Trea­sured trop­i­cal Siam tulip can be en­joyed by all

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - BY NORMAN WIN­TER

If you’re ready to stop think­ing about win­ter, let your mind go to ex­otic flow­ers like the Siam tulip. Now imag­ine it grow­ing in your back­yard or in con­tain­ers around the porch, pa­tio or deck.It can hap­pen, and now is the time to do a lit­tle plan­ning.

Botan­i­cally speak­ing, the Siam tulip is known as Cur­cuma al­is­mat­i­fo­lia. It is na­tive to Thai­land and is one of the gin­gers trea­sured as a cut flower. It is also closely re­lated to the gin­ger used to make the pow­der we know as curry. The plants reach about 2 feet tall with a lit­tle less spread and pro­duce flow­ers that are in­deed rem­i­nis­cent of a tulip, in a shock­ing al­most iri­des­cent hot pink. The pink is really sev­eral pe­tal-like bracts, but there are small laven­der blue flow­ers on the stalk be­low them.

Most ref­er­ences sug­gest they are fit for zone 9 and higher but I have seen that they will per­form well in zone 8. I have even seen them grow­ing in zone 7, but I did not have a chance to visit with the owner to in­quire about the cul­tural prac­tices.

But grow­ing this gin­ger gets in­ter­est­ing, and can open the door for just about any­one to en­joy the ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty th­ese flow­ers of­fer. The Siam tulip is de­cid­u­ous and ac­tu­ally goes dor­mant from Novem­ber through May. What could be bet­ter for those of us in colder zones who want to cre­ate that look of par­adise dur­ing the long grow­ing sea­son?

This gin­ger, com­prised of rhi­zomes, prefers deep, fer­tile well-drained soil in a lo­ca­tion with morn­ing sun and af­ter­noon shade or fil­tered light and should be planted 2 to 3 inches deep, spac­ing plants 2 feet apart. If you are buy­ing them via mail or­der, this is

most likely what you will re­ceive, and now is the time to shop. Last year large g ar­den cen­ters ev­ery­where of fered them in mum-sized pots in June. This serves as a tes­ti­mony that they work well in con­tain­ers. If you move the con­taineriz ed plants to the land­scape, plant at the same depth that they are grow­ing in the con­tainer, and add a good layer of mulch.

The Siam tulip in the land­scape will need plenty of mois­ture, about an inch per week, dur­ing the long grow­ing sea­son. Those in con­tain­ers will need wa­ter­ing ev­ery other day or even daily dur­ing the hottest part of the sum­mer. Con­sider part­ner­ing with bananas or Lime Zinger elephant ears let­ting th­ese enor mous plants pro­vide the needed af­ter­noon shade pro­tec­tion. Lime green plants like Elec­tric Lime coleus would make a stun­ning com­pan­ion.

The Siam tulip will thrive all sum­mer into early fall but will even­tu­ally go into dor­mancy with the shorter days and cooler tem­per­a­tures. If you live in a colder cli­mate, dig the rhi­zomes af­ter the first frost. Re­move all of the fo­liage and store rhi­zomes in a box of peat in a cool dry lo­ca­tion. It helps to mist the rhi­zomes from time to time, main­tain­ing a lit­tle mois­ture and hu­mid­ity. If you are grow­ing Siam tulip in a con­tainer, move it into a cool pro­tected area giv­ing a very min­i­mal wa­ter­ing once a week, re­turn­ing the con­tainer to its lo­ca­tion af­ter spring tem­per­a­tures have warmed.

Gin­gers are trea­sured trop­i­cals that can be en­joyed by ev­ery­one. Give the Siam tulip a try and see if you don’t agree.

• Norman Win­ter is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colum­bus Botan­i­cal Garden, Colum­bus Ga., and au­thor of “Toughas-Nails Flow­ers for the South” and the highly ac­claimed “Cap­ti­vat­ing Com­bi­na­tions Color and Style in the Garden.”

MCT PHOTO

The shock­ing iri­des­cent pink blooms of the Siam tulip make it one of the most ex­otic gin­gers for the land­scape or in con­tain­ers around the porch, pa­tio or deck.

MCT PHOTO

Left: The shock­ing iri­des­cent pink blooms of the Siam tulip make it one of the most ex­otic gin­gers for the land­scape or in con­tain­ers around the porch, pa­tio or deck.

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