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Hedychium - A Hardy Ginger Plant for the Garden

 

Introduction to Hedychium (Hardy Ginger Plants)

I'll never forget my first encounter as a preteen with Hedychium coronarium, when my dad took me to the garden of a local gardener, Rachel Dunham. There, in the midst of her lawn was a huge clump of hardy ginger plant in full flower. I was amazed how a plant that looked so tropical and had such fragrant flowers could be so winter hardy and easy to grow. Since Mrs. Dunham was overly generous, I went home with a huge sack of plants for my own garden. As with every OCD gardener, this would mark only the beginning of my hedychium collecting phase, which continues today. Thirty five years later, I would finally see ginger lilies in the wild on a botanical expedition to North Vietnam.

At Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, we currently (2010) grow 88 accessions of hedychium in the garden, representing 11 different species and 56 hybrids. We urge our readers to visit the garden during our fall Open House in order to see our collection and check out our web site to see our offerings.

How to Grow Hardy Ginger Plants in the Garden

Design considerations: Hedychium are loved by temperate gardeners who want to create a tropical look. They are often combined with other hardy tropicals including canna, musa, colocasia, and other Zingiberaceae. Other plants that compliment the exotic look of hardy gingers include acalypha, crocosmia, dahlia, amorphophallus, brugmansia, hemerocallis and curcuma.

Water: In their native habitats, hedychium emerge during the monsoon season and are triggered to become dormant by dry weather. This roughly corresponds to the winter/summer cycle in temperate gardens. Gardeners need to keep this in mind when cultivating these plants. Ginger expert, Tony Schilling, says "treat them to monsoon conditions - warm, wet and well fed in the summer, and cool and dry in the winter." If you let your ginger lily get too dry, they will stop flowering. Moist, but not water-logged soils in the summer months produce the best flowering. While dormant, they prefer drier conditions to avoid winter root rot.

Soil: A well-drained, yet moisture retentive soil works best. Hardy ginger plants crave rich soils with plenty of organic matter and a near neutral to slightly acid pH.

Fertilizer: Hedychium grow fairly quickly once they awaken and thus require plenty of nutrition. We plant in a soil that is well-amended with compost and organic source nutrients as recommended by a soil test. You can always supplement with organic fertilizers as needed.

Sun: As a rule hedychium prefer full to part sun. Hedychium greenii and Hedychium coronarium can even grow with only a couple of hours of sun per day. As you head further into the deep South, light shade may be preferred especially when irrigation is limited. Just keep in mind that less light equals to less flowers.


Containers: Hedychiums make great potted plants...provided you have very large pots. Hedychiums grow so fast that they will quickly fill even the largest pot with thick rhizomes which can eventually split all but the most sturdy pots. Because of their size and the difficulty of maintaining hedychiums in small pots, hardy ginger plants are rarely offered in retail nurseries and garden centers. Potted specimens will require lots of water (daily or even more frequently). Place the pots near a seating area to enjoy the bright colors and sumptuous scents.

Winter Care: Once frost has killed the foliage of your garden specimens, allow the foliage to collapse, where it provides winter protection for the rhizomes. Neat freaks can remove the foliage, but if you do so, add a thick layer of mulch to protect the rhizome. In climates where hedychiums aren't winter hardy, the rhizomes can be lifted after the first frost and stored inside in a box of sawdust or peat moss to prevent desiccation.

Is the hardy ginger plant edible?: Like its cousin, the culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginger lilies have edible roots...but, they do not have much flavor and just because they are edible does not mean you'll like to cook with them. However ginger lily flowers produce essential oils that are very tasty. Both the flower buds and open flowers can be used in cooking, much like its other cousin, the mioga ginger, Zingiber myoga.

Pests and Diseases of Hedychium

Luckily, hedychium are not bothered by many pests. Slugs and snails, which attack the unfurling leaves, are the worst of them. In hot, dry climates caterpillars and grasshoppers can be a problem, but then hardy ginger plants don't flower well in these climates anyway. In a greenhouse, mealy bugs and spider mites may become a problem, so keep an eye out for them.

