Roots and leaves of the wild gingers have a scent somewhat like that of culinary ginger (Zingiber), but they are not used as seasoning. Low, creeping plants bearing roundish or heart-shaped leaves, they make very attractive woodland ground covers. Their flowers are curious rather than showy, almost hidden among the leaves; they are small (usually less than 2 in. wide) and oddly shaped, with three spreading, leathery lobes that may be brownish, purplish, or greenish. Of the many species that exist, only a few are available to gardeners. Asiatic species with fancy variegated leaves, now grown as connoisseurs' plants in Japan, may eventually make their way here. Deer resistant.
A. arifolium. HEARTLEAF, ARROWLEAF GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Virginia south to Florida and Alabama. Tough, easy-to-grow evergreen wild ginger with glossy, green (sometimes silver-mottled) leaves to 5 in. long. Flowers are reddish brown. Spreads slowly to form 112-ft.-wide clumps.
A. campaniflorum. KIWI GINGER. Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9. From China. Evergreen, deep green leaves grow to 6 in. long and 4 in. wide. Brownish purple flowers are white inside, with a purple ring partway down. Plant is sometimes called kiwi ginger because the inside of the flower resembles a slice of kiwi fruit.
A. canadense. CANADA WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to eastern North America. Deciduous, kidney-shaped, dark green leaves to 4 in. long, 6 in. wide. Flowers are purplish brown. The hardiest species.
A. caudatum. WESTERN WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to the West Coast. Evergreen in warmest areas of the zones where it will grow. Heart-shaped leaves are 27 in. long and wide. Reddish brown flowers have lobes elongated into tails. Where adapted, a valuable, quick-growing ground cover for shady places.
A. europaeum. EUROPEAN WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Europe. Evergreen, shiny, kidney-shaped, dark green leaves 23 in. long and wide. Small brown flowers. Slow spreader.
A. maximum. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Evergreen Chinese species; sometimes known by the name panda ginger, thanks to its 2-in.-wide flowers, which are black with a large white eye. Leaves grow to about 6 in. long, 4 in. wide. 'Green Panda' has dark green foliage and particularly showy flowers; 'Ling Ling' bears dark green leaves with light green mottling.
A. shuttleworthii. MOTTLED WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to the Appalachians. Evergreen, 4-in., heart-shaped or roundish leaves, usually variegated with silvery markings. Brown flowers with red spots. Slow growing. 'Callaway' spreads more quickly and has extremely handsome, mottled foliage. The foliage of 'Carolina Silver' is attractively marked with silvery cream. 'Velvet Queen' has silver-mottled leaves and double-size blossoms.
A. speciosum. ALABAMA WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. This Alabama native is a favorite and the showiest of the North American wild ginger species. The plant features large, evergreen, variably mottled leaves and bold black-and-cream flowers. Selection 'Buxom Beauty' is bigger than the species over all: its silver-marbled leaves grow to 10 in. long, and its flowers are about 2 in. across. Like 'Buxom Beauty', 'Woodlander's Select' also has silver-marked leaves, but they reach just 6 in. long; its flowers are about 112 in. across.
A. splendens. CHINESE WILD GINGER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Easy-to-grow Chinese native. Evergreen leaves in dark green heavily mottled with silver are heart shaped with an elongated tip; may reach 7 in. long, 3 in. wide. Large (2-in.-wide) dark purple flowers. Grows quite vigorously in loose, rich soil, forming large colonies. Leaves of 'Quicksilver' are mottled with silver.
A. virginicum. SILVER SPLASH. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Selection of a southeastern U.S. native, with round, evergreen, 2-in. leaves in green boldly marked with silver. Relatively small flowers are reddish brown.