By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Ginger is a pungent tropical herb used to add unmistakable flavor to a variety of food dishes. A powerful superfood, ginger contains antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, and many people value ginger for its proven ability to calm an upset tummy.
This warm-climate plant grows year round in USDA plant hardiness zones 9b and above, but gardeners in more northern climates can grow ginger in a container and harvest the spicy roots year round. Although you can start any time of year, spring is the optimum time for planting ginger in a container. Want to learn about growing ginger in containers? Read on.
How to Grow Ginger in a Pot
If you don’t already have access to a ginger plant, you can purchase a chunk of ginger about the size of your thumb or a little longer. Look for firm, light-colored ginger roots with bumpy little buds at the tips. Organic ginger is preferable, as regular grocery store ginger is treated with chemicals that prevent sprouting.
Prepare a deep pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Keep in mind that the thumb-size chunk may grow into a 36-inch (91 cm.) plant at maturity, so look for a large container. Fill the pot with a loose, rich, well-drained potting medium.
Soak the ginger root in a bowl of warm water for several hours or overnight. Then plant the ginger root with the bud pointing up and cover the root with 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) of soil. Water lightly.
Be patient, as growing ginger in a container takes time. You should see sprouts emerging from the root in two to three weeks.
Care for Ginger in Pots
Place the container in a warm room where the ginger root is exposed to indirect sunlight. Outdoors, place the ginger plant in a spot that receives morning sun but stays shady during hot afternoons.
Water as needed to keep the potting mix moist, but don’t water to the point of sogginess.
Fertilize the ginger plant every six to eight weeks, using fish emulsion, seaweed extract or other organic fertilizer.
Harvest ginger when the leaves begin turning yellow – usually about eight to 10 months. Bring container-grown ginger plants indoors when temperatures drop to about 50 F. (10 C.).
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Read more about Ginger Plants
How to Grow Ginger in Pots
Ginger is one of the most powerful and beneficial root plants you can buy, but what if you could have an endless supply grown right at home? Ginger can be expensive to purchase, and that’s why growing your own is highly recommended. Not only that, but growing your own ginger ensures that there are no pesticides or other harmful ingredients. Today we’ll show you how to grow ginger in pots and get a truly endless supply!
3 Easy Points Of Growing Ginger At Home
• The best time for planting ginger in the winter or spring months: you should make good use of these periods. If you live in very cold cities, it is advisable to evaluate the same periods in the balcony. You can kill roots in outer space.
• You need to check the ginger daily and provide the daily water requirement: For this reason, we recommend that you test the inside of your finger and balance the humidity even if the top of the soil is dried. It is important to water the plant without rotting!
• If you plant ginger in a large garden, you will need to fertilize from time to time: When choosing the fertilizer, you should pay attention to the low clay content. The ginger plant has a structure that does not like clay very much. You can choose plant fertilizer for garden and pot.
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Ginger and turmeric are widely used in cooking for their flavor and color. They are also used in Asian medicine to relieve inflammation, improve joint health, reduce blood sugar, and combat disease. Such properties have been attributed to gingerol and curcumin compounds. Dried ginger and turmeric are used in food packaging, capsules, drinks, and tonics. Fresh rhizomes are sought-after items for smoothies and Asian cooking, and can obtain high prices of up to $20 per pound from farmers’ markets or high-end grocery stores. Nursery owners can sell live ginger and turmeric container plants in the spring to consumers who want to grow and harvest their own product.
All About Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger and turmeric (Figure 1, see slideshow) are in the Zingiberaceae family, and are ancient crops domesticated centuries ago. There are about 150 species of Zingiber or ginger — 34 of them from India and 24 from China — and edible ginger is Zingiber officinale. Edible turmeric is Curcuma longa, and C. amada (C. mangga) is also edible and tastes like green mango. Curcuma caesia (black turmeric) has attractive leaves with a dark, central vein, rhizomes with dark-blue centers, a camphoraceous sweet odor, and it is used as a traditional medicine.
Cultivation. Ginger and turmeric are cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas, including India, China, Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Australia. Ginger grows in warm, humid climates and is cultivated from sea level to an altitude of 5,000 feet, while turmeric grows from 1,300 to 3,000 feet. Optimum growing temperatures are 68ºF to 77ºF, with low temperatures leading to dormancy. In warm areas, plants may require shade during the summer to avoid heat stress and foliar damage.
