Native to India and tropical Asia, these old Southern favorites combine handsome foliage with showy, often deliciously fragrant flowers. Rich green, alternate leaves ascend stems growing from stout rhizomes. In late summer or early fall, blossoms in dense spikes open from cones of overlapping bracts at the ends of stalks. Plants are evergreen in the Tropical South, deciduous elsewhere. Use them in borders or grow in containers. Southern specialty growers offer dozens of species and selections in heights from 29 ft., in colors ranging from white and cream through pink to redand a host of yellow, orange, and salmon shades.
H. coccineum. RED GINGER LILY. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. To 69 ft. tall, with leaves to 20 in. long and 2 in. wide. Particularly showy, bearing orange-scarlet flowers with prominent red stamens on blossom spikes to 10 in. long. 'Disney' has bluish gray foliage and reddish stems and leaf undersides. 'Slim's Orange' is dwarf, to just 3 ft. tall.
H. coronarium. COMMON GINGER LILY, BUTTERFLY GINGER. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. To 37 ft. high, with leaves 824 in. long and 25 in. wide. White flowers in 6- to 12-in.-long clusters are especially fragrant; good cut flowers.
H. flavum. GOLDEN BUTTERFLY GINGER. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Old Southern favorite. To 57 ft. tall, with oblong leaves 420 in. long and 14 in. wide. Dense, 6-in. spikes of particularly fragrant, rich yellow-orange flowers with orange spots on the tips.
H. gardnerianum. KAHILI GINGER. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. To 8 ft. high, with leaves 818 in. long, 46 in. wide. Pure yellow flowers with dark orange stamens are borne in 112-ft.-long spikes. 'Compactum' grows about 4 ft. tall.
H. greenii. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. To 35 ft. tall. Leaves 810 in. long, 2 in. wide are held on red stems; orange-red flowers in 5-in. spikes.
H. hasseltii. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Small plant (to just 2 ft.), with broadly lance-shaped leaves to 112 ft. long. Spidery-looking white flowers in slender spikes. Seedpods split to reveal pretty red seeds.
H. hybrids. Zones MS (lower half), LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. These hybrids feature excellent foliage and blossoms; all are worth trying. Leaves are typically large, lance shaped, and rich green.
'Anne Bishop'. Choice plant to 5 ft. tall, with large spikes of rich golden orange flowers that fade to golden yellow. Very fragrant.
'Daniel Weeks'. Among the longest-blooming ginger lilies, with stems to 4 ft. tall, carrying yellow flowers with a darker gold throat. Grows quickly, making a clump 34 ft. wide in its second year. Honeysuckle fragrance.
'Doctor Moy'. Handsome foliage speckled with white. Stalks to 3 ft. tall bear peachy orange blooms with a darker orange throat. Fragrant.
'Elizabeth'. Among the most impressive of the ginger lilies, with towering 9-ft.-tall stems carrying huge reddish orange flowers. Honeysuckle fragrance.
'Flaming Torch'. Robust grower to 7 ft. tall, with foot-long spikes of orange flowers; may bloom once in midsummer and again in fall.
'Golden Butterfly'. Stems 6 ft. tall are topped with bright orange flowers with red stamens.
'Kinkaku'. To 6 ft. tall, with large, pale peach flowers.
'Luna Moth'. Compact growth to 34 ft. tall, with large, fragrant, white flowers.
'Moy Giant'. To 7 ft. tall, featuring large clusters of pale yellow blossoms with a darker yellow throat. Very fragrant.
'Palani'. Strong grower to 8 ft. tall, with bright orange blooms.
'Pink V'. Grows 57 ft. tall, with lightly scented, creamy apricot flowers and red stamens. Citrus fragrance.
'Pradhan'. To 7 ft. Creamy white blooms with peach-tinged yellow throats and pink stamens.
'Tara'. To 6 ft. tall, with gray-green leaves and bottlebrush spikes of bright orange blooms.
'Vanilla Ice'. To 3 ft. tall, with bright green leaves heavily striped and speckled in creamy white. Flowers are peachy pink. Remove any larger, nonvariegated shoots promptly. Very fragrant.
Ginger lilies need moist, well-drained soil that contains lots of organic matter. Cutting back old stems after the flowers fade encourages new growth. Propagate by division in late fall or early spring.