fresh flower


These blossoms add excitement to arrangements.

by Steven W. Brown, AIFD

Zingiber zerumbet
Pine-cone ginger, Shampoo ginger
Photo courtesy of The John Henry Company

1 conical drama. The genus Zingiber, pronounced “zin-ji-bur,” produces two species that are popular tropical cut flowers: Z. zerumbet, commonly known as pine-cone ginger or shampoo ginger, and Z. spectabile, commonly known as beehive ginger. These plants have long narrow leaves that are similar to ti leaves. Cone-shaped inflorescences that resemble pine cones or small beehives grow from the ground on separate stalks. The true flowers appear as small florets that emerge from the bracts as they mature.

2 a zingy family. Zingiber is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, which includes about 40 genera of tropical gingers native to Malaysia, Indonesia, eastern Asia and Australia. In addition to cut flowers, these plants are grown for the culinary uses of their aromatic rhizomes. The genus name Zingiber is derived from a Sanskrit word “singivera” meaning “horn-shaped,” referring to the bracts that make up the blossoms.

3 shampoo and conditioner. Z. zerumbet is commonly known as shampoo ginger because of the creamy liquid substance in its “cones” that is used as a shampoo throughout Asia and in Hawaii, and as an ingredient in several commercial shampoos. The substance is an excellent natural hair conditioner.

4 a year of ginger. Zingibers are generally available year-round from various markets including Hawaii, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Fifty percent of worldwide ginger production is in India.

5 easy selections. Zingibers will not develop after they are cut, so they must be harvested and chosen at their peak of maturity. Look for blossoms that have high gloss and vivid color, and avoid those that are creased or marred. Don’t purchase Zingibers too far in advance.

6 give ’em a bath. Unpack Zingibers immediately upon arrival. If they are taped to their shipping containers, carefully remove the tape and packing materials. If the flowers are dehydrated, cut the stems, removing at least 1 inch, and submerge them entirely in room-temperature water for about 20 minutes. Following this, recut the stems, and place them in a properly prepared cut flower food solution for at least two hours before selling or designing with them.

7 keep them warm. Zingibers are cold-sensitive and should be stored at 55 F to 60 F. Exposure to temperatures lower than 50 F can cause them to turn a bluish-gray color.

8 change the water. Zingibers can last for six to 14 days if properly cared for. It is beneficial to recut the stems and change the flower food solution every other day. If this step is taken, Zingibers can last for up to three weeks. Resubmerging these flowers occasionally will extend their vase life.

9 a wonder drug. Zingiber’s curative powers rival its culinary uses. It is a component in more than half of all traditional Chinese herbal remedies. Throughout Hawaii and the rest of Polynesia, it is used to treat stomach aches and indigestion, morning sickness, motion sickness, toothaches, sprains and other pain. Commercially, it also is used as a natural preservative and a meat tenderizer as well as the aforementioned shampoo ingredient.

10 designer drama. Zingibers’ long vase life makes them a good choice for commercial designs and other arrangements that need to last for extended periods. Their unusual tropical appeal makes them a flower of interest for dramatic, contemporary and masculine designs for all seasons.

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. You may contact him by e-mail at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

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