How to Propagate Hedychium

Hedychiums are relatively easy to propagate via seed. Seed should be collected as the seed pods open in the late fall. The seed should be sown immediately and grown indoors where they may take several months to germinate. Surface sow the seed and cover with a thin layer of perlite. Place the pots in a warm location and cover with clear plastic to keep in moisture and heat. Hardy ginger plant seeds will germinate best at 70-75ºF. After germination, transplant the seedlings into individual pots and keep them warm, moist, and well fed. Seedlings will grow fast and can be transplanted into the garden during the next warm season. Remember that hedychium seedlings will not be clones of the parent, and hybrid seed will rarely be as nice as the parent.

We have found that hedychiums can grow for years without the need for dividing, although they can make massive, wide-spreading clumps. If your clumps get too large, they can be easily divided. To do so, you have a couple of options…one is to dig the entire clump and then replace a small division. The other is to remove half or three-quarters of the clump and simply leave the rest. Hedychiums grow outward by forming large pointed growth buds on the end of the rhizome. Without a growth bud, you will not have a new pseudostem produced, so be sure to leave 3-5 of these when you are dividing your clump. If you're going to dig the entire clump, wait until the plant has sprouted in the spring. To avoid losing your plants to winter weather, do not divide after August. In areas with winters that hit single digits F, the rhizomes are best planted 4-6" deep.


Hedychium greenii is known to produce plantlets in the dying inflorescences in the fall. Once the plantlets form little aerial roots, harvest them and place them into pots. Keep the pots protected from frost for their first winter. The plants can be transplanted into the garden the following May.

 

Ethnobotanical and Economic uses of Hedychium

Many of the hardy ginger rhizomes are a source of food, spice, and medicine. The rhizomes of Hedychium coronarium have been used as a flavoring in chewing tobacco, as an incense, and as a tranquilizer. Hedychium flowers are a symbol of health and good fortune. They have been woven into Hawaiian leis, and steamed for consumption in Thailand. In addition, Hedychium coronarium are widely grown as cut flowers.


Cultivation History of Hedychium in the Garden

Hedychiums were popular ornamental plants in European conservatories in the Victorian era. Oddly, the British never tried growing the plant outside and just assumed it was not hardy like most of the other gingers. Ultimately, rising fuel prices caused a drop in the popularity of conservatory plants and ginger lily went out of favor, nearly disappearing from cultivation. The modern upsurge in their popularity was due to the work of Kew Gardens botanist, Tony Schilling, who in 1965 went to Nepal and "re-discovered" the genus. Most hedychiums are not winter hardy in the UK, since they need heat to produce the sugars needed for winter survival. Only hedychiums from high-elevation cool climates proved to be reliably hardy in the UK. The release of one such cultivar, Hedychium 'Assam Orange' in the early 1970s, re-ignited the European and American love for the genus. Since then, hedychium has spread all over the world in warm temperate gardens. Hedychium coronarium is also the national flower of Cuba.

Breeders have been releasing many new cultivars of hardy ginger plant over the last 20 years. Prominent among them are nurserymen Tom Wood of Archer, Florida, Tim Chapman of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, and retired plant breeder Doyle Smittle of the University of Georgia. Today, there are over 100 cultivars of hedychium to delight the eyes and noses of gardeners.

Hedychium Anatomy and Morphology

Hedychium are deciduous herbaceous perennials with thick, fleshy, branched rhizomes. Their "stems" are not true stems in the botanical sense. They are more properly called pseudostems because they are composed of long, succulent, interlocked leaf petioles. The leaves clasp the pseudostem and merge directly with it. Pseudostems and clasping leaves are common in this group of plants and can also be seen in related plants such as canna, curcuma and bananas.


The fleshy rhizomes are used for food storage and may be as thick as your forearm or as slender as a pencil. Most hedychiums grow as terrestrial plants, although there are a few epiphytic (preferring a tree limb over the ground). In addition to providing a bold texture in the garden, the leaves of a few species and cultivars of hedychium have red undersides, while others have variegated white or yellow irregular spots.

