Photo: Steve Bender

August is a time when most people treat their air-conditioned homes like chipmunk burrows -- scurry outside for 10 seconds, then scurry right back in. When Alabama humidity runs like the Amazon down my windows, I need a good excuse to venture to the garden. Fortunately, I have it -- this brilliant orange ginger lily.

I bought it about a decade ago from Plant Delights. It isn't fragrant like its better known kin, butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium), but gracious, does it make up for that with spectacular blooms. Spikes of flowers, up to 18-inches tall, crown long-leafed stalks that may stand 4 to 5 feet high. The sight makes hummingbirds and butterflies positively randy.

According to Plant Delights's catalog, this particular ginger lily is named 'CP Raffill' for its breeder, Percival Raffill, former assistant curator at England's Kew Gardens. Plant Delights charges 29 bucks for it, which sounds expensive until you see how rapidly it grows in moist soil. It forms a large clump in just a few years and is easily divided in fall or spring into many new plants simply by using a spade. Suddenly, your $29 plant is 6 plants for less than $5 each.

How To Grow Ginger lilies do best in full to partial sun and moist, fertile soil. They don't like drought and won't bloom under such conditions. Once a stalk finishes blooming, it won't produce another flower spike that year, so just cut it off at the ground. This perennial is hardy to about zero degrees, but you can extend its northern range by mulching heavily in late fall.

 

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