Text by Caleb Melchior. This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Horticulture.
Ready for something completely different? Imagine three- to four-inch wands of tightly packed flowers of rich, pure blue, with just a tinge of violet in their shadows. Now bump up that saturation by about 300 percent and you’ll have a hint of the blue gingers’ incredible hue.
The most commonly available species, typically just labeled “blue ginger” (Dichorisandrathyrsiflora, USDA Zones 9–11), starts out with gawky upright stems ringed with shiny green leaves marked lightly in purple and silver. Toward the end of summer, each stalk produces a terminal three- to four-inch-inch wand of nubby blue buds that swell to fat beads before popping open into golden-eyed, starry blue flowers. In temperate climates, the flowers open over an incredibly long time—the full flowering can last six to eight weeks. In tropical conditions, they open more quickly, but the plant can produce multiple flushes of bloom throughout the autumn.
Weeping blue ginger (D. pendula, Zones 9–11) has a more graceful habit than its more commonly seen cousin. Its leaves, glossy and elongated, appear on an upright plant that starts to weep elegantly as it matures. Its saucer-shaped flowers are flecked with white, giving them a wide-eyed look. They’re produced in wispy dangling clusters, which often have three or four open blossoms at a time. Unlike standard blue ginger, with its heavy flushes of bloom, this species blooms sporadically throughout the year.
Both blue ginger species are easy to grow, particularly in dappled shade conditions with regular moisture to promote the lushest growth. If you have a truly tropical garden, then grow your blue ginger in the ground, preferably in a humus-rich, partially shaded location. Temperate-climate gardeners will have to grow their exotic blue gingers in containers that can be shifted into a warm, sunny window for the winter. It’s an easy extra step that’s well worth the effort.
Growing blue ginger: 7 essential tips
1. In tropical climates and during temperate zones’ summers, blue gingers prefer part shade
2. They resent a chill, so move potted blue gingers indoors when nighttime temperatures start to dip in temperate autumns
3. When wintering them indoors, provide more sun, such as that of a south-facing window
4. Keep the soil moist and provide extra humidity when the plants are blooming
5. Blue gingers do not go dormant nor require a rest period
6. Weeping blue ginger can be top pruned to maintain a desired height
7. Prune blue gingers only just after they bloom
Photo credit: Ricardo de Paula Ferreira / Shutterstock.com