Content Detail

Wild-ginger is an Illinois native wildflower that can be used as a ground cover. It is known for its hairy, heart-shaped leaves. This plant flowers in spring, but the flowers are held low to the ground and are often overlooked. This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

  • Family (English) Pipevine
  • Family (botanic) Aristolochiaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous, Other
  • Shape or form Creeping
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and Method of spreading: 

Wild-ginger is a relatively short plant, usually staying under 6 to 8 inches high. It is a colonizing ground cover. Colonizing ground covers produce underground stems that spread out horizontally and shallowly, produce roots and then send up new shoots. These plants are strong growers and may have the potential to grow aggressively.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Native to the Chicago region and Illinois. Common in moist to slightly dry wooded areas. C-Value:  7

Leaf description: 

The leaves arise from the base of the plant (basal). They are heart-shaped with entire margins. Both the leaves and leafstalks are pubescent (hairy).

Flower description: 

Flowers of wild-ginger are often overlooked as they are held below the foliage and are brownish-purple in color. The small flowers are produced in spring and have three triangular sepals that curl backward.

Fruit description: 

The fruit is a capsule and not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

Wild-ginger grows best in partial to full shade and needs a consistent supply of moisture.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

No common problems other than slugs. Tolerant of deer and black walnut toxicity.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift