When you think of ginger do you think about the spice you find in grocery stores or do you think of beautiful tropical perennials grown in USA gardens? Chefs and great culinary artists are well aware of ginger, but gardeners are just beginning to learn about this fantastic group of tropical plants.
Edible ginger represents only a few of the nearly 1,300 species of plants in the Zingiberaceae family. Prized for their tropical look and durability, gingers have been used and enjoyed for centuries in the Far East. However, it’s only recently that lustrous leaves and exotic ginger flowers have caught the eye of curious Southern gardeners.
There are eight common kinds of gingers available in the marketplace today. These include Alpinias, Costus, Curcumas, Globbas, Hedychiums, Kaempferias, Siphonochilus and Zingibers. The plants in these groups range in size from ground cover to several feet tall, require shade to full sun, include those with large attractive flowers or small, discreet blooms. If you look long enough you will likely find ginger for nearly every garden spot or situation.
Butterfly ginger (Hedychium) is probably the most widely grown ginger. Its fragrant butterfly-shaped blooms are readily found in gardens where tropical plants are featured. As a group, butterfly gingers grow four to seven feet tall in full to the medium sun and are frequently used in combination with other annuals, perennials, and woody shrubs. Most of us have seen the beautiful white flowering version of butterfly ginger, Hedychium coronarium, but there are other outstanding butterfly gingers with flowers of yellow to peach, delicate orange, flaming orange, and white with a yellow center.
Besides butterfly ginger, the most recent additions to my garden are two from the Curcuma group. Last summer I added Curcuma cordata (Hidden ginger) and Curcuma alismatifolia, (Siam tulip). This growing season, the foliage of both gingers emerged in May from the rhizomes planted last year. Gingers need warm soil, above 55 degrees (F) to get them started.
The Siam tulip bloomed first and was cut for a beautiful, long-lasting fresh flower in mid-July. The hidden ginger, so-called for the way the blooms “hide” below the leaves, is blooming now. Everyone who sees these gorgeous flowers wants to know what they are and how to get them.
Plant ginger in loose soil or directly into a pot at the same depth they were previously growing as indicated by markings on the rhizome. Water thoroughly. From then on keep moist, but not wet. Tropical blend fertilizers are available or use one with a 3-1-2 ratio in spring and summer.
you can buy fertilizers from the amazon store here:
Ginger leaves will turn yellow in the fall and typically die back at first frost. To increase plants, divide in the spring. Add gingers to your landscape this summer for a truly dazzling effect. Rhizomes are usually not available during the dormant period, November through January.
How to Grow a Ginger Plant
Growing your own ginger is easy and rewarding. Once planted, ginger only needs water and patience to ripen into a delicious and spicy ingredient. This growing gardening guide focuses on edible ginger species, but most flowering species of ginger plants grow under similar conditions.
Start in early spring. edible Ginger root is a tropical plant that does not survive frost. Plant after the last spring frost or at the start of the rainy season if you live in the tropics.
If you live in a climate with a short growing season, you can grow the ginger plant indoors in a container or pots.
Choose your ginger plant. There are many types of ginger. To grow the most popular edible variety, Zingiber officinale, all you need is the ginger root from the grocery store. You can find vibrant flowering ginger plants in a nursery, but they are often inedible.
Choose plumped and wrinkle-free ginger root (technically root), with visible eyes (small dots) at your “finger” tips. Eyes that start to turn green are great, but they don’t have to be.
Buy organic ginger plants if you can. Inorganic ginger may have been treated with growth inhibitors. Some gardeners find that soaking in hot water overnight will help stimulate inhibitory plants.
This growing gardening guide covers Zingiber officinale (edible ginger). Most varieties of ginger plants grow under similar conditions, but for best results follow the nursery gardening directions.
Cut the rhizome into pieces (optional). If you want to grow more than one plant, cut the gingerroots with a sterile knife or scissors. Any piece at least 2.5 cm wide with one or more ginger eyes can grow into a separate plant. After cutting, leave the cuttings in a dry place for a few days to allow them to heal. They will form a protective callus on the cut surface, which will reduce the risk of infection.
Each piece of ginger requires 20 cm. A spot will likely sprout with three or more eyes.
Preparation of the Soil
Ginger feeds on high quality, well-drained soil. Mixing garden soil with an equal amount of rotting compost should do well.
If your soil is of poor quality or heavy clay, buy rich potting soil instead.
If you want to keep a close eye on the ginger, you can start with a starter tray filled with seaweed or coir.
These materials drain well, which
prevents the rotting of young plants. You will need to plant the
ginger in the ground as soon as the leaves and roots form, which
can cause shock to the plant. The ideal temperature for ginger
sprouts is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may need to use a heating
mat or other heat source to maintain the proper soil
Like most garden plants, ginger prefers moderately acidic soil. If the soil in your area is alkaline, adjust it to 6.1-6.5 pH using a garden kit.
Pick a Location
Ginger prefers partial shade or areas with only morning sun, away from large roots. The growth site should be protected from wind and moisture, but not from swamps.
If the ginger plant has not yet germinated, the soil temperature should be warm – ideally between 71 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius).
If you are growing ginger in a pot, choose a pot that is at least 12 inches deep. A plastic pot is better than clay, as long as you dig plenty of drainage holes in the base.
Ginger can grow in the shade in the tropics, but these places can be very cold in other latitudes. Try planting ginger in an area exposed to direct sunlight for two to five hours a day.
Grow Ginger Plant
Plant each piece of ginger 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) under loose soil, with the buds pointing upwards.
If you are planting in rows, separate each piece by 8 inches. If you are growing container plants, plant a piece for each large pot (14 inches / 35 cm in diameter).