there are about 40 species of Hedychium, all native to the Himalayas or Asia. The most common one in the trade is the H. coronarium, which grows to about 3 feet in height at the maximum.
All ginger lilies prefer tropical conditions, meaning they like it humid and warm, and with plenty of water. A well-grown plant will reward you with lightly fragrant flowers throughout the late summer. If you live in a cold area and the plant looks weak during the winter, you can cut it off at the soil level and it will grow back.
Light: Ginger lily thrives in dappled sunlight to direct sunlight. In the winter, provide as much light as possible.
Water: All species of Hedychium require ample and continuous water to thrive. Plants subjected to drought will experience leaf-browning, especially along the leaf margins. To protect your plant during the winter, water with tepid water.
Soil: A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is beneficial.
Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Cut fertilizer back to once a month or so in the winter, unless your plant dies back entirely, then suspend water and fertilizer.
Like most plants that grow from rhizomes, the ginger lily is very easy to propagate. During repotting time, simply divide the rhizome into pieces and plant each piece separately. It’s best if each division has at least two growing nodules, but this isn’t strictly necessary. Successful plants will also produce bright red seeds at the end of the growing season that can be sprouted and grown out.
Repot in the early spring, when the growing season begins. They don’t mind being slightly pot-bound, and in fact might grow better in a slightly tighter pot. Plants will clump over time, so make sure to divide adult plants to increase your collection and keep them manageable indoors.
Of the 40 or so species of Hedychium, a few are relatively common:
H. coronarium. This is by far the most common ginger lily grown in the United States and throughout most temperate countries. It grows to a height about 3 feet and features beautiful white flowers with a yellow splotch and light gardenia-like fragrance. They die back in cooler areas. Sometimes called butterfly ginger.
H. coccineum. Like other Hedychium species, this plant can grow to six feet in height. It has narrower leaves that measure up to 18 inches long and scarlet flowers with protruding pink stamens.
Ginger lilies are great plants for a tropical collection. Their tall and narrow canes feature leaves growing alternatively, and their flowers are fragrant and beautiful. They do best when grouped with other tropical plants, especially later in the season as they start to lose vigor. If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse or window box, they will do excellently indoors.
In terms of pests, keep a lookout for mealybugs, aphids, and mites. Signs of infestation include tiny webs on plants, clumps of white “powdery” residue, or visible insects on the plant. Treat infestations as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading to the rest of your collection. As always, start with the least toxic treatment option first, only progressing to more serious chemicals if your initial efforts fail.