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 our country, including curcuma australis (Cape York lily) and Alpinia caerulea.
Within the family are many ornamental plants as well as spices including ginger (Zingiber officionalis), galangal (Alpinia galanga), turmeric and cardamom.
The ginger flowers range from the dainty to the truly spectacular.
Some gingers grow in full sun while others prefer shade. Some are evergreen and others are deciduous.
Some grow tall, over 3m, while others, like the Kaempferia, are only 30cm high and make a pretty groundcover during summer.
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.
Because they are dormant in winter, they can tolerate quite cold temperatures - some will survive down to -50C.
Curcuma "Voodoo Magic" has rich burgundy flowers and a deep red vein running down the centre of the leaf.
It is best in full sun to part shade and grows to about 60cm tall. Anita is a miniature form of the Cape York Lily, with bright pink flowers.
I love the Globbas too. It's not a very attractive name, but the flowers are gorgeous - long, pendulous bunches of pink, mauve or white flowers with delicate golden stamens. They prefer full shade.
Curcumas and Globbas both make great cut flowers and will last for several months as a potted plant indoors.
The beehive gingers (Zingiber spectabilis) produce their flowering spikes at the base of the plant. Most are evergreen and just need a bit of a tidy up during winter.
Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) is among the most impressive of all the gingers.
The flower stem can be up to a metre high, and the foliage can reach up to 6m!
The flowers may be red, pink or white, with red being the most common and easiest to find.
Costus, or spiral gingers, usually produce their flowers at the tips of elegantly spiralling stems.
The most common variety, Costus barbados, has rich red bracts at the top of these stems, from which small bright yellow flowers emerge.
Most gingers love rich, moist well-drained soil, a warm position, and plenty of water.
Some require a sunny position, and others need shade, so check the label before purchasing.
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 the removal of old flower spikes and leaves.
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