It's difficult to find a more showy and unusual tropical flower than the beehive ginger, Zingiber spectabile. Depending on the variety, the cone-shaped bracts are borne throughout the growing season, providing interesting material for long-lasting tropical cut flower arrangements.
Beehive ginger thrives in warm, frost-free climates that are similar to its native habitat of India and China. Like other plants in the Zingiber genus, the cone-like bracts, which are not anatomically flowers, are much more showy than the actual flowers, which protrude from the bracts.
Planting Beehive Ginger
If you are new to growing tropical flowers, you could hardly find an easier or more rewarding candidate to start with than the beehive ginger. The thick, glossy foliage is pest free, and the plants will tolerate a range of soils and sun exposures, as long as you provide enough moisture. In fact, a pond or stream-side planting location will give plants the ample humidity they crave, while controlling erosion at the same time. A three-inch layer of organic mulch will also help moisture retention. Use cocoa bean mulch, which stays true to the tropical theme and also contrasts nicely with the emerald green foliage.
You can buy beehive ginger plants, but most mail order companies will send rhizomes, not unlike the edible rhizomes you buy for cooking. Plant these in well-draining soil (moist does not mean boggy) about an inch under the soil's surface. It's OK if some buds or shoots are above the soil. Don't over-water rhizomes before growth kicks in, or you risk inviting fungi and rot.
Beehive Ginger Growing Conditions
Beehive ginger plants need some sun to get enough energy to produce their spectacular bracts, but to much sun can burn foliage, turning the edges crispy. A location in bright dappled shade is ideal. A container plant in a screened lanai or under a pergola can provide shade if trees are scant on your property, or even a discreet placement of shade cloth during the hottest months may help. If your growing site gets more sun than you intended, increase your watering accordingly, and don't allow the plants to dry out.
In addition to moist soils, beehive plants enjoy high humidity. This is easy to achieve if you are growing ginger in the greenhouse or conservatory. If you are growing your beehive ginger as a container specimen, you can mist the plants with a multi-setting rain wand. An alternative is to briefly water the patio or deck your ginger containers sit on. This works best on hot days when the sunlight is strong, creating a steamy pocket around the plants as evaporation takes place.
Propagate Beehive Ginger Plants
If you've fallen in love with the beehive ginger, you can easily make more plants to populate your flowerbeds or containers, or even share with friends. The quickest way to increase your beehive gingers is to divide the rhizomes. Carefully dig them up in the spring when new growth is sprouting, and cut the rhizomes apart with a sharp knife.
During periods of active growth in the summer, you can also layer the plants by laying mature stems on the soil. Cover the top of the stem with mulch to keep it moist and encourage rooting. Check for root formation after about six weeks. When you see roots, you can cut the stem from the mother plant and repot or replant it elsewhere.
Flower Arranging With Beehive Ginger
Because beehive ginger plants are so showy, you should pair them with other vibrant tropical flowers that will hold their own. The arrangement shown in the third picture represents an ideal match, as the golden alstromeria flowers are almost as long-lasting as the beehive ginger bracts. Other showy vase companions include protea, orchids, calla lilies, torch gingers or bird-of-paradise.
The strong sculptural aspect of beehive ginger makes it a natural fit for modern ikebana arrangements. The flowers also stand out in wedding reception arrangements and won't wilt at your beach wedding. Because the cut flowers are so enduring, you should change the water every day to maximize the freshness of the bouquet.
Beehive Ginger Varieties
If you've fallen in love with the beehive ginger plant, add several cultivars to your garden to increase color range and blooming time. 'Burmese Ruby' grows up to six feet tall, with bright red bracts emerging on 16 inch stems in late summer. The 'Apricot' beehive yields gorgeous peachy hued bracts and is usually one of the first to flower. 'Chocolate' and 'Coffee' beehive gingers give designers that hard-to-find brown tone in a flower, which combines beautifully with pink flowers in the landscape. Whichever you choose, your mature plant will be a conversation piece in your garden.