These colorful blooms are tropical stunners.

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Curcuma (pronounced "kr-KOO-ma") is a genus of plants native to the tropical regions of Asia. You’ll know curcumas, which belong to the ginger family Zingiberaceae, by their eye-catching, angular blooms on tall spiked stems. The Southern Living Garden Book describes them as “a group of highly ornamental gingers” that includes both the turmeric and Siam tulip plants.

Curcumas bloom in summer. During the flowering season, small, bright blossoms appear on the plant’s lengthy stems, which are also adorned with long, green, lance-shaped leaves. These plants can be reliably grown in the Coastal and Tropical South, which means they're often found along the Florida coast. They can be grown farther north, though; gardeners in the Lower South who would like to grow curcumas should look to Curcuma elata, C. longa ‘Bright White’, C. petiolata, and C. rubescens ‘Scarlet Fever,’ all of which are slightly hardier and have been known to survive mild Southern winters.

The best-known of the curcumas is C. petiolata, which is also known as hidden lily or queen lily. These plants grow 2 to 3 feet high with fuchsia, pink, or purple bracts and elongated leaves. A popular selection is ‘Emperor,’ which produces gray-green leaves with touches of white alongside white flower spikes tinged with purple. These are, in a word, stunning.

Other species include C. alismatifolia, or Siam tulip, which has small leaves and pink or white bract clusters; C. elata, also known as giant plume, which grows to 7 feet under optimal conditions and produces pink and yellow flowers; C. gracillima, which is colorful and eye-catching (‘Burnt Burgundy’ is burgundy, while ‘Candy Cane’ is red-and-white striped); C. longa ‘Bright White,’ which is so white it practically glows in the sun; C. roscoeana, which has orange and yellow flowers; and C. zedoaria, which has red-striped leaves, red bracts, and yellow blooms.

To plant curcumas in your garden, The Southern Living Garden Book advises to “plant in spring, setting rhizomes 1 inch deep in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Plants die down in winter and need very little water during dormancy.” They’re great picks for bedding plants, and they can also make a statement thanks to their gorgeous foliage and vibrant blooms.

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Have you ever encountered any curcuma species in your area? Do you have any growing in your garden?

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