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Explore the Virtues of Wild Ginger for your Garden

Kristina Valle, Master Gardener

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Explore the Virtues of Wild Ginger for your Garden

Now that we’ve rounded the corner from April to May, it’s off to the races, back to the garden centers to do some window shopping and more often than not, bring home a new addition (or 20).  As I continue to develop my garden, now entering its 4th growing season, I reflect back on what has worked, what can be removed and gaps I need to fill.  This season I am focusing on ground covers, specifically Wild Ginger, which can be added as a beneficial plant, address a difficult site, and create a point of interest in the garden.  

Note - Wild Ginger is inedible and should not be confused with the Ginger that you might find in a grocery store. 

This Minnesota native plant has soft, heart-shaped leaves with a smaller heart-shaped cutout where the leaf meets a fuzzy stem.  Wild Ginger will grow approximately 8 inches in height, making it perfect to be placed in front of leggy plants and has a spreading nature of approximately 15 inches. 

Hardy to Zone 2, this tough plant can make it through some of the worst winters and come out the other side healthy and thriving.  Wild Ginger does well in both shade and part shade locations making this plant optimal below the canopies of more mature trees or in north facing gardens. Gardeners should use caution though, if planting in a space that receives a lot direct sunlight, as the leaves could burn. Wild Ginger can tolerate some drought but prefers moist, not wet, well-draining soil.  

A true “set it and forget it” plant, pruning will not be necessary unless you are clearing away dieback or want to create a more compact spread.  Wild Ginger is a slow growing plant that spreads underground, through rhizomes.  In the early spring, shallow lateral root systems make division and transplanting easy.  

This versatile plant is used as a unique ground cover that provides many solutions and benefits in a garden.

Best Suited Spaces
  • Rain Garden

  • Shade Garden

  • Woodland Garden 

  • Native Plant Garden

Problem Solver 
  • Erosion control on slopes

  • Ground Cover 

  • Weed Suppressant 

  • Early Pollinator 

The first thing that caught my eye when I considered Wild Ginger was its attractive spreading nature.  If there is one thing gardeners are not fond of, it’s weeds.  This workhorse plant will push out competing non-native, invasive spreading plants and weeds, giving you more time to enjoy your garden and less time fussing over uninvited guests.  

At first glance, you might not suspect that Wild Ginger contributes to early pollination, but it does!  Hidden beneath the leaves of this ground cover plant, you will discover a brownish purple jug shaped flower that sits near the base of the plant.  This flower can attract some lesser-known pollinators, such as ants and pollinator flies which are looking for food sources as the snow begins to melt.  

Diversity is the key to a healthy garden.  Consider adding some Wild Ginger to your landscape, it will not disappoint, and be sure to check out our article on Gardening in Shade to discover some other shade loving ground cover options.

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension (1) & Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Wisconsin Extension (2)

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