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What’s Blooming in Paradise: The pine cone ginger makes any gardener take a second look

By Staff | Aug 3, 2016

The pine cone ginger is a rhizomatous herb that hails from Malaysia. Anita Force Marshall

Plant Subject: Pine Cone Ginger (Zingiber spectabile)

First impression: Exotic, unique, bee hive shaped flowers of vibrant yellows, reds and oranges emerging off bamboo styled stems. These upright blooms appear to be plastic. The long dark green leaves remind me of banana stalks and are numerous and embrace a tall main stem. All new growth emerges from the base; and the flowers appear alongside the stems. Pine cones in the bushes, any gardener would take a second look! You can collect all many memories you desire from your tropical pine cones in bloom in your own backyard.

Upon further investigation: The pine cone ginger is a rhizomatous herb that hails from Malaysia. It is a garden favorite because of its tropical leaves and unique shaped flowers. Blooming or non blooming, this beautiful plant is a must for cut gardens. All over the world, florist love to utilize our star in really exotic arrangements. In the garden, our plant is a naturally shaped shrub with banana shaped leaves and lovely upright flowers peeking through.

The bract’s or pinecones are textured, waxy, cylindrical spikes that fade into greens, yellows and reds. Oh my, when you see the tiny buds peeking through these bracts, take a deep breath. Their beauty is staggering in yellows, whites and lavenders and appearing in between each little segment of the pinecones.

In the garden, it can have large clumps as wide as 12 feet and as tall as 10 feet. Maximum height for this fast grower is 6-12 feet tall, which makes it perfect for a screen or private area. You may plant in partial sun or full shade, and well drained soil. It is a non-invasive exotic with little or no pests or diseases. New growth is underneath from rhizomes, so you can get large areas amassing.

Easy to care for, everything connects at the base in a clumping manner, which can grow wider or be divided by a shovel and a little muscle. The most common question I receive about the pine cone ginger is ‘why isn’t mine blooming?’ Here are some considerations: Should be planted in partial to shady areas. Loves mulch and leaves and is not cold tolerant. It takes the second year on each stalk to bloom.

We all know that many plants in the ginger family have culinary or medicinal uses. The ground leaves of zinger gingers in other countries are sold as homeopathic remedies. Oodles of species are used in perfumery, oils and aromatics. Interesting trivia: The fresh ginger roots that you and my husband uses for cooking, is from Chinese ginger or zingiber officinale.

Pros:

Great dramatic shrub

Does well in wet areas

Likes shade

May have pine cone collectors in your garden

Salt tolerance

Will fill in unsightly areas with little effort

Blooms or leaves great for vases!

Cons:

Can get dead foliage/ trim away

Need to trim away spent blooms stalks

Needs water regularly

May grow weary of explaining its not the ginger for cooking

Non-native

Conclusion: You can grow pine cones, but not like the ones you left up north. Take back some pictures they’ll never believe back home from your tropical eye catching garden. Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

Remember we have a yearly fertilizer restriction during July 1 through Oct. 2. This is a very important mandatory restriction to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into our precious waterways. Any fertilizing during our rainy season, only ends up in our water resources as unwanted algae blooms.