There are more than 1300 species of ginger worldwide, including this curcuma alismatifolia blossom in Thailand.
There are more than 1300 species of ginger worldwide, including this curcuma alismatifolia blossom in Thailand. wathanyu

Get to know your gingers and how to grow them

THIS week has finally seen some beautiful rain falling in my part of the world, and I do hope that you have enjoyed some too. Warm, humid weather with plenty of rain is just perfect for all types of gingers, those quintessential tropical plants.

The ginger family (zingiberaceae) comprises more than 1300 different varieties of flowering plants with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes. Gingers occur throughout tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas, with the greatest diversity occurring in South-East Asia. There are some native to Australia, including curcuma australis (Cape York lily) and alpinia caerulea (redback ginger).

Within the family are many ornamental plants as well as spices including ginger (zingiber officionalis), galangal (zlpinia galanga), turmeric (curcuma longa) and cardamom (elettaria cardamomum). The ginger flowers range from the dainty to the truly spectacular. Even the varieties that we grow to eat have lovely flowers.

Most are best in semi-shade, although there are some that will grow in full sun while others prefer shade. So there's a ginger for just about any position in the garden. Some are evergreen and others are deciduous. Some grow tall, more than three metres, while others like the kaempferia are only 30cm high and make a pretty groundcover during summer. All have beautiful foliage as well as striking flowers.

The miniature gingers, including most of the curcumas and globbas, come mainly from the forests of Thailand. They are deciduous over winter, during which time they need to be kept on the dry side until they reappear in spring. This winter dormancy means that they can tolerate quite cold temperatures - some will survive at minus five degrees. Curcumas produce large, luscious leaves, and flowers that are said to resemble tulips or lilies in tones of white, pinks, reds and orange. Anita is a miniature form of the native Cape York lily, with bright pink flowers.

Most gingers love rich, moist, well-drained soil, a warm position and plenty of water. Feed them with a balanced, preferably organic, fertiliser throughout the growing season. Apart from food and regular water, they don't need much care other than an occasional tidy-up to remove old leaves and flowers.