What is Hedychium?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Hedychium is an Asian genus of flowering plants found primarily in the tropics of China and India. Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants in other regions of the world, perhaps most notably H. coronarium or white ginger. A number of common names are used in reference to members of this genus, including kahili ginger, garland flower, and ginger lily. Several species have become invasive when introduced to new habitats, thanks to their hardiness and rapid growth.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

This plant genus is rhizomatous, with individual specimens developing thick rhizomes and using them as runners to self-propagate. Hedychium produces large leaves, sometimes with faint ribbing, and colorful flowers in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on the species. Many species have distinctive aromas, some of which are quite strong, making the plants a pleasant addition to areas of the garden frequented by people.

Although native to the tropics, Hedychium can be grown as far north as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone seven. These plants are frost tender and will die back in frost, but usually return in the following year. They prefer moist soil and some humidity, with some room to sprawl out as they grow. Fertilizer can facilitate more rapid growth and people may find it helpful to trim away foliage as it dies off to keep the plants looking tidy and healthy. The flowers make excellent cut flowers and pair well with other showy tropicals like bird of paradise.

The easiest way to propagate Hedychium is by digging up the rhizomes and cutting them into sections. The sectioned rhizome can be replanted, and will sprout to develop clones of the parent plant. Digging up and dividing the plants is also periodically recommended even if people do not want to propagate them, as the plant can become crowded and the individual rhizomes may begin competing for resources, causing the plant to grow slowly and become unhealthy.

People interested in growing Hedychium may be able to obtain divisions from other gardeners, and they can also purchase plants at a nursery or through a catalog. Catalogs can offer access to a wide variety of cultivars, including more exotic plants that may be difficult to obtain. When establishing the plants, people can use them as massed plantings or borders. It is advisable to be cautious in areas with delicate native species, as if the plant escapes, it can be a risk to native plant populations.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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