Shell Ginger – An Easy Growing Tropical
The Shell Ginger in my garden started flowering about two weeks ago. It is a favorite of mine for its ease of growth and unique flowers. Natives of Asia, these plants were introduced to Florida decades ago. Shell Gingers are gaining popularity for use as tropical accents in the garden. Described by Frederic Stresau in my best loved book on local flora Florida, My Eden as “unequaled for use in a tropical setting”. I think that statement sums it up nicely.
Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet is the botanical name) is a large tropical perennial I love the plant in shady gardens with regular water. I bought one at a garage sale a few years ago, planting it near an irrigation head. And began waiting the usual two years for the flower. The flowers are so unusual and charming it was worth the wait. Named Shell Ginger because the flowers resemble a chain of pink seashells spilling from the ends of the sprays of large leafy foliage. After the small pink flowers open a larger yellow flower resembling an orchid opens at the end.
Gingers are not shy about growing and can reach 10 feet height and spread in optimal conditions. I find mine stops at about 6 feet by 6 feet. Keep in bounds by cutting the stems that have flowered back to the ground. The plant looks a bit thin while cutting back, but bounces back quickly – especially when receiving a dose of Ixora fertilizer.
Variegated Shell Ginger
Another variety of this plant is Variegated Shell Ginger. While this plant is smaller (4 feet wide and tall) and doesn’t produce flowers as readily (sometimes not at all). The foliage is beautiful, sporting long yellow and green striped leaves, making a great year round accent plant.
Variegated Shell Ginger is shown below:
Foliage of Shell Ginger shown above, both varieties are a great addition for a tropical accent in your shady garden.