Hedychium coronarium, commonly known as butterfly ginger, butterfly ginger lily, ginger lily, or garland lily, is a perennial, herbaceous member of the zingiberaceae or ginger family. It has green, smooth leaves resembling daggers that grow on opposite sides of each other on the stem.
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Ginger lily is native to tropical Asia, especially the Himalaya area but has spread to other tropical and subtropical regions of the world. In the US, the herb is ideal in plant hardiness zones 8-11. The garland lily is quite hardy and can adapt to new environments quite fast. As a result, some countries such as Brazil, Hawaii and New Zealand have categorized the plant as an invasive species.
Curiously, butterfly ginger is the national flower of Cuba but is not native to the island though it is a popular plant there. Being a tropical plant, garland lily normally grows in places with partial or full sunlight. Unlike most tropical plants, this type of ginger can grow in the shade, which makes it an ideal potted plant. However, if you intend to grow butterfly ginger in a pot, you need a large container as it can quickly fill the largest pot with rhizomes which can quickly split even the strongest of the pots.
While most ginger species rarely blossom, butterfly ginger regularly produces white, gold, orange or yellow flowers with a strong, sweet fragrance, which makes it ideal for outdoor flower gardens. Flowers emerge from tube-like bracts with blossom buds peeking out from an inflorescent resembling a cone. Just as the name suggests, butterfly ginger blossoms look like butterflies with their wings open and ready to take to the skies. The flowers only last a day and if successfully pollinated, they turn into oval-shaped orange fruits.
The garland lily has been used as an ornamental plant in flower gardens and yards for years. Its fragrant blossoms are used in the beauty industry as they contain essential oils ideal for soaps, perfumes, and aromatherapy. The essential oil also gives the plant medicinal powers. Butterfly ginger flower extracts are used to treat ailments including indigestion, flatulence, parasitic worms, rheumatism, and alleviate symptoms of cold and flu.
Apart from their use in the perfume and medicine industries, butterfly ginger flower buds are used for culinary purposes. The blossoms are best when harvested early in the morning and eaten when still fresh or wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for later use.
The flowers can be used in salads to give it the signature ginger flavor or tossed into soups. They can also be stir-fried or steeped in hot water together with Chinese tea and fresh lemon to make a refreshing beverage.
Except for its ability to proliferate rapidly and become obnoxious in some regions with ideal growing conditions, butterfly ginger is a perfect ornamental plant. It is highly versatile and can grow in an outdoor flower garden or indoors.