By Holly Reaney
Ginger is a favorite spice world-wide, used in everything from savory dishes and sweet, spicy puddings through to delicious teas and refreshing cordials. The edible part of the ginger is usually referred to as 'the root' but it's technically a rhizome.
You may be surprised to know that growing ginger doesn't just yield that zingy edible root we're all used to adding to our cooking, but – depending on the species you choose – a vast range of eye-catching flowers, too, meaning it bridges the gap between flower bed and kitchen garden ideas neatly.
Here, our helpful step-by-step guide takes you through how to grow ginger and harvest your crop.
How to grow ginger – for an edible crop
If you want to learn how to grow ginger so that you can harvest it to eat, then it's vital that you make sure you have the right variety. If you are purchasing a root in a garden center then look for the variety Zingiber Officinale and avoid anything with the word 'ornamental' on the packaging.
If in doubt, don't grow it to eat.
The best time to plant ginger roots is in March or April – making sure any threat of frost has passed before you start. Ideally, only plant ginger outside once temperatures are above 65°F.
Start by soaking the ginger root in a glass of warm water overnight. This will help stimulate growth and wash away any chemicals that may prevent germination.
Choose a spot with well draining soil – ginger will not thrive in wet conditions – that is in full sun to partial shade. Add organic material to existing soil to aid drainage if necessary.
Dig a shallow hole and plant the rhizome with roots pointing downwards and any sprouting shoots just below the surface. If you're planting more than one ginger root, leave at least 12 inches between each root.
Water well once you've firmed the soil. Then continue watering thoroughly once a week. Ginger prefers a regular soaking rather than a daily light sprinkling. You can also feed with a balanced fertilizer once a month.
How to harvest ginger
If you're growing ginger for culinary use, the rhizome crop will be ready to harvest around eight to 10 months after planting.
Wait until the leaves have died back, then dig up the whole plant – this is easiest if you are growing your ginger in a container as you will not risk disturbing other plants and can simply tip the pot onto a tarp.
Clear the soil off the rhizomes so you can see them clearly.
Start by separating the material you will use for growing your ginger plant next year. Look for the section of the root with most eyes (little shoots) as this highlights that it's productive and likely to grow well next year. Set this to one side.
The remaining sections of root need to be separated into manageable chunks and cleaned with water and a cloth. Keep the skin intact.
Dry the ginger and store as you normally would. You can also freeze ginger once it has been peeled.
Another option is to harvest small quantities of your root ginger as and when you need it.
So how do you harvest ginger without killing plants? You can harvest ginger without killing plants by simply cutting off a small section of the root.
Kristin Winterbottom from Parkseed recommends 'Using a sharp knife to remove a piece of the size you need, then replace the soil and water it in well'. If you want to follow this approach, then you can either grow your ginger in a potato-style planter that lets you remove small sections of the root without disrupting the whole plant alternatively, you can just grow it in a border.
Some of the ginger roots will be green, these are less mature sections of the plant and will be a lot milder than the brown ginger roots. It is best to leave these in place and opt for the more mature, darker roots when harvesting small amounts for cooking.
How to grow ginger as an ornamental flower
Ornamental ginger, or ginger lilies as they are sometimes known, are grown for their beautiful foliage and tall flower spikes, rather than their spicy roots.
The process for growing ginger for ornamental purposes is much the same as learning how to grow ginger as an edible crop. Plant the rhizome in the same way, and water thoroughly and regularly. However, bear in mind that ginger lilies can be invasive so are best planted in containers rather than in borders.
The main difference between learning how to grow ginger as an ornamental flower rather than for culinary uses is what you do after the plant has flowered.
- Once your ginger plant has finished blooming, leave the foliage to die back naturally – as you would with daffodils or tulips.
- Reduce watering to every few weeks, if that, throughout the fall and winter months.
- In warmer areas (zone 7 and above) the foliage will freeze but the rhizome below the soil will become dormant and continue its growth the following spring.
- In cooler zones (6 and below), bring the pot indoors – whether into a greenhouse or into the house. You can take your pot back outside once the night time temperatures reach at least 55°F.
How to grow ginger as a house plant
You can grow ginger indoors, even though it's not your typical houseplant.
If you’re wanting to grow ginger as a houseplant, cardamon is a great choice. A member of the ginger family, it is smaller than ginger and so is great for growing indoors.
'A truly hardy plant and goes weeks without watering, making it a perfect choice for beginners,’ says Nathan Raab, former pilot turned plant specialist and MD of Pointless Plants. ‘Plus they’re completely safe for pets-a-plenty households.’
How long does ginger take to grow?
Ginger only takes a few months to grow either to the point of flowering or to the point of harvest. Ginger is a perennial plant meaning that so long as you leave the main section of root in the ground and keep it warm over winter (either with fleecing or mulching), your ginger plant will continue to grow year after year.
Does ginger like sun or shade?
Ginger likes sun, but can grow in partial shade. As ginger is native to India, Bhutan and Nepal, it is no surprise that it thrives in hot conditions.
Can you plant ginger root from the grocery store?
Yes, you can plant ginger root from the grocery store.
'A piece of left-over ginger root can be planted in soil with the newest buds facing up, in a moist, warm spot with non-direct sun, and it will regrow roots and shoots,' says gardening expert Leigh Clapp.
However, some ginger in the shop is sprayed with chemicals to prevent it from growing in store. So, if you want to plant ginger root bought at a grocery store, you are better to opt for organic varieties which will not have had the same chemical treatment, meaning you'll have a greater chance of success.
Since these varieties have been grown for consumption, you don't have to worry about whether they're edible or not, either.
This feature was created by H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine
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