Camia or kamia (Hedychium coronarium and Hedychium philippinense) is called white ginger and butterfly ginger outside the Philippines and originated in tropical parts of Asia and India. Growing from rhizomes to 10 feet tall in its native lands, camia usually doesn't top 6 feet tall in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10, where it is hardy. Its hardiness range can extend at least as far north as USDA zone 7 when its rhizomes are protected by a heavy layer of mulch during winter. Camia features 8- to 24-inch-long, lancelike leaves and 2- to 4-inch-wide, white flowers that resemble butterflies.
Blotched with pale yellow at their centers, fragrant flowers appear in 4- to 12-inch clusters from pine cone-shaped buds at the top of camia's stems. Each flower is open only one day, and the plant blooms for about six weeks, usually from late summer through fall. Often added to leis, the edible flowers are eaten in Thailand.
Conditions for Blooms
Although camia can grow in a full-sun site, its foliage may appear bleached under those conditions. The plant needs at least four hours of sunlight per day to flower freely, however. The best solution, therefore, is to plant camia in partial shade and damp, humus-rich soil, spacing multiple plants about 2 to 3 feet apart. The horizontal rhizomes should be set just under the surface of the ground with their reddish shoots uppermost.
Because arid conditions cue camia to enter dormancy, the plant's soil should never be allowed to dry completely during summer and should be kept as dry as possible during winter. Fertilize camia twice each year, in early spring and midsummer, spreading 1 cup of a chemical, granular, 13-13-13 fertilizer or 2 cups of an organic, granular, 5-5-5 fertilizer over the soil around each clump of camia shoots. Water the fertilized soil.
In areas colder than USDA zone 7, camia rhizomes generally are dug up in fall and stored indoors in barely damp peat, sawdust or vermiculite during winter. If you leave the rhizomes outdoors, cover them with a 4-inch-thick layer of dead leaves, composted manure, pine straw or other organic material after frost kills the camia foliage in fall. Wait until after the last spring frost to plant the rhizomes outdoors again. Camia rhizomes left in the ground in winter don't always sprout in spring and may wait until early summer to make their appearance.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Hedychium Coronarium
- The Lone Star Gardener's Book of Lists; William D. Adams and Lois Trigg Chaplin
- Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South; Norman Winter
- Pure Oxygen Generators: More Blooms in the Rains
- Plant Delights Nursery Inc.: Hedychium -- Ginger Lilies for the Garden
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Hedychium Coronarium, Butterfly Ginger
- Georgia Perennial Plant Association: Perennial Notes Excerpts -- Ginger Lilies: Hedychium Coronarium
- Easy Tropicals: Hedychium Care Instructions
- Identification, Selection and Use of Southern Plants -- For Landscape Design; Neil G. Odenwald and James R. Turner
- The New Sunset Western Garden Book; Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Editor