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Dancing Girls Perform Easily In Mississippi
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The air was so hot and muggy that I could hardly breathe, and trying to look dapper, I found myself glistening (sweating) profusely. But there they were Dancing Girls performing to the utmost in a climate that seems so extreme this summer.
Who are these Dancing Girls you might ask? The Dancing Girls, also known as Dancing Ladies, are one of the most beautiful and overlooked gingers we can grow. Botanically speaking, the Globba marantina are native to Southeast Asia. Those of you familiar with the plant may have gotten used to its old botanical name, Globba schomburgkii. But like many other plants, the name has been changed to keep you on your toes.
My fancy, high-priced reference books, say they are a zone 9 plant. While they do grow well and naturalize there with ease, I have seen them return in Yazoo City and lower zone 7 regions. There they go dormant in the winter to return in the spring. This species not only returns in the spring, but it has loads of little plants called bulbils for further use around the landscape.
The Dancing Girl gets about 24 to 30 inches tall and each stalk produces a bright yellow cluster of flowers hanging down 6 to 8 inches that keeps blooming into fall. The blooms are best described as pendulous racemes of green bracts with bright yellow flowers.
The foliage is handsome and tropical-looking. The Dancing Girl, like most gingers, does best in the filtered light of tall trees or early morning sun followed by shade. Prepare the bed with lots of organic matter to encourage a larger, more vigorous plant. Those grown in tight clay live, but seem diminished in size of plant and bloom.
The Dancing Girl combines nicely with other gingers, upright elephant ears, bananas and philodendrons for a lush look. Lilac- colored impatiens planted to the sides or rear also looksharp.
Dancing Girls and other gingers need plenty of moisture and fertilizer to keep them growing vigorously. Feed in early spring just prior to shoot emergence and again in mid-summer with a slow-release 2-1-2 ratio (10-5-10) fertilizer with minor nutrients or balanced (8- 8-8) with minor nutrients. Don't let it touch the stalks. Remove frost bitten stalks and add a good layer of mulch to assist in winter protection. Divide clumps every three to five years as needed.
The Dancing Girls aren't the only Globba species worth trying. The Globba Wintii, called mauve Dancing Girl, produces knockout burgundy-colored bracts with yellow flowers. Globba arosanguinea has bright red bracts with yellow flowers. Both grow well in South Mississippi.
The Dancing Girls aren't the only gingers strutting their stuff right now. The scarlet ginger (Hedychium coccineum), butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium), hidden ginger (Curcuma petilolata) and pine cone ginger (Zingiber zerumbet) are all blooming within a few miles of my computer.
All are little known by the general gardening public because they haven't tried them and they are sometimes a challenge to find. If you aren't growing these plants, remember that many gardeners in other states would give just about anything to grow gingers like we can in Mississippi.
Our summers do resemble the old movies where gold seekers are trekking through a steamy jungle, carving out a path with a machete, sweat pouring off their bodies as every insect known to man attempts to devour them. But gingers like the Dancing Girls make them much more bearable.