Hidden Ginger – Identification

Q: My aunt gave my mother a large tree in a pot and this plant was in the pot also. My aunt doesn’t know where it came from. Mother said I could have it, but I don’t know what it is.

I live in Sharpsburg.

A: I call it “hidden ginger”, Curcuma petiolata. The leaves remind me of a small banana plant…but since it only grows to 3 or 4 feet tall it is obviously not a banana.

The yellow-pink flower occurs at the bottom of the stems, where it is “hidden” from casual observation. You’ll notice that the plant will slowly spread by underground rhizomes, giving a nice clump in a few years. Although extremely cold weather (15 degrees or below) can hurt the roots, I think a sunny site in Sharpsburg will be warm enough to keep your ginger happy for many years.

One note: mark the clump with a circle of small rocks so you know the ginger is planted in that area. The leaves are VERY slow to emerge in spring (sometimes as late as June) and you might accidentally dig up the roots if you didn’t have a visual reminder to be patient.

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