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Curcuma elata

Curcuma elata
Flowers in early May
hidden cone ginger
Second flower type appears a few days later
Curcuma elata
By mid-May, the leaves are starting to overtake the flowers

Common name hidden cone ginger
Family zingiberaceae
Life cycle perennial (Z7b-11)
Flowers pink (spring)
Size 24-36"
Light shade
Cultural notes moist soil

This ginger disappears underground when the first fall freezes knock its giant leaves out of commission, to return in mid-spring. But before those big, handsomely patterned leaves return, it is flowering time: pink flowers open about a month after new growth first appears, to striking effect. A few days later, a second type of flower, yellow and smaller, opens up on the stem below the pink petals – I suspect this is the actual procreation apparatus, with the top flower structures just for show.
The species prefers shady conditions, which we can't fully provide in our garden; our plant gets morning sun, more so in mid-summer when the sun is high, and lets us know it isn't too happy by wilting and some brown leaves. It's happier when shadows get longer in autumn, and hopefully the Virginia pine that's growing nicely in its vicinity will start casting some shade in the next year or two. Our plant dies back in the first mild freeze of the year. New growth appears in early or late April, depending on the temperature trajectory in early spring. The fresh shoots typically arise some distance away from the exposed bulbous structure at the base of the previous year's growth, as shown in photo below.

hidden cone ginger
Just purchased, late May
Curcuma elata
Grown nicely by late September
hidden cone ginger
New growth, early April
Curcuma elata
Small forest of emerging leaf and flower stalks in May
hidden cone ginger
Beautiful colors on a freshly unfurled leaf – it will fade to just green before long

In our garden, this plant grows in the following areas: front fence border, right-fence nursery area

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