Ornamental gingers add attractive foliage and flowers to partially-shaded areas of the garden. Variegated-shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) has large leaves featuring stripes of green, cream and yellow coloring. It produces pink, shell-shaped flowers in the warm months, and the leaves remain green year round. While shell ginger does tolerate some freezing, the roots cannot survive in frozen soils. If the ground in your area freezes in winter, plant shell gingers in containers or dig the root rhizomes from the bed and move them indoors before frost.
Plant shell ginger in area that receives partial shade or filtered sunlight. Direct sun fades the striping on the leaves.
Work a 2-inch layer of compost into the soil before planting new ginger plants. Compost adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil while also improving drainage. Spread a fresh 2-inch layer of compost around established ginger plants each spring.
Water the shell ginger when the top 1 inch of soil just begins to feel dry, usually once a week for outdoor plants and once every one to two weeks for indoor potted ginger. Moisten the top 6 inches of soil.
Fertilize shell ginger every four weeks in spring and and summer. Apply a soluble, balanced fertilizer at the rate recommended on the package.
Cover the plant with a 4-inch layer of leaf or straw mulch in fall once nighttime temperatures begin dropping below 35 degrees F. The mulch protects the plant from light frosts and helps insulate the soil.
Dig up the rhizome after the first fall frost in areas where the soil freezes in winter. Loosen the soil around the rhizome, then slide the trowel under the root and lift it from the soil. Plant it in a pot at the same depth it was growing in the ground.
Overwinter potted shell ginger indoors in a window that receives at least five hours of sunlight a day. Transplant it back to the garden after frost danger is past in spring.