Alpinia nutans

Alpinia nutans

This evergreen plant from the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family has arching, glossy foliage, which is very aromatic. It is sometimes known as 'false cardamom' because of this characteristic. True cardamom, from which the culinary spice comes (Elettaria cardamomum), is a taller plant (to 3 m) with matt foliage that is covered in fine hairs, and which is not particularly fragrant! Alpinia nutans grows to about 1 to 1.5 m in height and grows via rhizomes to form a substantial clump over time. It will grow in basically any type of soil and prefers a position in part-shade. It doesn't demand a lot of water and doesn't seem to attract any pests or diseases.

Alpinia nutans with other shade-loving plants at Central Park, Sydney

It rarely flowers in cultivation (and mine certainly never has) but apparently the blooms resemble those of shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet). It is an excellent plant for a shaded, tropical-style garden area. The only maintenance required is to thin out the clump every few years in late winter and remove dead leaves occasionally. The plant comes from South-east Asia.