Meet the Kaempferias

If you grow potted plants you deserve to make the acquaintance of the kaempferias or ginger-lilies. Our favorite, Kaempferia roscoeana, has become such an old friend, we’ve taken to calling it just “Roscoe.” A friend of mine praises Kaempferia rotunda and I’m adding it to my collection this year.

Kaempferia roscoeana has rounded green and copper leaves that glisten like taffeta. The vein patterns give the leaves a pleated appearance. Kaempferias grow from fleshy tubers like icicle radishes. These are available in the spring. Since the flowers are already stored up inside the tubers, blooms are for certain with ginger-lilies. They like a loose, rich loam. Keep the soil moist and put the pot in a light, warm place. Soon after the foliage unfolds the violet-shaped orchid colored flowers begin to ap pear. Each lasts one day, and it is not unusual to have blooms almost every day of the summer.

Kaempferia roscoeana - colorful exotic foliage and simple soft flower

In the fall they like to be dried off and put in a cool place (55 to 65 degrees) to rest. Keep the soil barely moist so that the fleshy tubers will not wither. Watch for new growth in the spring and repot the tubers. If they make too much growth before you get around to repotting, maintain a regular feeding program with a fish emulsion type fertilizer, and they’ll do beautifully without repotting.

If you have a shaded, protected border outdoors, kaempferias will enjoy spending the summer there. Bring them in before freezing weather.

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