Alpinia zerumbet variegata also named, Alpinia speciosa, Alpinia nutans, Costus zerumbet, Zerumbet speciosum, Shell Ginger, is in the Ginger family and is native tropical China, Japan, India, Indo-China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Shell-flower was first botanically referred to as Alpinia speciosa but has been standardized Alpinia zerumbet. This plant is an evergreen tropical perennial. Typically, variegated shell ginger grows to about 6 feet tall in the greenhouse and 3-4’ tall as a houseplant, which is not as large as the non-variegated species, Alpinia zerumbet, which can grow to as much as 12 feet tall; and therefore more suitable as a container plant. This beautiful tropical plant is becoming a popular tropical house plant as well as a landscape plant in warmer climates.
Alpinia zerumbet variegata flowers are similar to Alpinia malaccensis but are distinguished from other members of the Ginger family by the fact that its flowers droop from the ends of leafy stems rather than rise directly from plant rhizomes. The fragrant flowers are waxy; light pink flower buds open to tubular flowers with yellow inside lips and red throats. It is commonly called Shell Ginger or Shell Flower because its individual shell pink flowers, particularly when in bud, ressemble sea shells.
The plant produces lance-shaped green leaves to 2 feet long and 5 inches wide. The leaves are strikingly variegated with irregular stripes of green and yellow. The habit is upright and does not require staking as do some other members of the family. It produces fleshy rhizomes that have a ginger-like aroma. Prune as needed to control plant size.
Hardiness zones 8-11, (5ºC/40ºF, -10ºC/15ºF) in Winter. It won't flower if its gets frost. The plant will die back with freezing temperatures. In cold climates, rhizomes can be dug up and stored indoors for the Winter in vermiculite.
As a houseplant, it must have bright light and humid conditions. They do well in any good garden soil that is rich in organic matter, and regular feeding with a balanced fertilizer will keep this plant healthy. This plant usually has few pest problems but the leaves will brown on the edges if the soil is not kept moist or if touched by frost. Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings. Part shade is ideal for this plant, it appreciates some afternoon shade in hot summer climates.