Name: ginger (Zingiber officinale), ornamental gingers (Alpinia sp., Hedychium sp.), crepe ginger (Costus sp.), torch ginger (Etlingera 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.
Fresh ginger roots (Zingiber officinale) 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.
Edible forms, including Zingiber (common ginger), Alpinia officinarum (galangal), 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.
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.
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.
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.
Using your hands, gently break the outer rhizomes apart and leave the rest to grow. Alternatively, you can also harvest the full rhizome.
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.
Ginger needs little pruning. Simply remove any flowers as they finish, and trim out dead or poorly looking stems.
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 using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Cordyline: the perfect colourful foliage companion for your gingers.
Hibiscus: no tropical-look landscape is complete without a colourful Hawaiian hibiscus.
Clumping bamboo: when you need some extra shade or shelter, you can't go past clumping bamboo.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!