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What is Red Ginger?

By O. Parker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Red ginger is an ornamental plant native to the tropical South Pacific region, where it is commonly called teuila. The scientific name is Alpinia purpurata and it is a member of the Zingiberaceae, or ginger, family. The flowers are torch-shaped inflorescence growing from 6 inches to 12 inches (about 15 cm to 30 cm) in length. Other common names are pink cone ginger, ostrich plume ginger and jungle king or jungle queen ginger. Red ginger is grown outside in tropical gardens throughout the world; in temperate regions, dwarf varieties are cultivated as house plants.

The flower formation of Alpinia purpurata is an inflorescence, a cluster of small flowers and bracts that grow on a central stem. The individual, colorful 1-inch-long (about 2.5-cm-long) petals are bracts, rather than true petals. The true flower is hidden inside the individual bracts; the flowers are white and 0.25 inch (about 0.6 cm) long. Bright red is the most common color, though shades of pink are also available. The leaves are glossy, dark green, from 12 inches to 30 inches (about 30 cm to 73 cm) long and grow in an alternate pattern from the erect, center stalk.

Red ginger thrives outdoors in hot, humid climates where the temperature range remains above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (about 15 C) year round. Short periods when the temperature drops to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C) are tolerated, though cooler temperatures will stunt growth significantly and the plant will likely die if the temperature drops below 41 degrees Fahrenheit (about 4 C). Red ginger thrives and produces abundant foliage and flowers when the air temperature is consistently 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C).

Red ginger grows between 3 feet and 15 feet (about 1 m to 4.5 m) tall in clumps from 2 feet to 4 feet (about 0.6 m to 1.2 m) wide. The plants grow from a rhizome-type root system just beneath the soil surface. Red ginger grows in full sun or light shade and in sandy, well-draining soil with a pH range of 6 to 6.8. A minimum of 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water a week is required for each plant, because red ginger thrives in moist soil as long as there is no water standing around the root system.

Outside of the tropics, red ginger is grown in containers and taken indoors during the cooler months of the year. There are several dwarf varieties that are ideal for house plants. Standard varieties are suitable as indoor plants provided there is enough space to accommodate their tall stature.

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