In the Garden

Michael Miyashiro

Friday, August 27, 2004


Dancing Girl dons
orchidlike blooms

The graceful arching flowers of the Dancing Girl or Jewels are in season and can be seen in many garden stores now. This deciduous member of the ginger family produces multiple stems of gingerlike foliage all terminating in a hanging stem of attractive colorful bracts with small orchidlike blooms.

This feature is what makes the Dancing Girls an attractive garden subject. Whether you have them growing in a pot or a hanging basket, these jewels brighten any spot.

They are seasonally deciduous. That means that the beautiful flowering stems will dry and wither away after this show is over.

The plants are in bloom from early June through December, and the fading stems sometimes remain until January. It's best to dry these plants thoroughly and remove the soil for dormancy. They keep best in a paper bag in a cool dry spot. Refrigeration is not recommended unless the temperatures are higher. Their rest period varies from three to four months, depending on when they were stored.

In the fourth month, they should be planted in a pot. They like a well-draining but heavy mixture of peat and any draining additive (perlite, cinders, fir bark, etc.). The roots spread quickly in the pot with fine feeder roots soon becoming root bound.

The plants like ample water during the growing season with heavy feeding of any fertilizer high in the middle number (phosphorus). Busier growers should try a timed-release fertilizer, like Osmocote, to keep plants fed automatically, when watering.

The plants sometimes produce a single stalk of bloom followed by many secondary and tertiary stems bearing clusters of flowers. So don't let the sight of a single stalk deter you from buying a plant that suits your color preference. They all form thick clumps of flowers in time.

The Dancing Girl is best grown in shaded, protected areas, and natural rainfall is beneficial for quick growth and flowering. Plants like regular watering and can stand some flooding with no problem.

Pests to watch out for include sucking insects, which can be dealt with by systemic use of insecticide or a squirt of hot water from a mist bottle.

These plants can stay indoors when in full bloom and can be enjoyed like orchid plants, with repeat blooms indoors.

But best growth for new shoots emerging is still under natural but shaded conditions.

Try some of these jewels today. They come in a variety of colors with newer colors added every year!

Michael Miyashiro is owner of Rainforest at Ward Warehouse. Contact him at 591-9999 or e-mail rainforesthawaii@aol.com. "In the Garden" is a Friday feature.

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