Curcuma, although tropical in origins, (mostly from Southeast Asia, India and Malaysia) does not like to be in the sun all day. A filtered morning or afternoon sun is best. Like most plants in Southwest Florida, the summer sun is deadly. The plants in the curcuma family are often called gingers but are really Zingiber. The Curcuma longa species is solely used for the harvest of the spice turmeric. The rhizomes are ground into a dried powder which is turmeric.
Turmeric is the main spice in curry. It is used to color and flavor butter, cheese and mustards – to name a few. It is also used as a medicine for many different aliments. The oil is used in the fabrication of many perfumes and soaps. In the past years, numerous studies have even shown the medicinal benefits of turmeric and its anti-cancerous properties.
Not only is this one of the most tropical oriental looking flowers I have ever seen, but the foliage when not in bloom has truly a tropical appeal. Curcuma is grown from either rhizomes or can be purchased as potted plants.
Curcumas are a hardy perennial here in south Florida, blooming from spring to fall. The ones sold in stores are usually of the dwarf variety, (Siam tulip) which mean they don’t grow very tall.
The large, full-sized curcumas sometimes grow up to three feet with a larger flower and showier foliage. My Favorite!
Both dwarf and regular size curcumas will die back to the ground in the fall and reappear next spring. Mark the area where they are planted so you don’t dig them up in the late fall. Better yet, a great tip from Brian Galligan, Head Horticulturist at the Naples Botanical Gardens, is to plant them in ground covers so there are no problems when they die back. The new foliage in the spring appears like needles protruding from the earth that unfurls into the beautiful tropical foliage. When planted together in mass, curcumas make for a spectacular flower show in any garden. Remember curcuma likes well drained soil. In Florida we have a lot of sand in the soil, which is a must for them. Also curcuma likes organic material which we know we don’t have, so it should be added. Curcuma makes a great container plant or just plant the whole container in the ground at a depth of the rim of the pot. So when fall comes and you’re not fortunate enough to live in zone ten, you can over winter the curcuma in the garage and replant it in the garden next spring.
Curcuma foliage and flowers provide a long-lasting source of cut flowers for your arrangements. The tropical foliage, some light green and some with red veins in the leaves, are also great in arrangements.
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