Finding tall, tropical-looking perennials for the woodland garden is difficult. Finding tropical-looking perennials for the woodland garden that are winter hardy and edible is nearly impossible... Zingiber mioga, aka myoga...not to be confused with the better known Mr. Miyagi.
This wonderful Japanese and Korean native ginger plant is right at home growing among hostas and ferns in the woodland garden, wheare it forms 4' tall, spring-emerging stalks laden with lush, green, tropical foliage. A planting of myoga enlarges slowly thanks to short, thick rhizomes, eventually forming a 5' wide patch in 10 years.
For a month, starting in early September, mioga ginger flowers appear at ground level, looking as though someone has strewn orchid blooms beneath the stalks. In Japan, the unopened flower buds are produced to the tune of 9,000 tons per year for use in miso soup, in tempura, as a garnish, and in a number of other recipes. The young spring shoots of myoga which have a light ginger taste are also eaten, especially in sushi. Important safety tip before you get carried away...older shoots, along with the rest of the plant (like tomato and potato foliage), are poisonous, so dine with care.
To extend Japan's month-long production season, additional production now takes place in Tasmania. Most of the myoga clones in the US produce soft yellow flowers, although there are pink-flowered clones in cultivation overseas. For ornamental value, there are three variegated leaf forms, Z. mioga 'Dancing Crane' (white-centered leaves), Z. mioga 'White Feather' (white-edged leaves), and Z. mioga 'Silver Arrow'(lightly flecked leaves). Average to slightly moist woodland soils are perfect, and anything from light shade to a few hours of morning sun are fine as well.