Name: turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Plant type: perennial, growing from a firm rhizome
Height: around 1m
Foliage: large, lush leaves, bright green, long and oval-shaped with a distinct pointy end. Will die back over winter in cooler regions.
Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, sheltered areas in warm temperate. Cool temperate in pots protected from cold and frost.
Soil: rich, free-draining.
Position: light shade or filtered light; avoid windy locations.
Flowering: mid to late summer.
Feeding: regular application of controlled-release fertiliser. Supplement with liquid seaweed or organic products, and side-dress with quality compost or manure in early spring.
Watering: reliable moisture at all times, especially during peak growth periods.
For thousands of years, turmeric has been cultivated and used in cooking across India, China and Japan. It is primarily used in cooking for the vibrant yellow colour it adds. Its flavour is quite different to, and not as intense as, its close cousin ginger (Zingiber officinale).
Turmeric is used to add a yellow to everything from mustards to cakes to custard. The turmeric plant has recently gained a lot of attention for its possible medicinal and therapeutic qualities.
Turmeric contains high levels of curcumin, a powerful, natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. And to top it off, it’s actually a beautiful, fragrant flowering plant that’s perfect for a warm-climate garden.
Turmeric’s large, lush paddle-like leaves are reason alone to add this plant to your garden. In cool regions the foliage will die back, and in warmer zones it will persist over winter and then be replaced by new shoots. Because it grows from widely spreading rhizomes, turmeric can form reasonably dense stands.
The fragrant summer flowers are a gorgeous bonus. They are held below the foliage, but are large spikes with multiple blooms on each. The individual flowers are generally white, sometimes a little yellow and some even have pink tinges. They make fabulous cut flowers, lasting very well in the vase.
Turmeric and ginger can look very similar when they’re growing, so it can be easy to get them confused. There’s an easy way to tell the difference. Expose a small section of rhizome. If it looks distinctly orange, it’s a turmeric plant.
Turmeric can be grown for many uses, including:
Open up the surrounding soil using a garden fork.
For best results, grow your turmeric in the following conditions:
If you can provide adequate warmth, moisture and quality soil, then growing turmeric is actually very easy and rewarding. It requires little care beyond tidying up at the end of the season. Annual applications of a controlled-release fertiliser supplemented with regular applications of liquid seaweed or organically fortified products during the growing season will give best results.
An annual side-dressing with a well-composted manure will improve the vigour and quality of growth.
If you want to harvest the rhizomes, you’ll need to add new rhizomes to the patch every few years.
The only pruning the turmeric plant requires is the removal of dead or damaged leaves, and of flowers and leaves as the season finishes.
The most likely problems encountered with turmeric will relate to poor drainage—root rots, fungal problems etc.
Turmeric is so heavily hybridised that it does not naturally produce any viable seeds. All propagation is conducted by dividing the rhizomes.
At the end of the growing season (generally autumn), lift the plants from the ground carefully using a garden fork. Divide the rhizomes up so that there are at least three or four “eyes” (new growth points) on each divided section.
In warm zones these can be planted back into the ground. In cooler areas, grow the turmeric plants in pots or trays of premium-quality potting mix and keep them warm until they have rooted well. They can then be planted out.
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.
Ginger: add some ornamental gingers to your garden for a stunning flowering display and massed tropical appeal.
Palms: palm trees look fantastic when grown with other tropical plants. There are varieties for most zones, too.
Bromeliads: many bromeliads will thrive in the same shady conditions that turmeric requires.
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