Hedychium Flowering Ginger Cultivation Notes
The gingers grown in the UK are best treated as herbaceous plants to get the best from them. They are quick growing and reach heights from 1ft to over 7ft, so they need good feeding and watering when in active growth. They produce expanding clumps which can be split when in active growth. Do not lift the rhizomes and replant in the spring like cannas, as the plant often needs a year to settle unless a large section is planted. They start to flower from mid-summer onwards through to the first frosts depending on variety, some have no scent through to those that are highly scented. The plants vary from fully hardy to tropical (to be grown like orchids) but most are root-hardy and you do need to select the right ones for your position.
The variety choice will dictate what you can do with it, very hardy early ones such as H. forestii will grow anywhere and is very hardy. Other early ones such as H. yunnanese, coccineum and the densiflorums will all do well almost anywhere. Late flowering ones are maybe better in a pot where you can force the plant on early in the spring so the plant has time to flower such H. coronarium, or tall varieties that have to produce a big stem before flowering, such as the 2m stemmed White Clover.
Supply a well-balanced fertilizer while growing through the season but also make sure you feed well with secondary nutrients to get the best from them. These include Sulphate, Magnesium and Calcium and can be supplied as lime and Epsom salts, if not already in the feed. Keep a balanced PH slightly on the acidic side.
As soon as the shoots appear, start to water and continue throughout when in active growth. When in full growth they virtually can become “aquatic”. Then slow off as natural soil levels of water come up or as frosts approach. If in pots, as above, then keep dry over the winter and just top up with water to stop the rhizomes drying out but no more. They like monsoon type conditions whilst growing so both root and leaf watering is good.
Gingers will grow in almost any soil or compost but prefer high levels of organic matter, so make sure there is plenty in the growing media.
Pest and disease free. Occasionally if under glass Red Spider and Tortrix Moth will attack the thin leaved varieties.
Plants both in pots and in the ground are best left until the first few light frosts burn the leaves back, this will put it into ‘dormancy mode’ slowing growth, hardening of rhizomes and starts stem separation to stop rotting. then cut them back to ground level. If in a pot cut back and then store in the shed or garage for the winter, bring them into warmer areas in the spring to get them going early or wait until the frosts have gone then place back outside. If in the garden place a good layer of wood chip as this provides good insulation but does not smother the rhizomes as they need to breathe. If permanently in a conservatory wait until January and again cut the whole plant back to ground level and let it re-shoot, as over wintered stems will not produce flowers.
Gingers can easily be grown from seed, it’s best to sow in early spring for a full season’s growth. The seed doesn’t store too well, so seed collected in the year is best sown as soon as you can the following year. Splitting rhizomes is easy, just slice them where you want so the section has a shoot but only do this in active growth so the plant can heal the wound area. If done whilst dormant it might not heal over and then rot.