This dramatic flower is ideal for contemporary designs.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
1 LINE 'EM UP. Commonly known as red
ginger (although there are both red and pink varieties), Alpinia
purpurata (pronounced al-PIN-ee-a pur-pur-AH-tuh) is grown for its
unusual linear flower heads (bracts). These tropicals rise from clumps
of knobby rhizomes, sometimes reaching 10 feet in height. There are two
varieties: ‘Jungle King’ (red) and ‘Jungle Queen’ (pink).
2 ZINGY FAMILY. Red ginger is a
member of the Zingiberaceae family, which includes about 40 genera of
gingers native to tropical Asia and islands of the South, West and
Southwest Pacific. A close relative is Alpinia Zerumbet, commonly known
as shell ginger, which is similar but has looser, pendulous bracts that
are off-white tinged with pink. Another relative, Zingiber officinale
(common ginger or true ginger), is the ginger grown for its aromatic
rhizomes and used for culinary purposes.
3 A PROSPEROUS ITALIAN. Alpinia was
named for Prospero Alpino, an Italian physician and botanist who
traveled throughout the Greek islands and Egypt in the late 16th
4 ALWAYS ON. Red gingers are
available year-round from various growing areas. Most red gingers sold
in the United States probably come from Hawaii, but they also are
commercially grown in Colombia, Costa Rica and other warm climates.
5 CHOICES, CHOICES. Red gingers must
be harvested and chosen at their peak of maturity since they do not
develop further once cut. Look for blossoms with high gloss and vivid
color; avoid those that are creased or marred. Don’t purchase red
gingers too far in advance.
6 CAREFREE AND EASY. Unpack red
gingers immediately upon arrival. If the flowers seem dehydrated,
submerge them in room-temperature water for 20 minutes. Next, recut the
stems, and place them into properly prepared flower food solution. There
is no evidence that red gingers benefit from hydration solutions.
7 WARMTH REQUIRED. Red gingers are
chill sensitive, so store them at 55 F to 60 F. The blooms will turn a
bluish or grayish color if they are held at temperatures lower than 55
F. Red gingers are also geotropic: when stored horizontally or
diagonally, the flower tips will bend upward. To prevent this response,
store the stems upright.
8 LASTING FRESHNESS. If proper care
and handling procedures are followed, red gingers can last up to three
weeks in nutrient solution. The long vase life makes them a good choice
for commercial designs.
9 DESIGNER HEAVEN. Red gingers’
unusual form and long, leafless stems make these flowers ideal for
contemporary designs. Because of stem thickness and bloom size and
weight, use the densest floral foam available when designing with
gingers in foam, and reinforce it with chicken wire, if possible.
10 THE DOCTOR IS IN. The curative
powers of the various gingers rivals their culinary uses. In ancient
China, they were regarded as a healing gift from God and were used to
cleanse and warm the body. Gingers were used in more than half of all
traditional Chinese herbal remedies to treat morning sickness,
indigestion, heartburn, motion sickness, pain and more. They also are
used as a natural preservative and meat tenderizer.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of
horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 27
years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
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