How To Grow And Care For Ginger Lily

Add late summer spice with this Southern classic.

Ginger Lily Bloom
Photo: APION / Getty Images

Late August and September are not my favorite times in the garden. Some flowers are dead, some soon will be, while many remainders hardly try. But one plant hasn't given up. It's a time-honored perennial whose graceful blossoms have adorned Southern gardens for generations—ginger lily.

The ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) isn't a true lily but a rhizomatous member of the ginger family. Some folks know it as butterfly ginger because when its pure white blooms open fully, the spreading petals remind you of a butterfly's wings. They release an intoxicating, sweet scent, which some compare to honeysuckle. They're excellent for cutting and bringing indoors. A cluster of flowers atop a cut stalk placed in a vase opens one by one, perfuming a room for up to a week.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Ginger Lily, Garland Lily, Garland Flower, Butterfly Ginger, White Ginger
  • Botanical Name: Hedychium coronarium
  • Family: Zingiberaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Bulb, Rhizome
  • Mature Size: 3-6 ft. tall, 3-5 ft. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Soil Type: Moist, but Well-drained
  • Soil pH: Neutral to Acidic (5.5 to 6.5)
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Flower Color: Orange, Yellow, White, Peach
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 7-11
  • Native Area: Asia

Ginger Lily Care

You can buy ginger lilies from a garden center or online. Many people receive it as a pass-along plant from a family member, neighbor, or friend in the form of a clump of roots dug in the fall or spring. Roots spread quickly in moist soil, so give them plenty of room. It forms a small thicket of sturdy stems lined by long, alternating, sword-shaped leaves that point upward and give it a tropical vibe. Branches grow up to five feet tall. Flowers appear at the top, starting in August or September, depending on where you live, and continue for weeks. Also, butterflies enjoy the copious nectar.


Plant ginger lilies in an area with four or fewer hours of direct daily sunlight. When exposed to too much sun, ginger lily plants' leaves curl. Shaded areas are best, especially ones protected from other environmental elements like strong winds.


Well-drained soil is most important for ginger lilies to thrive. If the roots are too water-logged, they can distort, rot, or develop incorrectly. Ginger lily needs fertile, acidic soil, rich and filled with organic matter that's consistently moist or even wet. The edge of a pond or stream is perfect. It tolerates full sun in moist soil, but a light shade is preferable.


Balancing moist soil is essential when watering ginger lilies. You don't want to overwater it, but new plants need watering several times a week until the roots settle. Ginger lily plants are not drought-tolerant, so continuous watering is essential if you live in an area that does not see a lot of rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

Ginger lilies grow best in subtropical climates with hot and humid summers. While technically a hardy plant, these flowers are frost-tender. When cold weather hits the stalks, it will kill them as they can't withstand the low temperatures. If you wonder why you've never seen or smelled ginger lily, it could be you live too far north. It's winter-hardy from USDA Zone 7B south. Some people in colder climates grow it next to a sunny window as a houseplant.


Use a balanced fertilizer weekly or monthly to help prevent injury to the plant's roots. Remember to water immediately after fertilizing.

Ginger Lily Plant
Steve Bender

Types of Ginger Lily

  • White Ginger Lily: H. coronarium boasts an intense, fragrant flowering perennial plant. This plant can reach five feet in height and blooms its white flowers from late summer to early fall. Often a traditional Southern pass-along plant.
  • Yellow Butterfly Ginger: H. flavum is known as the flower commonly used in Hawaiin leis. This perennial features fragrant yellow flowers with darker yellow markers.


Prune your ginger lily throughout the season to help maintain beautiful blooms. If one of the flowers on the stalk is wilted or not showing correctly, remove it to save the rest of the foliage. After blooms fade, you can pinch the individual flowers off. You can start preparing for winter by cutting back the stalks below the closest flower bloom when flowering is complete for the season.

After the first autumn frost, use a lopper to cut the stems or stalks right above the soil level. Pruning ginger lilies help protect them from the upcoming harsh winter weather by insulating the plant's top with mulch.

