Siam Tulip (Curcuma)
This gorgeous member of the ginger family fits under an umbrella known as tropical gingers. Originating from tropical Asia through to Northern Australia, there are approximately 80 species of curcumas and hundreds of cultivars.
Unlike many other gingers, curcumas die back in autumn with lush foliage emerging again in mid spring earning it the nickname of Hidden Ginger.
All have stunning flowers ranging from 50mm to over 300mm, with such a broad spectrum of colours that even the fussiest of gardeners will be satisfied.
Curcumas are the ideal sub-tropical alternative to temperate bulbs and are an easy plant to keep providing a few simply rules are followed.
1. Some like sun while others prefer shade, so research your choice and plant with the appropriate aspect.
2. They do not like winter water. Plant them in soil which is well drained and rich in organic matter. Remember, they originate from the rainforest floor.
3. When the spring shoots appear, fertilize well and ensure an adequate water supply.
4. Mark the spot where the plants are so you don’t accidentally dig them over during the winter.
Turmeric (C. longa) is probably the best known of the species. Here are a few other varieties that I would recommend. For a full sun position, try the ‘Siam Tulip’ (C. alismatifolia) or ‘Voodoo Magic’. If the aspect is more filtered light, ‘Jewel of Burma’ (C. roscoeana) or ‘Jewel of Thailand’ (C. cordata) are ideal choices. If you prefer natives, the ‘Cape York Lily’ (C. australasica) is the plant for you.
Curcumas make great pot plants as they can be hidden away behind the shed during winter and brought out as a stunning display when the flowers appear. It is important during winter not to water curcumas as the rhizome will rot. A great way to ensure this is to simply lay the pot on its side.
Some varieties are fantastic as cut flowers, lasting for weeks in the vase. Curcuma plants are usually only sold when flowering and will be available in the shops from around Christmas.