Wild ginger is a native wildflower with heart-shaped, light green leaves and unusual, brown and white flowers. It is a rhizomatous perennial plant that grows in forests and woodlands in Eastern North America. It forms colonies and is used as a groundcover in shady areas. The stems have the scent of ginger and were used by early Americans as a substitute for the unrelated culinary ginger (Zingiber officionale). The plants produce a pair of leaves at the ends of the stems and in the spring, a flower is produced at the base of the leaves. The flowers are cup-shaped and consist of 3 petal-like sepals with recurved, pointed apices. The sepals are maroon-brown and the center of the flower has an intricate, brown and white pattern and brown stamens. Wild ginger is deer resistant and the foliage is very ornamental. It is grown in woodland gardens, native plant gardens and naturalized areas. Hardy in zones 4-7.
The seeds are stored in a refrigerator to maintain viability.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be sown outdoors where they can germinate naturally or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy.
Sowing: To break this seed's dormancy, mix it with moist sand and store it in an 80 degrees F location for 60-90 days, followed by 60-90 days in the refrigerator. For fall planting, only the warm period is needed since the winter will provide the necessary cool period. Direct sow the treated seed in spring, sowing the seeds just below the surface and keeping the soil moist until germination. If the soil dries out, germination will be greatly reduced or delayed.
Growing: This plant prefers moist but well drained soil and shade. It grows very slowly, though once established it is a hardy and low maintenance plant. Over time, it spreads by rhizomes and will form a colony. Though it tolerates some drought, it grows best if watered occasionally. A mulch of leaves will help conserve moisture and improve the soil. This plant makes an excellent low ground cover for woodland or shaded areas. The foliage attracts butterflies, especially the Pipevine Swallowtail; it also resists deer.