Bold flowers yes, but borne gingerly

Friday, June 26, 2009



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A baby inflorescence          Pineapple or Indonesian Wax Gingers 



Putting on a spectacular show in the back of the Conservatory is the pineapple or Indonesian wax ginger, Tapeinochilos ananassae, a member of the costus family. Some two dozen brilliant red pinecone-like inflorescences are standing proudly in a group, having arisen on their own leafless stems or scapes. They’re almost shockingly bold, composed of bracts that house golden yellow flowers.  The plant’s real stems, meanwhile, tower above the cones with leaves spiraling around slender stems.

From Malaysia, Indonesia and northern Australia, these plants grow on rhizomes in rich, well-drained soil. A moderate amount of fertilizer twice a year will produce the most flowers. Too much, and the plants develop more leaves than cones. The gingers like consistently moist soil, so when grown outside they need mulch to thrive on a twice-weekly watering schedule.

At home, I grow torch ginger, Etlingera elatior.  To keep the planting bed rich, I add compost two or three times a year, as well as goop that is cleaned from the pond and controlled-release fertilizer, 4-2-12 with 4 percent magnesium.

In winter, the leaves of my plants will develop brown edges after cold weather, and they don’t look terrific in our dry spring. But they have survived for many years in an area protected by a large stand of areca palms to the west and large crotons on the north, as well as Heliconia rostrata in the same bed. And their torches, while pink, are mighty spectacular, too.


Torch ginger