Planting. To plant ginger or turmeric in the spring, cut rhizome fingers (referred to as seeds) to 2 to 3 inches with two to four buds. The cut areas should be surface sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, and then the seed pieces are dried. Because sprouting of buds can be uneven, maintain seed pieces in a humid potting mix under 80% humidity before planting. Alternatively, tissue culture plantlets are available, which provide uniform and pathogen-free planting material. However, the yield and quality of the first-year harvest from tissue culture is usually lower than when planting rhizome seed pieces.
When planting containers, a well-aerated potting mix should be used, with components such as coarse coconut coir, peat, or bark. Tissue culture plantlets are planted at the crown, whereas seed pieces are planted about 2 inches below the surface. Enough empty space should be left at the top of the containers to allow for mounding of the plants twice, around 45 and 90 days after planting, which will help increase the rhizome size. Leaves can show tip burn if the substrate is not kept sufficiently moist, or if the fertilizer levels are either too low or too high.
Photoperiod. Ginger and turmeric are quantitative short-day plants for flowering and rhizome swelling. They require long day photoperiod (≥12 hours) for continuous growth without entering into dormancy, and gradually reduced daylength (≤ 11 hours) for rhizome production (Figure 2, , see slideshow). Therefore, as the temperature gets colder and the days are shorter in the fall, leaves turn yellow and plants enter dormancy. At this point, irrigation can be stopped and after three weeks the wilted plant tops can be cut off.
Harvesting. Three additional weeks may be allowed for rhizome drying before harvest. The harvest time after planting depends on the end use. Five months after planting is enough for rhizomes that will be sold as fresh vegetables, with low fiber and pungency, and with segments of green leaves attached. Rhizomes harvested between five and seven months after planting are suitable for curing and selling in retail, and for making preserves. Rhizomes with longer growing periods are more suitable to be dried or used to extract essential oils.
After harvest, wash rhizomes with high-pressure water to remove the soil, and then treat with 10% bleach solution for disinfection. Rhizomes to be used for seed can also be treated with fungicides. Storage should be at a low temperature and high relative humidity (55ºF and 70%) to prevent drying, and any diseased rhizomes should be discarded.
Ongoing Research to Determine Photoperiod, Rhizome Yield, and Ornamental Value
At the University of Florida (UF), we are evaluating different species and varieties of ginger and turmeric under two different photoperiods in the greenhouse (natural days, or long days by providing night interruption from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.). In the first year of our trials, shoots kept growing through the winter under artificial long days, but photoperiod did not affect rhizome yield.
Turmeric grown from rhizomes in our greenhouse had a higher yield (2.2 pounds per plant) compared with first-year tissue culture plantlets (0.6 pounds per plant). For ginger, there were no significant differences in yield between plants started from rhizomes or tissue culture plantlets, and plants yielded on average 1.8 to 2.2 pounds per plant (Figure 3, , see slideshow).
Large containers work best. We harvested only 0.8 pounds of rhizomes per plant of ‘Hawaiian Red’ turmeric in 2-gallon pots, whereas yields were 2.2 pounds per plant in 16-gallon pots.
We are now starting our second year of research and evaluation of species and varieties for rhizome yield, as well as ornamental value as greenhouse or landscape plants. We are also aiming to obtain uniform sprouting of seed pieces by evaluating treatments such as a water soak and hormone treatments with different concentrations of ethephon or benzyladenine (Figure 4, , see slideshow). Additionally, we will run chemical analyses on the rhizomes, and research the profitability and marketing of rhizomes as local fresh food or for use in the beverage industry.
Alternative crops such as ginger and turmeric provide niche alternatives that fit the consumer trend toward locally grown superfoods. Consider producing live or processed plants at your operation.
Container Grown Ginger - How To Grow Ginger In A Pot - garden
If you love cooking with ginger, you really should grow some. It is easy to grow in pots and makes an attractive, tropical-looking container display up to 1m tall. Here’s how.
- Buy a plump, healthy ginger root (rhizome) from an organic grocer. You can use it whole or cut it into 5–10cm pieces, making sure each section has an ‘eye’ or bud (the little knobbly bits), as this is where shoots will form.
- Fill a pot with a 5:1 blend of premium potting mix and coir peat, for extra moisture retention. The pot needs to be at least 30cm wide and deep.
- Plant the rhizome 2cm deep. If planting smaller pieces, space them about 20cm apart. A 30cm pot can comfortably support one large rhizome or three small ones.
- Allow the mix to dry out a bit between waterings. Gradually increase watering after the rhizomes shoot, which is usually a month or so after planting.
You’ll find more details about growing ginger in a pot, including when and how to harvest, in the October 2020 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.