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Turquoise Puya

Siphonochilus aethiopicus - African Ginger

Siphonochilus aethiopicus - African Ginger - is a beautiful ginger species that's rarely seen in cultivation.  Its showy, lilac & yellow blossoms appear at ground level each year.  The trumpet-shaped blooms are nicely scented, but the real surprise is the rhizomes, which have a terrific scent of violets!  The plant was once fairly common in Africa, but it has been over-harvested for its medicinal properties and now is nearly extinct.  Fortunately it is very easy to grow.  It's rare to find mature rhizomes for sale.

Siphonochilus aethiopicus - African Ginger

The plant makes cone-shaped rhizomes that spread fairly readily underground.  They grow near the surface, emitting a delicious aroma of sweet violets with ginger overtones.  The rhizome allows the bulb to survive Africa's dry season.  When the rainy season begins, it sends up shoots about 2-3 feet tall, and flowers emerge around the same time.  Each 5 inch blossom is purplish-pink fading to white at the center, with yellow streaks.  About 10 to 15 blooms appear throughout the flowering season.  The plant has been used by traditional healers in Africa for various ailments.  Scientific research has confirmed its medicinal properties, but unfortunately the plant is nearly gone in most of Africa due to overharvesting.

Siphonochilus aethiopicus - African Ginger

It's surprisingly easy to grow when given the right conditions.  It prefers warm temperatures, with days above 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) and nights above 60 F (16 C).  It comes from woodlands, so it likes filtered sun or morning sun.  It might need some protection from strong afternoon sun.  It grows well in a 2 gallon (8 liter) pot in fertile, well-draining soil.  Aim to keep the soil evenly moist during active growth, and drier during the 3 or 4 months that it is dormant.  It uses a lot of water while growing, and it appreciates regular feeding.  It is rarely bothered by pests in my experience.

 

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Photos #1 & 3 courtesy of Ton Rulkens

 

 

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Turquoise Puya

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