How to grow Know your: Gingers

Know your: Gingers


Edible members of this family include ginger, cardamom, turmeric and galangal, but here we introduce the flowering ones, which offer so much more than a tropical splash of lush green foliage. 

Moth Ginger

Hedychium coronarium ‘Luna Moth’

ID: The perfumed white flowers on this compact clumping plant look like moths and give it its common name. It’s shorter than most gingers, at 1.5m.

Grow: It prefers moist shade. I like it under a frangipani with Eucharist lily as a companion. Feed freely and cut old leaves back to the ground in late winter to freshen the clump 


Moth ginger. Photo - Linda Ross


Beehive ginger

Zingiber spectabile

ID: Flowers are beehive-shaped cones that appear on a short spike that rises from the base of the plant.

Grow: This group is native to Thailand so likes tropical weather. Our Sydney trials show growth but so far no flowers. Grow in afternoon shade as full midday sun will burn leaves. Give adequate moisture. Bud shoots will come away each spring.



Beehive ginger. Photo - Jacqui Martin/


Shell Ginger

Alpinia zerumbet

ID: Alpinia flowers resemble unfurling shells with gold and red centres. Arching sprays of foliage reach 1.5 -3m depending on type, and look great bowing over a pathway or driveway.

Grow: Like most gingers they perfect rich moist soils but will tolerate drying out once established. Tidy up older stems to ground when tatty.



Shell ginger. Photo - LeCajun/


Red Ginger

Alpinia purpurea

ID: Elegant flower spires come in shades of red to pink and make long-lasting cut flowers in vases.

Grow: Best in warm climates where they’ll get to 2m, depending on soil nutrient levels. There are many named varieties available.



Red ginger. Photo - Robin Powell


Spiral Ginger

Costus barbatus

ID: Showy slender stems corkscrew attractively and the leaves have furry undersides. Edible yellow flowers protrude from red pine cone-like bracts.

Grow: Tough, hardy and easy to grow, this ginger is a good filler for full sun. Reproduce them from 20cm stem cuttings laid flat during warm weather. Each stem flowers only once; prune to the ground when flowers finish.

Spiral ginger. Photo - Moolkum/


Torch Ginger

Etlingera elatior

ID: Waratah-like flowers in white, pink or red are launched from the base on 50cm stems while strelitzia-like leaves shoot out above and can reach 6m. Makes a good cut flower.

Grow: Tropics only. Needs a sheltered, part-sun position, rich soil and plenty of fertiliser. The flowers and flower buds are commonly used in Malaysian dishes.



Torch ginger. Photo - aspen rock/ 


Dancing Ladies Ginger

Globba winitii

ID: Little golden flowers hang from purple bracts in summer and will last up to a month when cut for a vase.

Grow: This tender perennial to 1m high is for frost-free gardens only. Mark its spot in the garden or pot as it will die down to nothing in winter. Provide full shade and regular moisture.


Dancing ladies ginger. Photo - Linda Ross


Text: Linda Ross

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Daniel Wheatley commented on 26 Sep 16

Hi Mandy,

Wow, dinner at your place sounds awesome!

If you are talking about the Alpinia shell ginger, yes, these leaves are used commonly in cooking, and are not poisonous. But be careful- if you're not sure of the genus and species of ginger in your garden you should probably have a horticulturist identify it first.

And if you are a member of the Garden Clinic this could be as easy as emailing a photo of your ginger to the Garden Clinic helpline. You'd have an answer the same day. It's just one of the benefits of being a Garden Clinic member. Click on the 'Join' tab to find out more.

Happy gardening,
Dan Wheatley

Mandy Higgins commented on 20 Sep 16

Just trying to find out if the leaves of Shell Ginger are edible? We are wanting to use the leaves to make tamales in which we'd not actually be eating the leaves, just wrapping and cooking the tamales inside them, instead of using corn husk. We already tried a big banana leaf we cut into strips which worked quite well, but we had to get that elsewhere since we don't have a banana tree, but we do have a ginger plant so would be very convenient to use when we need it. If you can just reassure us that it'll be safe to use the leaves like this we'd really appreciate that. Thank you!
Also, one more quick question: Will varigated dwarf ginger stay put and stay small (low) or will it revert back to full-size over time? Thanks!

Elizabeth Stewart commented on 11 Nov 15

Spectacular ginger plant flowers

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Author: Linda Ross

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