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Ginger flower is a common name for Etlingera elatior, a fast growing tender perennial that is native to parts of southeastern Asia and Australia. It is a large ornamental plant, growing up to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, with unusual pink, red, or white flowers in spring and summer that can be as much as 4 or 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) in diameter. It thrives in humid jungle-like conditions and can also be grown quite successfully in a heated greenhouse. These species is also known as ginger lily, torch ginger, wild ginger, and Hawaiian ginger flower as well as ginger flower. In its native areas, it is called combrang or bunga siantan and has many culinary uses.
The torch shaped flowers of these plants are very ornamental and resemble brightly colored pine cones that are very long lasting as cut flowers. Each flower grows singly on its stem, above long, strap like leaves that can reach up to 2 1/2 feet long (76 cm). The flowers are frequently used in both fresh and dried flower arrangements.
These tropical plants are easy to grow in warm climates. They require plenty of indirect sunlight and soil with good drainage. Wind can knock them over, so they should be planted in a sheltered location. Ginger flower plants will not tolerate even the slightest cold and should always be kept above 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius). Lower temperatures will result in the death of the plant.
Wet, soggy soil will also kill these tender plants. To avoid root rot, the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. They benefit from the application of a good fertilizer and the addition of well rotted compost during the summer months.
Ginger flowers grow from rhizomes, or underground roots, and are easily propagated by division. The rhizomes grow into large clumps that can be carefully dug up and cut into smaller sections. This should be done when the a plant is actively growing. In the tropical climate that these plants grow in, division can be done throughout the year.
The buds and seed pods of the ginger flower are edible and are a common ingredient in Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai food. The tiny black seeds are used to season fresh fish dishes, and the flower buds are chopped and added to soups, stocks, curries, and salads to add a fragrant, floral touch. When cut in half, the flower buds also make a beautiful garnish. Ginger flower plants also have medicinal value; when brewed into a tea, they are said to help ease congestion from colds.
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