Planting curcuma bulbs left me with a feeling of, “I hope we did that right.” Slightly unsure, but pretty excited about the results. Curcuma are a beautiful group of flowering perennials for Florida, and as you can see here, the results are stunning. I’ve seen these offered for sale as potted plants at several of our local box stores, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to see them in this form.
Curcuma, also called Siam Tulips, are quickly gaining in popularity across the country. They are small in stature but big in impact with their long lasting blooms.
Curcuma bulbs look a lot like little octopuses. The top pointed part is the actual rhizome where new growth will emerge and the bulbous looking “tentacles” are modified roots for storage. Each variety is a different size, but the overall appearance is the same. The one shown here was nearly 5″ from top to bottom. Honestly, the smaller bulbs were easier to plant because they didn’t need quite as large of a hole for planting!
We started out by trying to find cultural information on how to plant these for best growth. Even the world wide web left us empty handed on this one!
How to Plant Curcuma
With our fingers crossed we planted these with the top of the bulb 2-3″ below the soil surface. After the holes were dug we simply held on to the top part of the bulb, extended the bulbous roots into the hole and proceeded to back fill with soil. Planting curcuma bulbs is no more time consuming or difficult than any other bulb. Yes, it does take some time and effort but mainly it is just digging.
We must have done something right because they look beautiful now. Sites were selected that receive a half day of sunlight or so, not extremely shady nor in full sun.
The new growth emerged with a grass-like blade and within about seven weeks the flower spikes began to shoot up between the leaves. These plants are extremely tropical looking and get tons of comments from our guests. Curcuma is a plant that I would say “plays well with others” because of its ability to be mixed in with other plants well and it isn’t overly aggressive.
This photo shows my absolutely favorite variety. This is Curcuma ‘Emerald Chocozebra Red’ and it has this unusual striping and a dark red color on the bottom of the flowers. This planting gets more sunlight than most of the others and I think this is the reason why this variety has been flowering so much over the past four months. I tend to like plants with unusual colors and patterns and it is about all I could do to leave them in the garden and not cut some for inside the house.
Planting Curcuma Plants
More and more, curcuma plants and curcuma bulbs are showing up at big box stores across the country. How does a gardener in Iowa keep curcuma? I would treat these as you would cannas, elephant ears or any other tropical bulb. If you have the space, it would be easiest to keep the curcuma in their pots and move them to a dark, cool area that is protected from extreme cold. For me, that would probably be our basement. I water minimally throughout the winter (once a month?) and, all of the leaves die off, but the bulb remains viable in the soil until spring.