I’ve just harvested the last of my ginger for the year. No, I don’t grow the culinary variety. The ginger I grow is for ornamental purposes only, but it has been quite a successful plant for decorating both my garden and my home. In fact, I’d say that ginger, as a species, is just as useful to the Southern garden as the spice is to the kitchen.
Most Southern gardens suffer from problems of dry shade. We love our beautiful live oaks dripping in Spanish moss, but alas! Something must grow under these trees! We aren’t going to allow the trees to be shine from above but be naked down below, heaven forbid! While some people will use iron plants as a foundation planting around their trees, walls, and other problem areas, the more adventurous (and the ones who like flowers in their vases) opt for ginger.
There are numerous varieties of ginger. Not all will thrive in dry shade, but many will accept it. Some prefer more sun than others; however, ginger is overall a very easy going plant so long as the temperatures do not get below freezing for too long a time period. Ginger is a rhizome, so it isn’t planted very deeply. However, give it plenty of room because if the ginger is happy it will merrily spread in all directions.
There has been quite a lot of debate over the years regarding the botanical name of the plant. It makes sense that the species should cause such disagreement because there really is such variety within the group. Think of ginger as being an extended family where they’re all related, somehow, but you’re just not quite sure how other than the fact that they’re all delightful. It isn’t that they’re all scented because they’re not. They’re flowers aren’t all the same colors; in fact, sometimes the flowers aren’t even flowers at all but are more like pine cones! Some gingers are very tall while others are rather short. One of the newest on the modern garden scene (although not a new plant) is the curcuma which is often grown for its beautiful leaves; however, it has the most interesting flowers if you’re willing to bend down and look.
One of the few things almost all of these gingers do have in common is that they almost all flower on thick stalks. These stalks can be used to propagate more ginger. Simply snip both ends and lay the stalk down in some damp, but not wet, potting soil mixed heavily with peat moss, and cover the stalk with some more peat moss. Keep the soil damp, but not wet. Soon the stalk will begin to root. Plant the entire stalk shallowly -just as if it were a rhizome – when the roots have some size to them.
I realize the rest of the country is getting ready for Christmas. But here in the Deep South we’re just finishing the last of ginger season – at least, I’m finishing the last of my ginger. If any of you here in Mobile have some you want to spare, I’ll be glad to come and pick it for you. We wouldn’t want that beautiful ginger to go to waste.
Personal Experience as a Ginger Gardener