Torch Gingers: Etlingera in the Garden
Landscaping with Torch Gingers in the Tropical garden.
Torch and Tulip Gingers
Torch gingers are well known plants in tropical Australia. The colorful inflorescences closely resemble waratahs and they are sometimes called tropical waratah. They are members of the Etlingera family. The majority of the more ornamental varieties come from Malaysia. There they are also used medicinally and in cooking.
Red and pink are the most common torches planted in Australia. However, there are many other interesting varieties that are gaining popularity with gardeners as they realize how easy they are to grow. Many torches and tulips are crossing the boundary between collector’s plants and the home garden. There are also a number of breeders working on producing better cut flower torches, notably the D.P.I. in the Northern Territory.
We’d like to introduce you to a few of the ones that we like the best, especially those we find useful in Tropical Landscaping.
Our absolute favorite isn’t actually torch; it’s a tulip type torch. Cerise tulip has got to be numero uno. It’s a larger sized plant that in the right conditions is similar in size to a red or pink torch ginger. It’s a quick grower, but not unruly and will even flower in a pot. What really appeals to me is the new growth. The undersides of the new leaves are a lovely soft purple; they turn green as they reach maturity. Colorful foliage is the backbone of tropical gardening and this one gets a 9/10 for foliage. The hot, hot pink flowers that resemble a tulip also get high marks from me. They are prolific, make an excellent cut flower and are the earliest season torch flowers to come out.
Number two is surprisingly also a tulip. The Black Tulip is a slightly smaller plant than the traditional red. If you are on a smaller block but want a tropical appeal this is a must have ginger. The undersides of the leaves are a dark maroon that is retained even when the leaves are mature. The unusual inflorescences are a deep chocolate color dotted with neon yellow. I’ve mini mass planted them in a bed with cordylines and heliconia velligeria cv shekong and they look fantastic. Black Tulip is massively underused as a landscaping plant.
Number three is Sugar Plum, formally known as hybrid torch. We’ve finally decided to give it a sexier name. This torch ginger is just a good all rounder. It’s a stronger grower with lovely, slightly undulating leaves. The flowers change from a mid range pink on the outer petals to a light pink towards the center, giving it a pearly two-tone effect.
Number four is commonly known as both Thai White and Porcelain Pink. It’s the number one cut flower torch in Oz. It’s also perfect for Hawaiian style gardens bursting with Alpinias and brugmansias, a sort of gentile “pretty” tropical style.
Number five is Bloody Mary. I absolutely love the deep rich color of the flowers!
Don’t forget torches go best in a lush landscape setting with lots of heliconias, costus and cordylines. They can be used as a quick shade plant until palms or trees grow and they look fabulous planted out on either side of a path (not too close!) to give an archway effect.
The purpose of this blog is to share information about torch gingers in tropical landscaping. If you have any particular favorites please leave a comment.
Happy Gardening!! Ann