The pine cone-like inflorescences of stunning four-petalled flowers which resemble butterflies, top the pseudostem during the summer and fall. The inflorescence consists of a series of overlapping green bracts. Tucked underneath each bract are one or more flower buds that grow out to the side of the flower spike. The flowers come in a range of colors including all shades of white, yellow, andorange and are sometimes intensely fragrant with the scent of honeysuckle or gardenia. Each pseudostem flowers only once and then is replaced by a new pseudostem. Most hedychium flowers open from the bottom upward in an indeterminate fashion over the course of several weeks to several months, each floret lasting only a few days. Hedychium coccineum has a shorter flowering period, but produces more flowers each day. Hedychium coccineum also reflushes new pseudostems quickly, so that soon after the plant finishes flowering, then rests for a few weeks, it bursts into flower again. This is in contrast to Hedychium coronarium, which produces fewer flowers each day, but each pseudostems lasts all summer.

The dry fruits of the hardy gingers are capsules which change from green to brown as they ripen in the late fall. They split open along 3 seams to expose the brightly colored (orange) fleshy aril that attracts animals who eat it and spread the seeds. If we have early frosts, we rarely get seed here in Zone 7b, but if we can escape the early October freezes, we are rewarded with the attractive seed heads and hedychium seedlings the following summer.

Although hedychiums come from warm parts of the world, they go through a dormant period in which the plants die back to the rhizome. After cold winters, they are slow to re-emerge in the spring because they prefer hot temperatures. Many gardeners think they have lost their plants but are relieved to see them emerge in June. If you grow hedychiums as container plants in temperatures above 65 degrees F, they will remain evergreen.

Hedychium Taxonomy & Etymology


Hedychiums belong to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, which includes many useful herbs and ornamental plants. The kitchen spice, ginger (from Zingiber officinalis), is the best known and most widely used. Important ornamental cousins include

The genus name is derived from the Greek "hedys" meaning "sweet" and "chion" meaning "snow", which refers to the fragrant white flowers. The rules of Greek pronunciation state that it is properly pronounced "Heh-DICK-ee-um".

List of Hedychium Species and Hybrids

Hedychium coccineum (Scarlet Ginger Plant) is a wonderful 5-7' tall species of hardy ginger lily renowned for its large head size and for being the first species to flower...often starting in early July (NC). Each 18" tall flower spike is composed of small dark orange flowers with a very dark orange center. All the florets open at the same time, creating quite a show. Hedychium coccineum reblooms on new pseudostems from summer thru early fall. This is one of the only hardy species with no floral fragrance, so if you see a H. coccineum sold as fragrant, someone either has a mislabeled plant or is lying to you. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)


Hedychium coccineum 'Disney' (Disney Scarlet Ginger) (aka: Hedychium Honduras Form) is considered one of the best selections of the Himalayan Hedychium coccineum. Hedychium 'Disney' has wonderfully glaucous foliage with a reddish cast to the underside on a very tall 7' stem. At the top in late summer you will find brilliant, orange-red, delightfully fragrant flowers. Hedychium 'Disney' stays very erect in part sun, unlike some of the other gingers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium coccineum 'Tara' (Tara Scarlet Ginger) is a selection that performs equally as well in the upper South as well as the Pacific Northwest. Hedychium 'Tara' is one of only a few hedychiums to be awarded the Royal Horticulture Society Award of Garden Merit for outstanding garden value. Hedychium 'Tara' emerges in late spring with 6' stalks of grey-green foliage that rocket skyward. In late summer, the vigorous clumps are topped with lightly fragrant, 16" bottlebrush spikes of bright orange flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium coronarium (Butterfly Ginger Plant) is a real attention-getter in late summer and fall as the rich, honeysuckle-like fragrance pervades the evening air from 2" wide butterfly-like white flowers. The 4' tall stalks emerge from a thick, slowly growing rhizome and grow through the spring and summer. In late summer, pine cone-like buds form atop the stems. Soon the flowers emerge, a few each day, to perfume the air until the first heavy frost. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium densiflorum (Dense Ginger Lily) is from the temperate regions of the Himalayas and makes a more compact clump that other hardyhedychium species. The 4' tall stalks are topped insummer with densely packed orange-yellow flowers which, unlike other gingers, open from the tip downwards. The flowers are deliciously scented. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium densiflorum 'Stephen' (Stephen Ginger Lily) is a delightful dwarf ginger lily discovered in Nepal by the UK's Tony Schilling, who named his new find after his son. Hedychium 'Stephen' is perfect for the small garden where space is a consideration. Not only does 'Stephen' top out around 3-4', but the narrow foliage makes for a rather svelte specimen. Hedychium 'Stephen' is topped with slender flower heads of fragrant, butterscotch-yellow flowers each highlighted by contrasting orange anthers. For us, Hedychium 'Stephen' starts flowering in late July and repeats until late September. (Hardiness Zone 7b-9)

