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Pile of turmeric
The turmeric plant generally takes centre stage for its culinary and medicinal properties, but it's a fantastic garden plant, too.


What you need to know about turmeric

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.

Appearance and characteristics of turmeric

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.


Uses for turmeric

Turmeric can be grown for many uses, including:

  • Fantastic addition to the tropical-look landscape
  • Great for filling gaps in shady areas
  • Add to your herb and vegie garden— the leaves can be used to wrap fish and other foods for baking, and the rhizome has a multitude of culinary uses, either fresh or dried
  • Grow for cut flowers

Planting turmeric

  1. Open up the surrounding soil using a garden fork.

  2. Blend through a quality compost or well-composted manure.

  3. Add a controlled-release fertiliser.

Growing turmeric

For best results, grow your turmeric in the following conditions:

  • Sunlight: must have part shade or dappled light. Rhizome development will be very slow if shade is too heavy.
  • Aspect: needs a sheltered location protected from wind.
  • Soil: turmeric will grow best in a rich, quality, free-draining soil or premium potting mix.
  • Water: this is the biggest concern for those growing turmeric in New Zealand. In its natural region, turmeric will receive as much as 2000mm of rain a year, so it must have reliable moisture. That said, it will not tolerate waterlogging.

Caring for turmeric

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.

How and when to prune turmeric

The only pruning the turmeric plant requires is the removal of dead or damaged leaves, and of flowers and leaves as the season finishes.

Diseases and pests affecting turmeric

The most likely problems encountered with turmeric will relate to poor drainage—root rots, fungal problems etc.

How to propagate turmeric

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.

Safety tip

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.

If you like this then try

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.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.