Wild Ginger is a Good Groundcover

Featured Photo Credit: Michael Wolf, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Wild ginger is an effective ground cover. Its roots and stems have a powerful lemon ginger scent when crushed. The perennial plant known is indigenous to Eastern North America, extending from Canada to the Southern United States.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Asarum canadense

Botanical Family: Aristolochiaceae

Also Called: Canadian Snakeroot, Canada Wild GInger

En français: Gingembre sauvage, asaret du Canada

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Moist, has poor drought tolerance until established.

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

Appearance

Wild ginger plants range in height from 6 to 10 inches and tend to spread 12 to 24 inches. It has two hairy heart-or kidney-shaped leaves that grow directly from the rhizome. The rhizome is green and grows just at or immediately below the surface. The brownish-purple flower is hidden close to the ground at the base of the leaves.

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The evergreen, kidney- or heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger plants are non-invasive and typically develop somewhat sluggishly. Growing wild ginger is a great option in a forest garden as a ground cover for shade or mass plantings because it is adaptable and simple to grow. Wild Ginger is a great alternative for covering a large area, as it also eliminates weeds.

Caring for Wild Ginger

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should not require much pruning, except when necessary, such as to remove dieback.

It is easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil, in part shade to full shade. Asarum canadense prefers constantly moist, acidic soils in heavy shade.

Trilliums, ferns, bellwort, trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, and blue cohosh are all good companion plants.

Propagating Wild Ginger

Asarum canadense spreads slowly by rhizomes to form an attractive ground cover for shade areas.

Wild Ginger does not usually grow well from seed. The simplest way to grow some in your yard is to transplant some from dense colonies which often form in woodlands. Dig in the early spring, when the new plants are just emerging.

If it is positioned properly, it will grow quickly and form dense masses. Because it grows best in moist environments, it might draw the attention of snails and slugs, who might eat the leaves. To some extent, these infestations can be avoided by removing extra mulch and leaf debris from the ground. The exoskeletons of beetles, known as diatomaceous earth, can be put nearby to get rid of slugs and snails safely.

Light

The plant is found in shaded locations and doesn’t require much sunlight to thrive. In fact, in the summer, direct sunlight can burn the leaves. Plant it in a location with full to partial shade to keep it happy.

Temperature and Humidity

The majority of wild ginger species are hardy to Zone 4. Thus they should survive the winter in the majority of temperate locations. They won’t thrive in zones warmer than seven since they require chilly winter temperatures to complete their life cycle.

Soil

Like many other shade-loving woodland plants, wild ginger thrives on a rich, moist, slightly acidic soil with humus. The optimal soil for this nutrient-loving plant is organic soil. It is fairly picky about its soil.

Water Wild Ginger

As long as it is cultivated under adequate soil conditions, wild ginger doesn’t require further irrigation unless there is a drought. Add moisture-retaining additives that help promote good drainage, such as compost, peat moss, and used coffee grounds.

Is it edible?

Wild ginger has a delicate ginger flavor in its root. Native Americans demonstrated how to gather, dry, and crush the root for use as a spice to the European colonists. The colonists also used the root to make a kind of candied ginger by boiling it in sugar water. The remaining sugar water was then reduced and cooked into syrup to be used over pancakes and other meals.

Before attempting this, you should be informed that wild ginger root includes the cancer-causing compounds aristolochic acid and asarone. In fct, some people report skin irritation when touching this plant.

The root of wild ginger had a variety of medical purposes among Native Americans. They utilized it to treat common conditions, including colds, sore throats, coughs, and stomach problems. In addition, they utilized it to treat more severe conditions like typhus, convulsions, diarrhea, and scarlet fever.

Relation with Nature

This robust, deer-resistant plant has strangely unique blossoms as well. The flowers are located near the plant’s base at ground level, and despite frequently being obscured by the lush carpet of leaves, flying insects like gnats and ground-dwelling bugs do not miss them when pollinating. They are not the typical ginger that is edible and used in cooking. Ingestion of certain plant parts in excessive quantities can make them quite hazardous.

Sources and References

Ground Covers Unlimited

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