Hedychium ellipticum (Shaving Brush Ginger) hails from the eastern Himalayas and northeast India. The 5-6' tall clumps are topped with white flowers and red stamens, which produce a lovely clove-like scent. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium flavescens (Yellow Ginger Lily) is a massive Indian species that can reach 8-9' in height. The very huge, hairy foliage, especially on the new growth, adorns the giant stalks. In late fall, the plants are topped with wonderful clusters of creamy yellow flowers. Hedychium flavescens is a later flowering species, so in areas that freeze prior to November, you will want to keep this one indoors. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium forrestii (Forest's Ginger Lily) is a unique but little-known ginger lily that boasts large, glossy green, canna-like leaves on the massive 8' tall stalks. Beginning in late summer, the top of each spike becomes a giant flower head, each with dozens of white, narrow-petaled, hymenocallis-like flowers emitting a strong, delightfully sweet fragrance. (Hardiness Zone 7b-9 at least)

Hedychium gardnerianum 'Compactum' (Compact Kahili Ginger Lily) is from Nepal and is a very showy 4-5' tall ginger that boasts giant flower heads of brilliant yellow, fragrant flowers but the highlight is the dark orange stigmas that protrude from each flower and provide a stunning contrast from September through November. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium gardnerianum 'Extendum' (Giant Kahili Ginger Lily) is 6-8' giant topped, starting in late August/early September (NC), with flower heads of light yellow flowers with a very strong fragrance. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium gracile (Gracile Ginger Lily) is a rare, dwarf species from India that is topped in very late summer with an inflorescence of tiny star-like white flowers with a contrasting orange-red stigma...the perfect plant for the small garden. (Hardiness Zone 8-10, possibly colder)

Hedychium greenii (Green's Ginger Lily) is a wonderful 3-4' tall ginger that is considered the star of the genus. The dark green leaves have a red underside that give a wonderful garden effect. The clumps are topped with small scarlet red flowers starting in midsummer. Hedychium greenii is the only species that produces small plantlets where the flowers fade. (Hardiness Zone 8-10)

Hedychium maximum (Giant Ginger Lily) is a plant that is very confused in the trade since most plants under this name are Hedychium coronarium. We were fortunate to find and bring back the real plant from our 2005 North Vietnam expedition. The 5-7' tall ginger is topped with large heads of fragrant yellow flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium spicatum (Spiked Ginger Lily, Kapur Kachari) is a 4' tall clump, topped in summer with narrow-petalled fragrant white flowers with yellow or orange markings at the base. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium yunnanense (Yunnan Ginger Lily) is a 4' tall species with narrow yellow petals that starts flowering in July and reblooms again in late September (NC). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hybrid Hedychium Cultivars

