The Ginger Lily, a Gift That Gives and Gives

Gardening is a joyous thing. Getting your hands in the earth, watching plants sprout, and nurturing them to maturity are amazing feelings. Also sharing your plants with friends, neighbors, new gardeners and old gardeners are gifts that continue to give, not only to the recipients, ornamental gingerbut also to the giver, leaving all of us with a sense of community. Gardeners like to share. Over the years I have had generous gifts from friends, family, neighbors, and clubs. Master gardeners bring in cuttings, bulbs, and plants to share at meetings and the Garden Club of Gloucester holds an annual plant exchange, a well-attended meeting where we save the best of our gardens for each other.

Three years ago, a horticulturist neighbor appeared at our door bearing gifts from his garden, rhizomes of the butterfly ginger lily, or simply the ginger lily, a tropical perennial in our area and a cousin of culinary ginger with a white bloom that sweetens the air.  Plant it I did and I waited. The first year green growth broke through the ground late in the summer but it seemed to be vertically challenged and died back in the winter. The second summer, the ginger lily gave us a few blooms from mid-summer to fall.  This summer there is an explosion of the long clusters of wonderfully fragrant white flowers that resemble butterflies.

The Ginger Lily, Hedychium coronarium, is a native of India and is a popular landscape plant throughout the Gulf Coast, California, and subtropical areas worldwide.  In moderate climates of North America and Europe, it is tropical perennial where it dies back in the winter but re-emerges each year. It is grown in full sun to dappled shade and moderately moist soil. Leaves are lance-shaped and the plant grows to a height of 4′ feet in my garden, but can grow up to 6′ tall. Propagate by cutting the rhizome into 8″ pieces and replant or gift to another gardener.

As we sit by the pond on cool autumn evenings, drifts of the heavenly gardenia-like fragrances are carried not only from our own ginger, but also from our neighbors’ gardens for it is also known as the “Pass-along” plant, one that has been shared with neighbors living along the shoreline in our small community.  How divine!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester