How to grow ginger
Big, bold, beautiful foliage is always a stand-out addition to the garden, and amazing, colourful flowers are a huge bonus. Ginger delivers both of these things brilliantly!
What you need to know about ginger
Name: ginger (various species including; Zingiber officinale sp., Alpinia sp., Costus sp., Curcuma sp., Etlingera sp. and Hedychium sp.)
Plant type: mostly evergreen, flowering, upright leafy perennials growing from often large rhizomes (underground storage roots).
Height: from 30cm to 5m.
Foliage: varies, but always lush and generally large.
Climate: tropical and sub-tropical, with some species in warm temperate, and in micro-climates in cool temperate.
Soil: well-drained, generally moist soil with additional organic matter.
Position: varies—shade through to full sun.
Flowering: spring through to summer, depending on variety.
Feeding: annual controlled-release fertiliser supplemented with composted organic matter.
Watering: most varieties require reliable moisture.
Appearance and characteristics of ginger
Fresh ginger roots are used in many Asian cuisines, and have many health properties, making ginger a very popular plant to grow. Many gardeners outside of the tropics and sub-tropics look with envy at the gorgeous ginger varieties, mistakenly believing that they can’t grow them. The reality is that ginger is a very diverse group of plants, with some tolerant of a surprisingly wide range of conditions.
Ginger has the following characteristics:
Aromatic, plump rhizomes (roots) are widely used as a spice.
Upright stems carry large, lush foliage that just screams “tropical”.
Leaves are more or less oval-shaped, with pointed ends. Width varies according to the species.
Some varieties have variegated or coloured leaves.
The plant generally forms dense clumps or stands.
Flowers range from subtle to outrageously flamboyant, and even bizarre, in the case of the beehive and shampoo gingers.
Many flowers are fragrant.
Ginger has two main flowering habits:
- On the end of the shoots, such as seen on Costus, Alpinia and Hedychium sp.
- Ground shoots, technically called basal shoots, as seen on Zingiber and Etlingera sp.
Uses of ginger
Edible forms, including Zingiber (common ginger), Alpinia officinarum (galangal), Curcuma domestica (turmeric), Alpinia calcarata (cardamom ginger) and Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger) are used as spices, herbs and teas.
Ginger can grow indoors or outdoors for culinary purposes. It can also be grown as a backdrop or filler plant in tropical or tropical-themed gardens, or as a bold foliage statement plant.
Use plants of different sizes to create a layered effect. Ginger is especially useful in shady gardens for adding form and colour, and colourful flowering forms make striking feature plants.
How to plant and grow ginger
Check the label carefully, as conditions vary greatly with the different species and varieties. Your ginger could require anything from full shade to full sun.
Almost all varieties of ginger like free-draining, moist soil that is rich with additional organic matter. It must have reliable moisture, especially across the warmer months. In cooler regions, do not allow your ginger to sit wet across winter.
How to plant ginger
Improve soil by blending through quality organic matter, such as composted cow manure or compost. Spread a controlled-release fertiliser at planting time—either use one that is fortified with organics, or add additional organic fertiliser. Soak in a bucket of diluted seaweed tonic before planting, and then water in well with the same.
When to harvest ginger
You can start harvesting ginger from four months after planting, a little piece of rhizome at a time. In colder areas, make sure you harvest all your ginger before the first freeze. In warmer areas, harvest when the leaves are yellow and the stems start to fall over.
How to harvest ginger
Using your hands, gently break the outer rhizomes apart and leave the rest to grow. Alternatively, you can also harvest the full rhizome.
How to maintain ginger plants
Ginger is surprisingly easy-care when given the right growing conditions. Feed your plant annually with a controlled-release fertiliser—ideally, one fortified with organics. Side-dress (mulch) around plants with well composted manure such as cow every spring. Keep your plant well mulched to prevent drying out in hot weather.
Pruning ginger plants
Ginger needs little pruning. Simply remove any flowers as they finish, and trim out dead or poorly looking stems.
Some species, such as the Curcuma, tend to die back a little in the cooler months. This is more likely in cooler regions. Don’t panic! Just tidy up the dead shoots and they’ll be back again come spring.
Diseases and pests
Ginger encounters very few pest problems. The main issues may result from rhizomes rotting if they are too wet. This can be avoided by planting in appropriate soil with good drainage.
The easiest way to grow new ginger plants is by dividing the rhizome. Lift the clump in late summer, while the weather is still warm, and clean away the soil. Look for actively growing sections that have distinct buds or eyes—these are new growth shoots waiting to take off.
Using a sharp garden knife or loppers, cut the rhizome into sections that have at least one eye—preferably a few. Be careful not to make the sections too small. Plant them back into a suitable quality soil, or in pots in premium potting mix, and keep reliably damp in a warm spot.
If you like this then try
Cordyline: the perfect colourful foliage companion for your gingers.
Hibiscus: no tropical-look landscape is complete without a colourful Hawaiian hibiscus.
Bamboo: when you need some extra shade or shelter, you can’t go past clumping bamboo.
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