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Adding a tropical look to your garden

By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director

We are fortunate to be living in a climate that allows us to grow tropicals in our Mobile gardens. The addition of tropical plants to any landscape brings an element of the exotic by adding plants with bold texture and exotic blooms. In the past several years, we have been planting gingers at Bellingrath and use them extensively in our summer plantings. Gingers reach their peak in the summer months as they are typically killed back by winter frosts, but if you are careful about selecting the right ginger, they will regenerate their foliage in late spring from their root systems. Most gingers prefer some shade from our summer sun, but a few are tolerant of full sun. Most gingers are propagated by simply breaking off a piece of their underground rhizomes. The gingers with which we have the most success are selections from the following genera – Alpinia, Costus, Curcuma and Hedychium.

Butterfly Ginger
Butterfly Ginger

The most widely planted Ginger is called Butterfly Ginger, Hedychium coronarium, because its wonderfully fragrant white flowers resemble the shape of butterflies. There are a number of hybrids with flowers in shades of yellow and orange. We have a number of selections planted around the gazebo in the Gazebo Garden.

Spiral Ginger

An amazingly beautiful ginger is called Spiral Ginger, Costus barbatus. As this ginger grows throughout the summer, the stems appear to spiral as they grow taller.  Toward the end of the summer, you will be rewarded with bright red cones and warm yellow flowers.  Some wonderful specimens have been planted along the Exit Path.

Sheel Ginger
Ginger Lily, Hedychium Gardnerianum

We have been growing Shell Ginger, Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata,’ for a number of years along the exit path in the Gardens. This ginger will tolerate a good bit of sun. A pure green form of Shell Ginger, Alpinia nutans, is also along the Exit Path. When slightly crushed, the foliage on this species has a wonderful aromatic fragrance.

Hidden Ginger
Hidden Ginger

Blooming late in the summer are the Hidden Gingers, Curcuma sp. Their common name refers to the fact that the flowers are hidden in the foliage. The flowers have wonderful shades of pink, yellow and pale lavender. The best location to view these gingers is in the Asian-American Garden.

Visit Bellingrath  to catch all of the summer plants in full bloom throughout the Gardens all summer long.