Ornamental Ginger--Late Summer Bloom in San Francisco
October 27, 2013
I continue my entries on flowers that bloom in August/September/October in my San Francisco garden. The garden is cool in summer, often foggy, damp, and almost completely in shade in late autumn through late winter. Many common late summer into fall flowers get gray mold or a powdery mildew in these conditions. Here's another that does not.
The plant piectured above was given to me as "ginger". It's Hedychium gardnerianum or Kahiri ginger, a plant native to the Himalayas. (Must be the lower parts of the Himalayas, where winter isn't so cold, but high enough that it doesn't require high heat and can tolerate cool summer nights.) I love having its big, bright, interesting, highly fragrant flowers in my garden at the end of the summer season.
Note that this isn't culinary ginger, not the one that's edible, only an ornamental plant with "ginger" in the common name.
The part of the garden it's in is in shade, albeit open shade, from August until Aprill. But the plant blooms in late August and into September anyway, and never has a touch of botrytis or other fungus disease.
Here is how the plants look when they aren't blooming. They are 3-4 feet tall.
In a warmer place, or if they had the right pollinator (not sure which or if it's both) the flowers would be followed by orange fruits, but they haven't here. I have read that the plant is an invasive weed in Hawaii, where it does form seed, so it's just as well that it doesn't make seed here.
In any case, after they bloom, I cut off the spent flowers. By the next spring, the leafy stems that bloomed start to look kind of ragged, and, if the plant is healthy, about the same number of new shoots begin to come up at their bases. As soon as the new shoots are tall enough to be attractive, I cut the old ones to the ground, or actually, they sort of snap off just at soil level.
For the first 2-3 years I had the plants, they didn't bloom and made few new shoots. Whether they were just young, or needed better care, I can't say. After that time, I started fertilizing the plants in spring and summer, and giving them more water, and then they started blooming and growing new blooming stems each year.
Next entry (to come soon): California fuchsia vs. pineapple sage--two hummingbird pleasers.
My ornamental ginger or ginger lily plants were a gift from a plant growing in San Francisco that someone had divided. I can't tell you where it was growing. I do know the plant I'm growing is Hedychium gardnerianum, or Kalhili ginger. Can't vouch for success with other Hedychium species. (Another genus, Alpinia, contains several species that are also called ginger lily, I have seen Alpinia species growing in SF, but have not seen them blooming. From pictures, their flowerhead hangs downward instead of being upright.)
I have not yet had to divide or thin my plants. I just cut back spent flowers each year. When the leafy stems begin to look unsightly, by sometime in spring, I cut them back more. Eventually, the just separate at the base and come off. Then new ones grow.
Posted by: Pam Peirce | March 11, 2017 at 06:11 PM
Hi! Thanks so much for the info on the blooming ginger. I've been wanted to plant some of the plants i miss from Hawaii but I wasn't sure if they would grow here. Where did you find these? Have you had to separate them much? Thanks! Jamie.
Posted by: Jamie | February 28, 2017 at 12:14 AM