Kahili ginger

hedychium gard?

With so much else going on I have not had as much time to sow and plant but I had to give a mention to this plant that has been living in a bed in the greenhouse for the past five years! About 10 years ago I bought a lot of hedychiums (hardy gingers) and after a few years of lifting and protecting them in winter I left them all out and they all got killed in some hard winters. For one reason or another one got left in the greenhouse bed and has been growing slowly, sharing its space with tomatoes in summer and other plants plonked on top in winter. It hasn’t been an easy life! So it is a sign of its appreciation for having been saved when it bursts into flower.

hedychium gard? 5

I bought a lot of named hybrids but I am pretty sure that this is just Hedychium gardnerianum, the common Kahili lily from the Himalyas. It is the most common of all hedychiums and is even listed on the top 100 dangerous alien plants but it is no threat in northern temperate areas, just frost-free ones and it is a pest in Hawaii. But what a wonderful weed!

hedychium gard? 4

Like all the hedychiums it is an herbaceous perennial with a creeping rootstock (rhizome) from which upright stems emerge through the soil surface and can reach 3m in height. The leaves are arranged on either side of the stem like a ladder and make an attractive clump. When they are old enough and if the stems are strong, a long flower spike emerges from the top. I have never seen such a good spike as this one this year – there are more stems reaching maturity so there is still a chance of more. The flower heads are colourful and the individual flowers are beautiful, but what the photos can’t show is the amazing fragrance. The flowers pump out perfume all day but it seems especially strong and special first thing in the morning.

hedychium gard? 3

I won’t even start to try to explain the flower structure which is bonkers but from each ‘bud’ or position on the stem, up to three flowers emerge. After four days the stigmas were heavy with a drop of liquid at the tip which suggests that they were then receptive to pollen. Each flower spikes (technically a thyrse) lasts about a week. This one started to open last Sunday and is just starting to fade though it will look OK for a few days yet. Then, like all its relatives, the whole stem will gradually fade so can be cut back to soil level. Where it grows profusely it can be used as a pretty spectacular cut flower.

hedychium gard? 2

In a very sheltered spot this can be grown outside but it is best grown in a pot or a cold greenhouse in most parts of the UK and Ireland.

Geoff’s rating

9/10 – lots of work but amazingly beautiful

Garden rating

6/10 – unless nurtured more heartbreak than love story




3 Comments on “Kahili ginger”

  1. sueturner31
    September 4, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    Love it, I’ve just posted H’ Tara on Instagram.

  2. Maria F.
    September 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    I’m sure we must have this ginger here.

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