Ginger...The True and the Blue

This large group of classic flowering perennials is often considered a "wonder drug" because of its use in Asiatic folk medicine. The Chinese utilize Shell ginger, Alpinia zerumbet  to treat nausea and some infections. In the USA, it has been used with baby parrots that go through brief periods of colic and to quell motion sickness.

Although many species of ginger are considered true tropicals, growing in really hot, moist, equatorial areas, there are a number of other species that will work quite well in cooler climes. You and your pets can now enjoy tropical-looking plants with outstanding foliage and scented flowers without needing a greenhouse.

With over 1300 species throughout the world, true gingers can be identified by their distinctive rhizome or "root". There are several species from the Kaempferia genus which have been used as a hallucinogenic in Asiatic herbal medicine. However; the overwhelming majority of gingers won't cause a problem if sampled by an inquiring pet. 

 Blue or Brazilian ginger, Dichorisandra thyrsiflora, is actually a member of the Commelinaceae family. Its erect, purple flower spikes which grow from clumps of glossy leaves, closely resembles the Asian gingers. In my experience, Blue ginger is more finicky indoors than the Shell and Butterfly species. All gingers, both the true and the blue, can effectively be grown in partial shade and quickly reach approximately three feet or more in height. 


Gingers appreciate warmer temperatures and don't tolerate temperatures below 55 F. Although there are plants for all light conditions, most do best in partial shade. The primary growing season in the Northeast is the summer with flowering during late summer and fall. Gingers are heavy drinkers and feeders during their growing season. Use organic or specially formulated fertilizers that are used as "top dressing".

Most gingers do well as container plants and benefit from daily misting. Many species will enter a dormancy in response to cooler temperatures and dry conditions. The rhizomes can survive in a dormant condition beneath the soil surface during cold and drought conditions.