Chinese Wild GingerAsarum splendens
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Chinese Wild Ginger is an exotic evergreen groundcover plant reaching about 8 inches tall, and growing to cover an area about 12 to 18 inches across. It has 4-inch leaves shaped like arrow-heads, that are a bluish-green with unique and beautiful silver markings on them. In spring strange, brown and purple flowers hide among the leaves. This rare plant fits perfectly into woodland areas in the shade of trees, among other shade-loving plants like Azaleas or Hostas. Plant it beside a path where it will mingle with other low-growing plants.
Partial-shade is ideal for Chinese Wild Ginger, which will also grow in light full shade. It is evergreen from zone 6 and it can be grown in zone 5 under a thick winter mulch of leaves. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil rich in rotted leaves and other organic material, and it needs absolutely no care at all – just admiration. It is generally free of pests or diseases, although slugs may be an occasional problem.
If your idea of the perfect garden is woody and natural, with plants mixing together in happy closeness, then the Chinese Wild Ginger is for you. If you love plants with leaves that have beautiful markings, then this charming plant is also for you. If you like to grow the unusual, and are fascinating with strangely-crafted blossoms, well, this plant is for you too. If you are all these things then you don’t really need to read anymore, just place your order – but of course if these things are you, then read on because we know you are already fascinated. As you should be, because the Chinese Wild Ginger is a unique and exotic plant that loves to grow in shady places, with attractively-marked leaves and exotic flowers you need to look for – they won’t find you.
The Chinese Wild Ginger is a low-growing, creeping, evergreen herbaceous plant that is just a few inches tall and spreads slowly to become a mat of foliage about 2 feet across. The thick, fleshy stems grow horizontally across the ground, adding a few leaves to the ends each year, but staying flat on the ground, eventually rooting as they go. This plant is too slow-growing to be in any way invasive or intrusive in areas where it isn’t wanted. If you scratch or cut the stems they smell of ginger, but this plant is not a true ginger (Zingiber officinale) and is in no way at all related to it. In fact the root of this plant is probably mildly toxic, containing poisons that can damage the kidneys, and a potent carcinogen as well. But don’t worry, if you don’t eat it – and pets will ignore it – it is perfectly safe to have in your garden.
The main feature of this plant are the beautiful leaves, which open more or less horizontal to the ground, overlapping each other. The leaves are shaped a little like a fat arrow head (‘cordate’) and about 4 inches long and 3½ inches wide. The surface is slightly glossy and the background color is blue-green with silvery markings on the surface. These leaves are evergreen, although in zone 6 some may fall in winter.
On a spring day, get down on your knees and part the leaves. Among them you might find the bizarre flowers of this plant. These are just an inch long, more like a strange sea animal than a flower. They are purplish-brown and marked with gray blotches, shaped like a vase, and lying among the leaves. They are pollinated by flies and even perhaps by slugs.
This interesting plant is an excellent groundcover for shady places in woodland gardens and among plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. It will mingle with other woodland plants beautifully, and be a real conversation piece. You could grow one or several along the side of a pathway, perhaps between other shade-loving plants like Hosta, which are also grown for the foliage. To cover a larger area, group the plants with a distance of 12 to 15 inches between them.
Chinese Wild Ginger is hardy and generally evergreen from zone 6 to zone 9, and possibly into zone 10 as well. It will lose most of its leaves in winter if temperatures fall below minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. With care it could be grown in zone 5, if you use a deep mulch of leaves over it for the winter months.
Avoid more than a little direct sun and grow Chinese Wild Ginger in partial or full shade. Beneath deciduous trees is ideal, and very much like its wild habitat. The soil should be moist and well drained, with plenty of leafy humus mixed with it. Both acid and alkaline soils are tolerated if they contain plenty of organic material.
A mulch in fall with some compost or rotted leaves is all the care your Chinese Wild Ginger needs. Generally it is free of pests or diseases, but you might need to use some slug pellets around it to protect it from those slimy pests. Just sit back and enjoy this exotic plant, and watch it develop slowly into a beautiful carpet beneath your trees.
Chinese Wild Ginger, Asarum splendens, is one of the most attractive species of Asarum, a group of plants related to the climbing plants called Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia). There are about 85 species, found in China, Asia, North America and Europe, but only a few are grown in gardens, and Asarum splendens is certainly, well, the most splendid of them all. It comes from western China, where it can be found growing on the floor of forests in Sichuan. Our resident plant experts suspect that the plant we are offering is actually the cultivar, ‘Quick Silver’, known for its more intense silver leaf patterns. However it wasn’t sold to us as that, so we can’t say for sure.
If you have a taste for the exotically beautiful, then Chinese Wild Ginger is for you. This kind of plant has an elite market, and it is hard to propagate, so we only have a handful of plants available. Order now, because we have no idea when or if we will ever have it again.