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A picture of ginger lily flowers.

Photo Credit: "White ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium, Zingiberaceae" by Andreas Kay, used under CC BY 2.0 / cropped to fit format; Photographer watermark moved to be included in image.

How to Properly Care for Ginger Lily in Your Garden

With the burgeoning and often oppressing heat of summer having set in, I think it is time to start talking about a plant that not only likes this sort of heat, but thrives in it: the ginger lily (A.K.A. the butterfly lily). Though it is called a lily, the hedychium coronarium is genetically much closer to the first half of their name: ginger. You can even eat the tubers they produce, though from what I have heard they do not have much taste. They are native to tropical regions in Asia such as India, but since they have been introduced to many countries, they can also be easily found in the Southern United States. The flower is so popular that even though they are not native to the country, ginger lilies have been named the national flower of Cuba. But enough of the origins of the plant, let us talk about how to properly take care of one.

Like many tropical plants, they love humidity and do well in hot climates, which is great for us southerners since that feels like at least 8 months out of our year. It enjoys partial shade and you don’t have to worry about it dying from heat. Just make sure to water it frequently, keep it in a well draining area, and ensure that it is not in the sun the entire day. If you live in an area with a harsher winter, replant the ginger into an indoor pot or a greenhouse for the chillier months to protect it from the cold. During the Winter months the plants will become dormant and it will wither down to its roots. But don’t worry! They will pop right back up again in the Spring once it gets warmer.

Though you can’t use this flower like you could actual ginger (well, you could, but the taste would not be the best), it still has quite a few merits. Its unique flower shape is often called the “butterfly ginger lily” because they bring to mind a white butterfly with wings wide open. The flowers start to bloom in the late summer and early fall, and while each individual flower lasts less than two days, they produce dozens of them throughout their blooming cycle. The flowers also produce a wonderful fragrance that fills the area as the plant flourishes. The attractiveness of the white clusters of blooms along with the great smell makes it great to make bouquets or centerpieces with (even a cutting for the kitchen table is a wonderful and elegant addition).

Ginger lilies are a great way to break up similar looking plants in your yard. The flowers grow off of shoots with long, pointed green leaves. Since these can reach up to four feet in height, they can be planted in between shrubs or in the middle of plant beds to offer some extra texture to your green spaces. Their unique shape makes it so that even if the lilies are not in bloom they can still create something visually pleasing through the warmer months (but remember not to depend on them in the Winter). While the Southern US is great for growing these plants, if you live somewhere with a similar growing zone make sure that you can safely plant them in your yard, as they are invasive in some areas such as Hawaii.

For a quick recap:

  • Ginger Lilies do well in hot, humid climates.
  • They do best in partial shade.
  • The plant should be planted in a well draining area that gets a lot of water.
  • They die to the root in Winter, but come back the following Spring.
  • Ginger lilies are known for their fragrance and visual appeal.
  • They can grow up to four feet.

Happy growing!