Variegated Ginger: Alpinia Zerumbet ‘Variegata’

Variegated Ginger

The Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ is an ornamental variegated ginger from the – Zingiberaceae family.

Pronounced: al-PIN-ee-uh zair-um-BET

It is the variegated form of the “shell ginger” of which there are approximately 200 Alpinia species.

Alpinias are tropical and sub-tropical plants of the ginger family providing the landscape with a wide variety of looks coming from its bamboo like clumps and showcased with many exotic flower combinations.

Commonly known as the variegated ginger or simply variegata, this plant has green-colored, lance-shaped leaves accentuated with quite striking yellow margins.

All through the year it produces white or light pink flowers, in drooping clusters resembling sea shells near the stem ends.

All gingers grow from rhizomes or fleshy tubers which creep along the soil surface.

Growing the Alpinia

This native to eastern Asia, Variegata can grow outdoors in USDA Zones 8-10.

The stems can reach 4 -7 feet with 18 – 24 inch leaves that carry a spicy fragrance on the dramatically displayed broad yellow striped leaf pattern.

Fortunately, those living in the cooler northern areas can enjoy gingers as they make wonderful container plants, excellent summer additions to a patio area.

Winter storage for gingers is pretty simple. When frost comes a calling, take the rhizomes – potted or bare root and keep them in a cool basement.

Landscape Uses

The foliage of the variegated ginger makes it a wonderful accent plant but also equally attractive as a specimen plant or mass planted.

Planted near a building entrance allows this perennial to “show off” the striking beauty of its variegated leaves to those who pass by.

The variegated ginger’s colorful foliage is an easy way to add a tropical effect to a patio landscape or shady garden, planted in the ground or planted in a containers.

When planting the variegated Alpinia zerumbet, plant in a well drained, rich soil which will stay moist.

The variegated Alpinia does not handle drought or very dry conditions well. It can be planted in full sun or a partial shade, however, due to the drought issue, plants in full, hot summer sun without irrigation can wilt badly.

Regular irrigation or planting in partial shade will prevent the wilting problem. If planted in a pot, regular watering is essential.

When planted outdoors in areas like northern Florida, cold temperatures can freeze the stems to the ground, but new growth will emerge as warm spring weather arrives.


Propagation is easy for the Alpinia. Clumps can be dug up, broken apart and replanted. The leaves or stems can be removed from the rhizomes by cutting them away or left on the plant. I usually cut them off.

I prefer to replant in a pot before moving the plant out into the landscape, in a loose sandy soil and later transplanted in the ground.

Pests and Diseases

Alpinia has no real pests or disease problems to be concerned about. Occasionally, mites may be a problem, otherwise it is a very pests and disease free plant.

Alpinia zerumbet Variegata is an excellent choice for the landscape and should be planted more often.

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