Hedychium 'Anne Bishop'(Anne Bishop Ginger Lily) is 5-6' tall stunning hybrid with huge flower heads of apricot blooms with a strong sweet scent that starts for us in late August. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Apple Court' (Apple Court Ginger Lily) is one of our favorite Hedychium coccineum hybrids. The massive 1'+ long flower heads of brilliant orange top the 5-6' tall clump in midsummer and again in early fall. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Betty Ho' (Betty Ho Ginger Lily) is a 6' to 7' tall hybrid developed at Hawaii's Lyons Arboretum. The sweet gardenia-fragranced flowers, which start in early September, are light creamy yellow with orange stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Carnival' (Carnival Ginger Lily) is one of our favorite ginger lily hybrids. This 4' tall and slow-multiplying selection with brightly red-marked stalks begins flowering for us in late summer and early fall. The huge 14" heads of fragrant, bright butterscotch-yellow flowers put on a show that lasts for several weeks. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'CP Raffill' (CP Raffill Ginger Lily) (aka: Hedychium x raffillii) is a 1941 Award of Garden Merit (AGM) winner and is touted as one of the finest ginger lilies ever hybridized. For us, this cross (reportedly Hedychium coccineum x Hedychium gardnerianum, but assumed now to be straight Hedychium coccineum) is the earliest ginger to flower, often starting in early to mid-July. Hybridized by C.P. Raffill, former assistant curator at Kew Gardens, the 5-6' tall sturdy clumps are topped with giant 18" flower heads of fragrant, brilliant orange flowers. Clumps have as many as 50 flower spikes open at once. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Daniel Weeks' (Daniel Weeks Ginger Lily) is a 1992 Gainesville Tree Farm introduction (probably Hedychium flavescens x gardnerianum) and is one of the longest-flowering of the ginger lilies, starting here in late July or early August, and continuing until frost. The 4'+ tall stalks are topped with scrumptious, golden-yellow flowers with a dark gold throat. In early evening, the air is perfumed with their strong honeysuckle-like fragrance. This rapid grower will make a 3-4' wide clump of arching canes in only a couple of seasons. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Dave Case' (Dave Case Ginger Lily) is 6' - 7' tall Tom Wood hybrid with a ten inch floral spike of many pure orange, fragrantly-scented flowers, starting in early September (NC). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Dr. Moy' (Dr. Moy Ginger Lily) is the first variegated foliage winter hardy ginger…a true breakthrough. From retired plant breeder Dr. Ying Doon Moy of the San Antonio Botanical Garden developed this hybrid (probably Hedychium flavum x coccineum) with white paint-like speckles covering the otherwise green foliage. In September, the 4' tall clumps are topped with fragrant, peachy-orange flowers with a darker orange throat. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Elizabeth' (Elizabeth Ginger Lily) is the tallest and most imposing ginger lily we grow, both for size and for flower. Starting in late July, the towering 9' tall stalks of this Tom Wood Hedychium coccineum hybrid are topped with clusters of brilliant reddish-orange flowers. In late afternoon, the exquisite honeysuckle-like fragrance wafts through the garden from its lofty perch. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Fiesta' (Fiesta Flaming Torch Ginger) is a Hedychium coccineum hybrid that makes a 6' tall clump topped, starting in August, with spikes of bright scarlet orange flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Flaming Torch' (Flaming Torch Ginger Lily) is a Hedychium coccineum hybrid that forms a huge mass of 6-7' tall stalks, each topped with a 1' long head of bright orange flowers in mid-July (NC). Following flowering, a new set of stems emerge, which flower in September and October. The clump looks like a series of giant torches. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Four Way' (Four Way Ginger Lily) is a Tom Wood hybrid with a nice compact size…to only 48" tall. In early September, the clumps are topped until frost with large fragrant flowers of a very light peachy pink with a darker orange throat. The lower two petals (staminodes actually) are completely split from each other, hence the name "four way". (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Gold Flame' (Gold Flame Ginger Lily) is a 4' tall vigorous Tom Wood hybrid with heads of fragrant golden flowers with golden orange throats. Hedychium 'Gold Flame' will flower consistently from late July until frost. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Golden Butterfly' (Golden Butterfly Ginger Lily) blooms from early August until frost. This hybrid from Florida's John Banta, combines the best of Hedychium gardnerianum and Hedychium flavescens. The 6' tall stalks are topped in late summer with very fragrant orange yellow flowers with bright red stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Kahili Ann' (Kahili Ann Ginger Lily) is a 6-7' tall hybrid developed at Hawaii's Lyons Arboretum. The clump is topped with flower spikes of pastel orange-pink with darker coral orange centers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Kai Yang' (Kai Yang Ginger Lily) is a vigorous hybrid that is one of the earliest to flower for us...usually in late July. From then until frost, the 4' clumps are topped with pure white flowers with a bright yellow lip and a peachy-colored stigma. The fragrance is a delightful honeysuckle scent...especially strong in the evening. (Hardiness Zone 7-10)

