San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ginger Lily: How Sweet It Smells

Ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium), or platanillo in Spanish, is a hardy ornamental for the tropical home garden that provides lush tropical foliage and fragrant flowers.

An herbaceous perennial originally from India, the ginger lily is a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family, so it is not technically a lily. Most likely it was given this name for the strong, lily-like fragrance its white flowers emit, particularly during the early evening.

These elegant flowers make an ideal addition to floral arrangements, filling the home with a delightful scent of the finest perfume.

You can also make beautifully scented massage oil by adding fresh ginger lily flowers to your favorite massage oil. In Hawaii, the flowers are used for making leis.

The plants have long, leafy stems and grow to more than a meter high, with the flowering inflorescences borne on the tips of the stems. Ginger lily produces large rhizomes that resemble ginger roots. Several species have yellow flowers.

Local nurseries often offer ginger lilies, or they can be propagated from rhizomes obtained from mature plants, which can be found growing along roadsides and in wet, humid areas in the wild. The rhizomes can be planted superficially in the soil, in areas with  full sun or partial shade. These plants thrive in areas with wet, humid soils and in coastal areas, as they are tolerant to salty breezes.

Ginger lilies take about a year to develop good foliage and flowers. Once they are well established, they continue to grow and bloom during most of the rainy season. In fact, it’s a good idea to border your plantings of ginger lily with stones to prevent them from spreading all over the garden. During the dry season, the leafy stems dry up and remain dormant until the rains return.

Ginger lilies have no significant insect problems or plant diseases, and require no special attention. At most, an annual application of compost will help keep your plants growing and blooming vigorously. These plants require no watering in the dry season, which places them high on the ecofriendly list of plants for the home garden.


Comments are closed.