Kaempferia [kaymp-FER-ee-a] is a genus of plants native to India, China, and Southeast Asia. It is part of the ginger family Zingiberaceae and includes over 100 species.
The genus received its name from Engelbert Kaempfer, a German botanist.
Out of the more than 100 Kaempferia species, only a few varieties have found their way into homes:
- Kaempferia rotunda
- Kaempferia pulchra
- Kaempferia galanga
Rotunda is a demanding plant, but the other species are even more difficult to cultivate outside of the natural habitat.
These species produce bright, fragrant flowers, especially the rotunda variety.
However, the demanding plants require special care to increase the chance of a successful bloom.
Size and Growth
Most varieties of Kaempferia don’t grow very tall.
The rotunda variety produces leaves, reaching about 10” – 18” inches long. The leaves appear after the flowers.
It is known as the “peacock ginger” and the “resurrection lily,” not to be confused with Lycoris Squamigera also known as the “Resurrection Lily.” Kaempferia rotunda produces short, hollow stems and rhizome roots.
Mature plants may only produce three to four leaves. The upper surfaces of the leaves feature white markings while the undersides are purplish.
Flowering and Fragrance
Kaempferia produces fragrant little flowers with pink or white petals. The delicate flowers appear during the summer while the foliage grows after the bloom.
When the flowers wither at the end of the season, the leaves hold on for a bit longer before the plant goes dormant for the winter.
Light and Temperature
These plants grow best in warm temperatures. It’s cold hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8a or higher. In most of North America, it needs to grow indoors during the winter.
If possible, keep the plant in a spot with temperatures between 70° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 29° C) during the day and 60° – 65° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 18° C) at night.
Maintain warmer temperatures throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
During winter, the dormant plant survives temperatures between 60° – 68° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 20° C).
While it needs plenty of sunlight, but should not receive direct sunlight. If brought outdoors for the summer, shield the plant from the afternoon sun.
Watering and Feeding
Kaempferia plants require regular watering and misting throughout the growing seasons.
Maintain a high humidity level around the plant. If the room or outdoor air stays dry, mist it with a spray bottle.
Start adding plant food after the flowers appear in the summer. Use liquid plant fertilizer added to the water with every other watering.
Don’t feed or water the plant during the winter. After the flowers and leaves wither, the plant goes dormant for the rest of the season.
TIP: Gradually decrease watering and feeding when the leaves start to wither.
This allows the plant to adapt before going dormant slowly.
Soil and Transplanting
Use rich soil with added organic matter, such as compost or peat moss.
Due to the size of the leaves, choose a wide pot, unless planting outdoors.
For potted plants, repot every year at the start of spring using fresh soil.
If the plant grows outdoors, top off the soil with fresh compost or peat moss.
After the flowers and leaves wither, remove all withered parts before the plant goes dormant for the winter months.
It’s also possible to remove the roots for storage until the spring.
How To Propagate Kaempferia Lily
Propagate Kaempferia by division in the spring when repotting the plant.
Instead of simply removing the withered plant materials, remove the entire plant at the end of the season.
Place the roots in newspapers and store them in a dry spot. In the spring, before repotting the roots, divide them.
When choosing pots for new plants, remember to use wide pots to help support the long, wide leaves.
Add rich soil with good drainage, but ensure the soil remains moist, especially during the warmest months of the year.
The young plants don’t need any special care, other than plenty of sunlight and moisture.
Resurrection Lily Pest or Disease Problems
The biggest threats to the plant include dry air during the summer and moist air during the winter.
- If the plant is too cold and dry, the leaves may develop poorly and become pale.
- Keep the soil damp and ensure the plant receives bright sunlight.
- Mist it daily to encourage healthier growth during the summer.
- If the roots begin to develop fungus in the spring, it may have suffered from excess moisture during the winter.
- Before overwintering the plant, remove all withered plant materials to ensure the plant is dry enough for storage.
- The plant isn’t toxic, but it contains a toxin.
- The flowers contain benzyl benzoate, an ingredient commonly used in ointments for the treatment of scabies.
- It also contains antioxidant effects.
Suggested Kaempferia Uses
Due to the need for high humidity levels, this plant grows best in a greenhouse or enclosed area.
It also adds a lovely fragrance to any room where it’s grown but may require frequent misting in drier air.