Hedychium 'Kin Ogi' (Kin Ogi Ginger Lily) is one of our favorites. The strong 6' tall stalks are topped in July (NC) with stunning 1' tall flowers heads of large, butterscotch-orange, fragrant flowers. The flower color is quite unique among the gingers we grow. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least)

Hedychium 'Kinkaku' (Kinkaku Ginger Lily) is a 6' tall clump topped, starting in midsummer, with floral cones of peachy salmon flowers with a darker orange lip. The fragrance from the flowers is strongest in late afternoon. This is probably a Hedychium coccineum x Hedychium coronarium hybrid. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Lemon Beauty' (Lemon Beauty Ginger Lily) forms a clump of 4-5' tall stalks, topped in early September (NC) with a tremendous floral show of very fragrant soft yellow flowers with a dramatically contrasting orange throat and stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Lemon Sherbet' (Lemon Sherbet Ginger Lily) is 6' - 8' tall Tom Wood hybrid that produces 12" long spikes of large ruffled yellow flowers with showy stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Luna Moth' (Luna Moth Ginger Lily) is a 4' tall Tom Wood hybrid with large pure white flowers that look like moths. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Moy Giant' (Moy Giant Ginger Lily) is from Dr. Moy's breeding efforts at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (probably Hedychium gardnerianum x coronarium). The 7' tall, lushly foliaged clumps are topped starting in August (NC) with large, lusciously fragrant trusses of very light yellow flowers, each with a contrasting dark yellow eye. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Mutant' (Mutant Ginger Lily) is a cute Tom Wood hybrid that makes a 5' tall clump topped in late summer with clusters of narrow light yellow flowers with dark yellow throats, a cute little fused harelip, and emanates the unmistakable aroma of honeysuckle. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Palani' (Palani Ginger Lily) is an extremely vigorous 8' tall selection with orange-red very fragrant flowers, that starts flowering for us in July. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Peach Delight' (Peach Delight Ginger Lily) is a Hedychium coccineum x coronarium hybrid with 6-7' tall stalks that are topped with peachy-orange flowers with a dark orange throat (suffused with yellow) from early August through frost. The fabulous honeysuckle-like fragrance is superb. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Pink Flame' (Pink Flame Ginger Lily) is a creation from master hedychium breeder, Tom Wood. This slowly spreading compact ginger is adorned in late August and into fall with clusters of extremely fragrant peachy flowers (RHS 27D) with a wide dark orange throat (RHS 25A). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Pink Princess' (Pink Princess Ginger Lily) grows to 5' tall, and is topped with spikes of fragrant pink flowers, starting in early September (NC). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Pink Sparks' (Pink Sparks Ginger Lily) is a 4-5' tall selection with new purple growth. The clumps are topped with small pink blooms with long pink stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Pradhanii' (Pradhanii Ginger Lily) is an old hybrid from India that is still one of the most spectacular ginger clumps in our garden. A mature clump of this vigorous grower is composed of dozens of 7' tall stalks, each topped with large spikes of light peach-colored flowers from August (NC) until frost. The throat of each flower is peach-colored, changing to yellow near the end of the petals and has a light honeysuckle fragrance. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tac Moto' (Ginger Lily) from Hawaii's Mr. Moto has pure golden yellow fragrant flowers with a darker yellow throat and stamen. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

The following Tai series are creations from plant breeder Doyle Smittle, retired from the University of Georgia.

Hedychium 'Tai Alpha' (Tai Alpha Ginger Lily) is one of the shorter and earliest-flowering of the Tai hybrids. Each 6'+ clump begins flowering in early July with 10" inflorescences of large, fragrant, light yellow flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least)

Hedychium 'Tai Conch Pink' (Tai Conch Pink Ginger Lily) is an extremely vigorous, fast-growing, 5-6' tall clump. Starting in August (NC), the clumps are topped with 6" long, lightly fragrant flower heads of "conch pink." The pink is actually a salmon-peach (RHS 23D), highlighted by a darker peachy throat. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Emperor' (Tai Emperor Ginger Lily) is a 5-6' tall selection, topped with spikes of light pink flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Empress' (Tai Empress Ginger Lily) is a 5' tall selection, topped, starting in early summer, with numerous 6" flower heads of lightly fragrant, salmon-pink flowers (RHS 13C), each with a darker orange eye. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)


