- Author: Launa Herrmann
Published on: October 4, 2022
Several years ago, while visiting a dear friend and former work colleague in the Bay Area, I toured her plant-packed backyard admiring her husband's koi pond and her collection of tropical plants. A ginger plant caught my eye, and as every passionate gardener does, I returned home with a little plant standing atop its rhizome that she'd carefully separated from her thick healthy horizontal clump of long pointed variegated leaves.
Only later did I learn that the best thing I did at the time, considering my limited knowledge of ginger plants, was deciding to plant my ginger in a pot. I selected a deep tall ceramic container and filled it with a mix of garden soil and potting mix. Then I set the pot in a protected flower bed beside my house beneath an eave and added a drip line. What I also didn't know at the time is that ginger plants are adverse to waterlogged soil, so the pot not only provided well-drained soil but I was able to move and adjust the drip line as the rhizomes multiplied. Also, the pot reined in ginger's natural inclination to grow horizontally. Plus, its proximity to the house wall and an eave provided just enough shade on scorching summer afternoons to avoid burning the leaves. I guess you could say I was just lucky.
Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata' is the name of the intriguing ginger thriving to this day in my backyard. Some call this variety “shell ginger” for its strands of flowers that look like tiny seashells strung together. Each year when the weather warms, I stand in awe at the gorgeous fragrant display. Also labeled a “variegated ginger,” its leaves live up to that moniker, each leaf unique with an unpredictable pattern from stripes to splotches of green, white and yellow. The leaves alone are an attractive addition, especially to a fall or winter garden. Although the stalks can be susceptible to a frost or freeze, don't despair and toss out the “died back” clump. By spring you'll notice new shoots popping up once again. For me, it's all part of the intrigue.