CURCUMA

FAMILY: Zingiberaceae

TYPE
  • Perennials
  • Bulbs
  • Rhizomes
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Partial Shade
PLANTING ZONES
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11

Plant Details

Most are hardy only in the Coastal and Tropical South, though C. elata, C. longa 'Bright White', C. petiolata, and C. rubescens 'Scarlet Fever' will winter over in the Lower South. They make excellent additions to mixed borders. Plant in spring, setting rhizomes 1 in. deep in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Plants die down in winter and need very little water during dormancy.

C. alismatifolia. SIAM TULIP. Grows 2 ft. tall, with foliage like small canna leaves. At bloom time (early summer to early fall), flowering stems are topped by clusters of pink, rose, or white bracts that hide tiny flowers; the inflorescence is shaped a bit like a flaring pinecone. Plant 6 in. apart for lush cover. Each blossom spike lasts for several weeks, then is replaced by others as new plants arise from the rhizome. Spectacular as a bedding plant.

C. elata. GIANT PLUME. The tallest species, growing to 67 ft. tall and wide. Among the first gingers to bloom in spring, with large (1- to 2-ft.-long) inflorescences appearing before the leaves. Bracts are greenish near the bottom of the spike, bright pink at the top; yellow flowers bloom along its length. Dramatic cut flower. Performs well in full sun or partial shade.

C. gracillima. Notable for selections with colorful, 4-in.-long inflorescences borne above the foliage. 'Burnt Burgundy' has burgundy-colored flower spikes with darker, burnt-looking streaks on the bracts. 'Candy Cane', sensational in mass plantings, has bracts striped in red and creamy white. Both selections grow to 12 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide.

C. longa 'Bright White' (C. domestica 'Bright White'). To 4 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Glowing white inflorescence makes an excellent cut flower. The basic species, which bears creamy white flower spikes, is the source of the spice turmeric. Full sun or partial shade.

C. petiolata. HIDDEN LILY, QUEEN LILY. Grows 23 ft. high and almost as wide, with very handsome, tropical-looking, 10-in.-long, sheathlike leaves. Rosy purple, 6- to 8-in. bracts are largely hidden by the leaves, which are thin and may burn in hot afternoon sun and tear in strong winds. Cut back to ground in winter; new foliage will sprout from tuberous roots in spring. In the selection 'Emperor' (to 2 ft. tall and wide), the foliagegray-green leaves edged in creamy whiteis the main attraction; the 6-in. flower spikes are white suffused with shades of pale purple.

C. roscoeana. JEWEL OF BURMA. To 3 ft. high and wide. The 8-in.-long inflorescence consists of orange bracts and bright yellow flowers; good for cutting. One of the latest to bloom, at summer's end and in fall.

C. rubescens 'Scarlet Fever'. To 46 ft. high, 4 ft. wide. Blood-red stems bear gray-green leaves with a prominent red midrib. Spectacular plant, even without the foot-long flowering spikes, which resemble those of C. elata. Does well in full sun or partial shade.

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