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Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) is a perennial tropical plant with distinctive colorful blooms. The entire shape of the bloom and flower stalk is said to resemble a torch, hence the plant’s common name. These showy plants flower seasonally on bare flower stalks with cone-shaped flower heads surrounded by large, slightly drooping bracts (petal-like leaves). On the plant’s upright stems grow leathery leaves that are around 3 feet long with a central groove. The flowers of torch ginger are used for floral arrangements, as well as in cooking for their sour-sweet flavor.

Torch ginger has a fairly quick growth rate and is best planted in the spring. In the warm, humid climate that it prefers, torch ginger grows quite large—up to 15 feet tall and almost as wide—and spreads in clumps.

Common Name Torch ginger, Philippine wax flower, ginger flower, red ginger lily, torch lily
Botanical Name Etlingera elatior
Family Zingiberaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 6–15 ft. tall, 4–10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Seasonal
Flower Color Red, pink, white
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia

Torch Ginger Care

Care for your torch ginger plant by emulating a tropical environment as closely as possible if you aren’t already in its native growing zones: This means plenty of water, heat, and humidity.

When planting your torch ginger, select a location that has protection from strong winds, which can damage its tall stems. Water young plants consistently, so the soil remains evenly moist. Mature plants still will require regular watering, as torch ginger has low drought tolerance. These plants also prefer regular feeding, especially if you have nutrient-deficient soil. Under the proper growing conditions, torch ginger doesn’t have any serious issues with pests or diseases


Torch ginger plants can grow in full sun to partial shade, meaning they need at least three hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, they will appreciate some protection from the harsh afternoon sun, which can scorch the foliage.


While they can tolerate a variety of soil types, torch ginger plants thrive in organically rich soil with sharp drainage. They prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. The soil also must be high in potassium, which assists the plants in water uptake.2 Doing a soil test before planting can let you know whether you need to amend your soil.


Torch ginger prefers consistently moist soil but not persistently soggy conditions. This species can tolerate being waterlogged for a short time, but eventually, this will cause root rot. Plan to water whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of soil has dried out, especially during the warmest months of the year.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants thrive in warmth and humidity. They have no tolerance for frost and prefer temperatures to remain consistently above 50 degrees. In dry climates, a layer of mulch around the torch ginger can help to retain soil moisture. However, the plants still might fail to grow well.


Feed torch ginger plants throughout the growing season (spring to fall) with a fertilizer that’s high in potassium, following label instructions. Adding a mix of compost into the soil also can help to boost its level of organic matter.


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