Tulip look-alike from Thailand

A ginger that looks like tulip
Lauren Bonar Swezey

When is a tulip not a tulip? When it's a Siam tulip--a ginger (Curcuma alistmatifolia) introduced several years ago from Thailand. This beauty has long, narrow, stiff leaves and a flower (actually a bract) of pink, rose, or white that lasts up to four weeks on the plant or eight days as a cut flower. Each 2-foot-tall plant blooms only once, but a new plant develops and forms a new flower every 20 to 30 days. The cycle runs from June to around October.

After the soil has warmed to about 60°, plant rhizomes in full sun either in pots or in the ground. Place pointed end up and cover with an inch of soil. Water regularly; flowers will appear in 8 to 12 weeks. In mild climates ( Sunset zones 14-24), rhizomes can be left in the ground through winter if the soil is well drained. In colder climates, dig up the rhizomes (do not damage the food-storing "milk tanks" on the end of the roots) and store them in a cool, dry place. Dust them with sulfur to prevent decay.

Rhizomes cost $5 plus shipping from Stokes Tropicals, Box 9868, New Iberia, LA 70562; (800) 624-9706 or www.stokestropicals.com. Siam tulips are most readily available in pink.