In Between Seasons

The Blooming Asian Globba

By Virginia Hayes

October is sort of an in-between season in southern California
gardens. The summer flowers are fading, and warm weather is still
upon us so cool-growing ones aren’t yet thriving. In my garden,
though, there is one stunning plant that is just hitting its
stride. It is Globba wintii. This ginger relative is native to
Thailand and Vietnam, and you might pass it by thinking it was too
tropical to do well in our moderate climate. A quirk of its life
cycle, however, makes it a good choice for fall.

During the coldest months of the year, the foliage dies down and
the tuberous roots remain dormant until spring prompts them to grow
again. Then the plant sends up numerous shoots, about two feet in
height, that eventually hold several boat-shaped leaves with a
narrow “drip tip” characteristic of tropical plants. At the end of
the summer, each of these shoots will also sport an arching spray
of exotic-looking flowers. The flowers themselves are small and
yellow, but their narrow throats and the large hot pink bracts that
enclose them create quite a show.

Because Globba requires good drainage and constant moisture to
do well, growing them in containers may be the easiest way to
monitor these conditions. When the flower cycle is finished and the
foliage begins to wither, cut back on the water. Warmer
temperatures will prompt new growth and then you can resume a
regular watering schedule. Grow them in full to half shade and if
you do plant them into the garden, be sure to mark their position
as you would any deciduous bulb, so that they remain undisturbed
during their rest period.

As with many plants that at some time caught the fancy of
gardeners, there are some selections of Globba with other color
combinations. There is a pure white variety called “White Dragon”
and another that has leaves with a reddish underside called “Red
Leaf.’” Other named cultivars have been developed in Hawaii and
marketed widely. Most will be found through catalog sales, but
don’t be shy about asking for them at your area retail nursery.

October Tips • Start cool season vegetables such as peas,
spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli from seed now
or buy young plants. • If you still have a lawn of Bermuda grass,
cut it on the lowest setting and over-seed with a perennial
ryegrass mix. • Start the fall cleanup of old perennial leaves and
flower stalks and rake up leaves of orchard trees that were
affected by fungal diseases this spring. Compost them (make sure
the pile reaches temperatures of 116-130 degrees for at least three
days to kill the pathogens) or send them to the green waste
recycling facility.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland,
will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The
Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to


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