Tropical tulips – curcuma anybody?

a tropical plant with a cone-like white flower
Curcuma flowers are exotic and unique

Do you sometimes see flowering plants that are so exotic that it makes you turn around for a second look when you pass by them in the garden center?  I have seen people experience a double take when they spy a Curcuma or tulip ginger!  The Curcuma is actually a type of ginger, not a tulip, but displays seasonal color with a unique eye-catching flower.

There are actually two types of Curcuma ginger species available – the tulip gingers and the hidden gingers.  The tulip gingers are more common in local landscapes where they support cone-like flower spikes held well above the foliage.  The flowers are actually composed of colorful bracts which enclose the true flowers.  The hidden ginger, just likes its name, has the same type of flowers, but are hidden below the foliage.  In either case, the plants overwinter as dormant underground rhizomes which emerge in the spring sending up two-to three-foot-long sword-shaped leaves.  These are followed by an inflorescence of pink, purple, white, orange, red, yellow flowers in the in the spring, summer, and fall.  Several common cultivars available include ‘Inodora’ with pinkish-purple flowers, ‘Garnet’, a red cultivar, and ‘Ladawn’ , with a pink flower.

These hardy tropical gingers are well-adapted to our local climate.  Curcuma ginger likes a partially shaded area that provides bright, filtered light.  The soil should be rich in organic matter, but well drained – moist during the growing season, and drier when dormant.  One important note – during the winter dormant season, curcuma ginger dies back to the ground – leaves and flowers – and you will not see any sign of them again until late spring.  Plants can be divided as needed when clumps get too large.  In addition to landscape beds, these gingers can make nice container culture subjects for partially shaded patios or lanais.

Besides the ornamental Curcuma gingers, you may also be familiar with the culinary species called Curcuma longa or turmeric.  They have the same leaf and flower structure as the types previously mentioned but are grown primarily for their rhizomes used for the spice turmeric.  Turmeric rhizomes for propagation are often available at local specialty food stores.   I have a clump of turmeric sporting tropical leaves and light-pink flowers which has grown for many years without failing.

Most garden centers will carry ornamental Curcuma varieties generally under the name “Thai Tulips”.  These Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved seasonal delights are well worth adding to your landscape this year!  For more information on all types tropical/sub-tropical perennials suitable for our area, or to ask a question, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or .  Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco

Park-Brown, S. (2018) Gingers (Every Florida garden needs a few zingers!).  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Post, K. D. (2018) Gingers for North Florida – Release for the Tallahassee Democrat.  UF/IFAS Extension Leon County.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2022) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Lynch, J. (2022) Ornamental Ginger Plants: Everything You Should Know Before Planting.
Carey, D. & Avent, T. (2022) Curcuma longa – Grow Turmeric in Your Garden.  Plant Delights Nursery.


ralph mitchell
Posted: July 19, 2023

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes
Tags: Curcuma Ginger, Ginger, Tulip Ginger

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