Curcuma: Plant A Summer Surprise

Curcuma: Plant A Summer Surprise

Curcuma is an underused tropical plant with gorgeous flowers and lush leaves.
Curcuma earned a place on my summer deck several years ago when my husband Doug and I bought a blooming pot of them. We’d never heard of curcuma, but have become fans for several reasons: the beautiful flowers, the lush leaves, and it's perennial (where I live, at least...)!

Curcuma’s colorful flowers are unusual -- a combination of the spire of a hyacinth and the spikiness of a pine cone. Brightly colored blooms top sturdy stems that rise out of a nest of big lush tropical looking leaves. The whole look is exotic!

But here’s the surprise: this plant is underused in summer gardens, possibly because many people may not understand its potential. It's a beautiful container plant, but it can also shine in the garden paired with caladiums, blue salvia, or hibiscus. 

This summer-flowering bulb is from Thailand and is sometimes called Siam Tulip. But it’s not related to the spring-flowering tulips, which are bulbs. Curcuma grows from rhizomes, like cannas and callas. If you look at the bloom you may recognize some similarities to curcuma’s closest relative: ginger.

Jorge Bernal, head grower of Blooming Tropicals for Research and Development at Costa Farms grows fields of curcuma (above) and is enthusiastic about this plant, in part because in his Miami location, it can be planted in the ground.  

But even if you don’t live in balmy Florida, you can enjoy curcuma all summer on your deck in a container or window box. Here’s how to overwinter curcuma anywhere that gets freezing temperatures in winter. You’ll enjoy watching it rise from the ground and burst into bloom each spring. They're typically hardy outdoors as perennials in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10.

Here are 5 things you should know about curcuma.

Written by Karen Weir-Jimerson