Garden Photo of the Day

Gingers that every gardener should grow

Click here to enlarge this photo. European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8) is dark and shiny, and its rounded, overlapping leaves form a thick carpet. It grows up to 3 inches tall and more than 12 inches wide. It prefers partial to full shade and fertile, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Our trip to Pennsylvania last week coincided perfectly with the rhododendron and the primrose blooms, which were stunning, but I was equally impressed with the gingers. It’s still early days out there, which means the gingers’ beefy, rounded leaves stand out all the more, forming a thick carpet that shades out any potential for late-germinating weeds in the coming weeks. Gingers come in a variety of textures and patterns. Here are the most common. ***Be sure to click on all three photos and read their captions for more info on each plant.

Click here to enlarge this photo.
Chinese wild ginger (Asarum splendens, Zones 5-9) has elongated, silver-marked leaves that are dramatic and eye-catching. It grows up to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide.  It prefers partial to full shade and fertile, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
Click here to enlarge this photo.
Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense, Zones 2-8) has matte leaves that are a bit more understated than the other two, but it makes up for it in hardiness! It grows up to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. It prefers partial to full shade and fertile, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais


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  1. Deanneart 05/26/2011

    These are truly fantastic plants for difficult shade areas. Lovely foliage that always looks fresh regardless of what the weather throws at us. Beautiful photos of a great plant Michelle.

  2. grayjohnson 05/26/2011

    Isn't this wild ginger terribly invasive? Gray

  3. Peaceofpie 05/26/2011

    Hi Michelle:
    We are visiting in Washington DC in September 2011 and I was wondering what gardens you would recommend to visit while there?
    thanks for the info

  4. MichelleGervais 05/26/2011

    Peaceofpie, definitely visit Dumbarton Oaks!! ( It's so wonderful. Also, I highly recommend the Smithsonian gardens on the mall (

    grayjohnson, I've never heard of these wild gingers being invasive, and they're not listed as invasive on the Invasives Atlas ( Have you had trouble with them?

  5. perennialgrdnr_z4b 05/26/2011

    While not terribly invasive, the Canadian wild ginger, Asarum canadense, can be considered a somewhat agressive groundcover for shady areas. It will creep along by rhizomes, and can be easily dug up, but its seeds can be carried far and wide and it can be an agressive reseeder. The seedlings are recognizable and easy to pull except for their numbers!

  6. DreamGardener 05/26/2011

    I can personally attest to the Wonderfulness of the European Wild Ginger when planted with Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa aurea). Beautiful, subtle counterpoint for a shade area - I especially love it planted amongst Rocks. And the European stuff is a lovely, Slow spreader. Very gentle...

  7. Happily_Gardening 05/26/2011

    The leaves of the European and Canadian Wild Ginger look similar to/shaped like that of Wild Violets, at least to me they do. Wild Violets are considered invasive and I can attest once planted and taken hold they will run around a yard...but gosh the flowers are so pretty. So far I myself haven't seen any harm in their spreading and leaping ways...just find them popping up in unexpected, unplanted places.

  8. JenniferArmentrout 05/26/2011

    Ooh, I love that Chinese ginger! Have you seen it at any of our local nurseries?

  9. grayjohnson 05/26/2011

    I have something in my yard that smells like ginger and looks like your european wild ginger, but my leaf is just a little more ruffled. It is the most invasive plant I have ever seen. It's also evergreen with a small blue flower in the spring.

  10. grayjohnson 05/26/2011

    I forgot to add HELP to this post...... as in, what could this possibly be?

  11. sheilaschultz 05/26/2011

    The roundish, glossy leaves are a bit of heaven in the shade garden! I so appreciate these plants. Think about their shape and the delightfully swelled leaves plus the shine on so many... they are a treasure

  12. arboretum 05/27/2011

    peaceofpie, michelle's suggestions are right on. the edith haupt garden- next to the national gallery- is really fun. also the botanical garden(on the mall)and the amazing very diverse gardens at The National Arboretum. you might also want to post on the VA forum of and ask for suggestions.

    The largest greatest garden on the east coast is 1.5 hrs north of D.C. at Longwood Gardens, just fyi, depending on your time.

  13. arboretum 05/27/2011

    michelle, i saw the splendens and let out a major "oooh-ee!"
    but to share feedback w/ readers> here in z.5 it's barely/not hardy. at least that's our experience here(would that it were not so.)Btw, the National Arboretum has an incredible collection of gingers around its main building.
    That, the conifers collection and the bonsai collection- are my fav things there!

  14. DreamGardener 05/27/2011

    @grayjohnson -
    what size is this plant with ruffled leaves & blue flower, and what zone are you that it's evergreen? IF it were CT, and IF the leaves were ~1" across, and not evergreen, I might think of Glechoma hederacea - aka "Ground Ivy" "Creeping Charlie" or "Gill-Over-the-Ground", a highly invasive creeper in the Mint family. Look at pics on Google Images & see if that's the culprit. If so, my condolences. At my house, we call it "the lawn"... -(

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