Hedychium greenii  W. W. Smith, Rec. Bot Surv. India 4: 272 (1913).

Accepted name

Hedychium greenii  W. W. Smith, Rec. Bot Surv. India 4: 272 (1913).

Synonyms Hedychium rubrum A. S. Rao and D. M. Verma, Bull. Bot Surv. India 11: 126 (1969 publ. 1971).
Comments Blithely following the European Garden Flora, the New RHS Dictionary of Gardening and The RHS Plant Finder, I used to spell the name Hedychium greenei.  However, W. W. Smith named the plant after a Mr H. F. Green (not Greene) who grew the plant in Sikkim after it had been collected in Bhutan. So it is Hedychium greenii and not Hedychium greenei; I am grateful to Dr Mark Newman at RBG Edinburgh for checking this for me.

Hedychium greenii is the only Hedychium with significant colour in the leaves, being glossy dark green above and maroon beneath and with maroon stems. It is a superb foliage plant with a rather "softer" appearance compared with some of its architectural, spiky-looking cousins. The large, striking flowers are borne in late summer in a short cone-like spike with broad green bracts. The flowers on my plants are more orange than red and have no scent at all. The flowers are sometimes said to be red. It may be that distinctly red forms do occur but it is more likely that such descriptions are based on poorly reproduced colour photographs.

Hedychium greenii is a rather strange species in that it does not set seed in the UK, or anywhere else come to that. But you may want to resist the temptation to remove the flower heads after flowering since you will get a crop of viviparous plantlets to increase your stock. Some people insist on calling these viviparous plantlets "keikis", a word in the Hawaiian language meaning "baby" and adopted by orchid growers. In 2005 some of my plants produced viviparous plants directly from the tips of non-flowering shoots, without flowering first. It is a mystery why our plants should suddenly start behaving like this; there are other reports of this happening that I had always assumed were mistaken. Probably because it does not reproduce from seed there seems little variability in stocks of Hedychium greenii.

In the wild Hedychium greenii is reported as "growing in fairly thick marshy ground" and is well worth trying as a marginal pond plant. I find Hedychium greenii to be quite hardy but it is not the most cold tolerant of Hedychium and would need to be planted in a sunny sheltered position and well mulched in winter in a "cold" garden. It does flower rather late in the year but even in the absence of flowers is well worth growing for the foliage.


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last updated 01/10/2008