Hedychium 'Tai Golden Goddess' (Tai Golden Goddess Ginger Lily) is a unique-colored marvelous hybrid that has really stood out in our garden. The 6' tall stalks are topped in late summer with 12-14" heads of sweetly fragrant, golden-orange flowers (RHS 23B). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least)

Hedychium 'Tai Mammoth' (Tai Mammoth Ginger Lily) is a 6' tall ginger that produces huge, 15" tall flower heads bearing large, 3.5", strongly scented flowers. Each butterfly-shaped flower is a creamy light yellow with a darker central pattern. Hedychium 'Tai Mammoth' starts blooming in very early summer and continues into fall. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Monarch' (Tai Monarch Ginger Lily) blooms from midsummer until fall with huge 12"+ flower heads. Each flower head is composed of 100+ light yellow (RHS 4D) flowers with the intoxicatingly strong fragrance of honeysuckle. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Pink Princess' (Tai Pink Princess Ginger Lily) comes the closest to pink flowers of any ginger we have grown. The 5-6' stalks are topped with 8" inflorescences of salmon-pink (RHS 37D) flowers, starting in late summer and continuing until frost. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least)

Hedychium 'Tai Pink Profusion' (Tai Pink Profusion Ginger Lily) is a Hedychium coccineum hybrid producing a 6' tall clump topped with compact, 6-8" tall inflorescences. Each inflorescence is virtually a profusion of peachy-pink flowers in late summer. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Savannah' (Tai Savannah Ginger Lily) is a hybrid. The 5' tall stems, adorned with huge green leaves are topped, starting in midsummer, with 12" tall inflorescences. Each flower head is home to 100+ very fragrant, creamy-white flowers with a darker yellow central pattern and contrasting yellow-orange stamens. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Tai Sunlight' (Tai Sunlight Ginger Lily) is a 5' tall hybrid that begins flowering in mid-July and continues until frost with 10" flower heads of fragrant, light yellow flowers atop the 5' tall stalks. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10 at least)

Hedychium 'Tangerine' (Tangerine Ginger Lily) is an extremely vigorous 8' tall selection with fragrant peachy-pink flowers, that starts flowering in July and continues until fall. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Hedychium 'Vanilla Ice' (Vanilla Ice Ginger Lily) is a selection of Hedychium 'Dr. Moy' from NC's Mark and Louisa Messenbrink that was introduced in limited numbers around the year 2000. Hedychium 'Vanilla Ice' has much more white flecking than its parent, which reduces it in both size and vigor...a good thing for smaller gardens. The rare, reverted, larger-growing, less-variegated shoots should be promptly removed. In our trials, it rarely exceeds 3' in height and is topped in late summer with deliciously fragrant peachy-pink flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)

Conclusion

I hope we've been able to convey the remarkable possibilities that await by growing hedychiums in your garden. Between the intoxicating fragrance, tropical foliage, and garden presence, it's hard to imagine a sunny warm temperate garden without hardy ginger plants.

Don't forget to check out our other ginger articles: Curcuma and Zingiber myoga.

Hedychium References

Branney, T.M.E. (2005), Hardy Gingers including Hedychium, Roscoea, and Zingiber, Timber Press, Portland Oregon

Chapman, T.S., (1994), Ornamental Gingers - A Preliminary Guide to Selection and Cultivation

Constantine, D., (2008), Hedychium, an annotated list of the species and cultivars grown in the UK, http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~drc/hedychium_home.htm

Ravindran, P.N., et. al., (2007), Botany and Crop Improvement of Turmeric, in Turmeric: the genus Curcuma, 1st Edition, CRC Press

Spencer-Mills, L. & K. (1996), Glorious Hedychium, The Garden magazine, December 1996, pp. 754-759

Wood, T. (1999), Ginger Lilies, The American Gardener magazine, November/December issue, pp. 40-45.