Propagating Ginger Lily

Since ginger lily spreads through its roots, to prevent overcrowding, you need to keep the roots in check by digging some up—This is frequently why ginger lily is a pass-along plant, as someone can propagate these roots into their garden. Propagate in early spring or fall. There are several ways to propagate ginger lily. Here's how:

Propagate with Seeds

  1. Start by collecting seeds from your variety of ginger lilies. For example, white ginger lily's seeds are bright red. Keep seeds in at least 70°F for three to four weeks.
  2. Soak seeds in warm water for around two hours to soften the seed's hard coats.
  3. Plant seeds in a half-an-inch deep container. The container should have moist soil in a light area that's constantly warm—around 70°F. If planting outdoors, choose a sunny location with neutral soil composition. Cover and water generously. Don't plant outside if the temperatures might drop below 40°F.
  4. Seeds should start new growth in two to six weeks, but depending on the variety, it might be longer.

Propagate with Rhizomes

  1. Dip up clumps of healthy ginger lily using a flat-bladed shovel. Be careful not to cut the side roots. Choose areas at least eight inches wide that have a growing shoot.
  2. Do not break the rhizome. Make clean cuts to divide rhizomes with a knife.
  3. Use a fungicide powder or solution to soak rhizome divisions for at least 30 minutes or preferably overnight.
  4. Plant the rhizome divisions horizontally in one to three inches of rich, organic soil. Leave an area poking out from under the soil line. You can use a container or plant outside, depending on the weather.
  5. Keep soil moist but not soggy, so the ginger lily doesn't develop fungal rot. After water maintenance and sunlight, plant shoots will grow from the rhizome divisions.

Remember that specific ginger lily varieties may be trademarked and, therefore, illegal to propagate.

How to Grow Ginger Lily From Seed

  1. Start by collecting seeds. A few weeks before the final spring frost is a good time to plant ginger lilies.
  2. Soak the seeds in warm water for at least two hours before planting.
  3. Plant the seeds in a compost mixture of moist soil. The container should have moist soil in a light area that's constantly warm—around 70°F. If planting outdoors, choose a sunny location with neutral soil composition. Cover and water generously. Don't plant outside if the temperatures might drop below 40°F.
  4. Seeds should start new growth in two to six weeks, but depending on the variety, it might be longer.


To protect ginger lilies from cold weather and frost, relocate them to container pots and continue to grow them in a space that can stay above 40°F.

If you want to protect your plants for next year and can't store them over the winter in containers, store the rhizomes in paper bags. Keep them in a cool, dry place.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Fortunately, ginger lily isn't affected by many pests or diseases. It's susceptible to root rot if overwatered and typical garden pests such as aphids, spider mites, and scale.

In particular, rhizome rot occurs when a fungus has poor air circulation and can decompose the rhizome tissue, turning what usually is brown into black.

How to Get Ginger Lily to Bloom

Ginger Lily blooms from August to September, very fragrant with a rich, sweet, and ginger-like smell. These blooms can thrive for weeks in moist, well-drained soil, especially when planted in a shady area.

You can encourage new growth by pinching off flowers that start to wilt. If you want to use ginger lily for indoor decor, cut the blooms right after they open—this helps ensure it is fragrant. If you want to deadhead flowers, you can, but you should still remove the rest of the stalk in preparation for winter. Spikes and foliage can become compost when cut into manageable pieces.

Common Problems With Ginger Lily

Plant Turning Yellow

When bacterial wilt enters ginger lily shoots and leaves, this can cause them to turn yellow since it is a sign of water stress. This bacteria prevents the stalks from getting the nutrients it needs to survive.

A fungus called Fusarium is a second reason for the yellowing of ginger lily. If your shoots turn yellow or stunt growth, the rhizome may not be receiving enough water. Dry rot may be present.

Plant Turning Brown

Turning brown isn't necessarily a sign of dying ginger lilies. Instead, if this plant is not receiving enough water, it may go dormant. Keep soil moist, and you should prevent discoloration and curling leaves.

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