Shampoo ginger (aka pine cone lily or pine cone ginger) adds a tropical flair to the landscape and can be used in the shower. Its foliage looks comparable to other gingers, but the inflorescence is where it gets interesting. In the fall, the flowers appear within bracts that resemble red pine cones. As the name implies, squeezing these cones causes them to release a clear liquid that can be bottled and used as shampoo!
Shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet) is semi-evergreen and grows in large clumps that are up to seven feet tall and six feet wide. It thrives in zones 9 through 11 and will die back in the winter. The leaves are 8 to 12 inches long and lanceolate in shape. Foliage appears in the spring, and it can be either solid green or variegated depending on the variety. ‘Darceyi’ is particularly showy with green and white foliage.
In the fall, three- to five-inch-long inflorescences resembling pinecones appear on stalks that are just under a foot tall. They start out green with white flowers, then ripen to scarlet and fill with liquid. The cones have a sweet fragrance and are highly favored for floral arrangements. They will persist for weeks if left on the plant.
Planting and Care
Shampoo ginger can be planted year-round. It works as a specimen plant, border, or accent plant. You can also plant it in containers indoors or outdoors.
The ideal planting site is in partial shade to partial sun, with moist, fertile soil. Shampoo ginger is moderately salt and drought tolerant. Pests and diseases are rarely an issue, but you may encounter mites. Shampoo ginger makes an excellent passalong plant since it is propagated by division.
Once your cones have turned red, they’re ready to harvest! To collect the “shampoo” liquid from the cones, gently squeeze them over a container. They will refill by the next day if they aren’t squeezed too hard. You can also harvest the cones and then firmly squeeze them over a container to harvest all the liquid. Just keep in mind that the cones will be spent after this method. If you’re harvesting in advance, you can freeze the shampoo liquid for later.
For more information on shampoo ginger, contact the experts at your county Extension office.