KEEP IT TROP­I­CAL

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE | GARDEN - WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

I think the only thing that was en­joy­ing the past months of in­cred­i­bly hot, hu­mid weather was the trop­i­cal plants like he­li­co­nias and gin­gers. It seems that no amount of rain and heat is too much for them to tol­er­ate. Most of the trop­i­cal plants we grow come from the steamy jun­gles of Asia and trop­i­cal Amer­ica, with some also oc­cur­ring on the Pa­cific Is­lands, so warm weather with high rain­fall suits them per­fectly.

He­li­co­nias can grow any­where be­tween 0.5m-4-5m tall, de­pend­ing on the va­ri­ety. Some will grow in full sun, whereas oth­ers pre­fer shade or at least semi-shade. Most flower through sum­mer and au­tumn, but a cou­ple, in­clud­ing the beau­ti­ful Red Christ­mas, flower through win­ter.

He­li­co­nias make great cut flow­ers. The stems of the larger va­ri­eties can be very heavy, so you need a very solid ves­sel if you are to use them in flo­ral ar­range­ments. A stem will flower only once, so when the flower is fin­ished, it’s best to cut the whole shoot away at ground level to al­low new ones to form.

The ginger fam­ily is sim­i­larly large, and in­cludes sev­eral culi­nary forms such as ginger, galan­gal and turmeric.

Like he­li­co­nias, gin­gers can range in size from small 30cm tall plants to large spread­ing clump-form­ing va­ri­eties reach­ing up to 4m. There are lots of dif­fer­ent flow­ers in the ginger fam­ily. Bee­hive gin­gers pro­duce a beau­ti­ful, very fleshy cone that emerges from the ground and has lit­tle flow­ers that pop out the sides. Spi­ral gin­gers (Cos­tus) are named for their dis­tinc­tively spi­ralling stems. Most of these hold their flow­ers on the tops of the spi­ral stems.

He­li­co­nias and gin­gers are not low­main­te­nance plants, but they are easy to grow and easy to main­tain. At the end of the sea­son, you just need to re­move the spent stems to keep the plants look­ing tidy. In cool win­ters, some of the leaves may turn a bit yel­low — you can re­move those too. Keep the plants well-mulched and en­sure they get enough wa­ter. You can feed with a well-bal­anced or­ganic fer­tiliser in spring and sum­mer. Even though they en­joy plenty of wa­ter, they don’t like to grow in boggy soil, es­pe­cially when they are semi-dor­mant in win­ter.

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