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A ginger lily, known botanically as Hedychium and more commonly as garland flower and kahili ginger, is a genus of around nine plant species that are native to Asia, particularly the semi-tropical and tropical regions of India. These plants are perennials in their native habitats, but can be grown as annual ornamental plants in colder regions.
The ginger lily plant can grow up to three feet (0.91 m) in height, and has long, sheath-like leaves that are broad at the base and narrow at the tips; the leaves can measure up to 18 inches (45.7 cm) in length and are about three inches (7.6 cm) wide. The plant blooms between July to August. The flowers resemble orchids and are produced in rows on long, upright spikes; a single spike can be about 10 inches (25.4 cm) in length. Ginger lily flowers are fragrant and attractive, and come in white, red, and yellow colors; the white ginger variety, owning to its beautiful, butterfly-like shape, is known as the Flor de Mariposa in Cuba, where it has been declared the National Flower. In Brazil, on the other hand, ginger lily plants are considered an invasive species.
The propagation of these plants can be done from seeds and also from rhizome sections containing an eye. If planting from seeds, it will help to soak the seeds for a few hours in warm water before sowing. The seeds should be sown at a shallow depth, and may take up to four weeks to germinate. In the case of rhizomes, particularly in cold climates, it may be necessary to dig up and store the rhizomes in a dry place for the winter and replant in the spring.
These plants require to be grown in an area that has a well-drained, moist soil and which receives a good amount of sunlight. They will also do well if planted in an area receives plenty of run-off water, or near drains. Ginger lily plants are quite hardy and do not require much maintenance. They make for excellent ornamental plants, and look good when planted in clumps in borders and as background accents.
The root of the ginger lily has medicinal properties, and has been used in many traditional remedies. A fragrant essential oil can be extracted from the root by the steam distillation process. This oil is antibiotic in nature and can be used to treat nausea, inflammations and asthma. It is important to dilute the ginger oil with almond or olive oils prior to use as, in its undiluted state, it can cause skin irritations.