The Q&A Archives: Plant Identification

Question: I bought 3 "ginger" root bulbs at a local nursery here last spring. I planted them and they all came up fine. My problem is I don't know the names of them. One looks like what they call TI plant, one came up with huge leaves (2-3 feet) right up from the soil with a pine cone shaped thing that was green with little flowers sticking out of it, now it has turned orange. The other one is just big leaves about 1-2 feet.No cone or flowers on this one. I need to know, come cold weather what do I do with them. Do I cut them back? Do I leave them in the ground and just cover them with mulch, or should I use a cover? Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated. Hope you can identify these by my description.

Answer: True ginger is Zingiber officinale. Sounds like you may have members of the Zingiberaceae family, but not necessarily true ginger. Members of the ginger family are tropical or subtropical perennials with fleshy rhizomes and canelike stems clothed with sheathing leaf stalks. Flowers are irregular in form, in spikes or heads, often quite showy. Alpinia zerumbet, or Shell Ginger, has 2-5 foot leaves that are shiny green with distinct parallel veins, and boast white or pinkish shell-shaped fragrant flowers in pendant clusters. Hedychium, the ginger lily, has leaves on two sides of the stem and produces fragrant flowers in dense spikes that open from a cone of overlapping green bracts at the ends of stalks. Hope you can figure out which plants you're growing from the above descriptions. You should cut the flower spikes down after bloom. Plants will be killed by frost so pot them up and take them indoors for the winter. Put them near a bright window and keep the soil damp but not soggy. The tops will die down sometime during the winter months, but new shoots will develop in the springtime.

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