Over the years I’ve grown lots of different plants from bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and corms. I often laughed when planting instructions provide information on what is the top of the bulb and what is the bottom. I thought it was obvious… that is until this past week.
Recently I’ve been growing more tropical plants in the summer garden. I have the standard canna lilies and hibiscus but I also like to try growing more unusual plants. This year I found rhizomes of curcuma for sale at Roberta’s Unique Gardens and knew that this was the new tropical for 2012.
Curcuma (Curcuma alismatifolia) aren’t very common. I’d never heard of the flower until a few years ago when I was working for a florist and we used them for a wedding. This member of the ginger family is originally from Nepal and has interesting flowers that are sometimes called Siam Tulips.
The rhizomes of the curcuma arrived this week and when I opened the package, I was shocked. I didn’t know whether I was looking at a plant or a “cootie” from the ’60’s Hasbro game! There was a small knob of tissue that had some roots coming off of it, each ending in a bulbous knob. All I could think was “What the….?”
I might have laugh at planting guides in the past, but this time I read it closely. I thought I knew what was the top and what was the bottom but I had to check to make sure since this didn’t look like any rhizome I’d ever seen.
Rhizomes are fleshy stems used for storage of food and water. Plants like iris, canna lilies and ginger produce rhizomes. However the curcuma goes one step further in storing food and water. It develops a rhizome but also produces marble-like knobs on its roots for additional storage. The top of the plant is the rhizome; the knobs are the bottom.
The curcuma has already been a learning experience for me. Now that I know “which end is up,” I’ll be planting them in the coming week and will look forward to seeing this interesting tropical grow and bloom.
And I’ll never laugh at a planting guide again!