How to grow Common Ginger: all about these plants.

Published
ginger root

It isn’t easy to find anyone who doesn’t like ginger, maybe because it can be used in so many ways and has renowned health benefits.

For the home gardener, and mainly the self-sufficient home grower, ginger is a very reliable plant in terms of growth habit and root production and because of this, it is one of the most dependable plants we have in our yard.

We consider ginger a primary keeper because of the return per plant vs. the space it requires to grow. This includes where it is happy to grow as well.

We live in a tropical climate, so we are right in the sweet spot for growing ginger plants, and because of this, we can have many gingers planted closely and be able to simply ignore them.

Why growing ginger root is worth trying.

Ginger can be used as a filler under fruit trees and as an edging plant on pathways, and because it is not a problematic variety, it is happy to live with other plants like turmeric. Galangal is another ginger family member that we get started and then ignore. We have a post titled “growing and caring for galangal plants,” however the caring part is a bit funny. The article should be titled growing and ignoring galangal.

We have found gingers to be a positive element in soil conditioning, and what we mean by that is if we plant ginger in an area where the soil is poor, and if we cover the ginger with mulch and leave it be, the soil is in better condition after the ginger has been growing for a year or two.

Earthworms are attracted to the ginger root, which is great step forward in the soil conditioning process. If you need some help getting started with soil building that will grow lots of ginger and turmeric, “improve your garden soil with rock dust and chickens” is worth reading.

We consider ourselves experienced in growing ginger (and many other tropical food plants), and because of this we have put this site together to help others become a little more self-reliant in food production.

The process of growing ginger plants can be split into a series of standard questions, so this is how we have approached this article.

How long does common ginger take to grow?

Ginger can take up to 10 months to grow to maturity, allowing the plant to give the largest rhizomes possible. It is possible to harvest ginger at an earlier stage, and while the rhizomes are smaller, they also have a younger flavor than the mature rhizomes.

Growing ginger is a true seasonal thing and can be very rewarding. The return from investment is terrific when all the growing gingers’ needs have been supplied, and it can be a plant you ignore once the growing season is underway.

Is ginger a fast grower?

Ginger is a seasonal plant that will only give a single crop each year. The harvest size is very weather dependent if you grow ginger out of its natural climate.

ginger plant with fresh shoot
First ginger shoot for the season.

The plant seems to grow quickly from just a single shoot to a plant about 3 ft (900mm) tall, and then things slow down a bit. This is the stage where the rhizome gets to grow, and this is all out of sight.

ginger ready to plant
Just about ready to plant.

We can see how things are going by scratching around the plant base and checking on the rhizome size. If you cannot help yourself, taking some of the young ginger rhizomes during the year is best if the plant is at least six months old.

Don’t take all of the rhizomes, as they will continue to grow if left in the soil.

How long does ginger take to harvest?

The actual harvesting of ginger is relatively fast and is simply a case of lifting the rhizomes from the ground. It can take 8-10 months to be ready for you and your garden fork, though.

Once the ginger has been lifted, wash off the soil caught in the rhizome and the roots and then store them for further processing or storage over winter for next year’s planting.

If you are in warmer climates you might want to leave some ginger in the ground to save work the next year.

Is it hard to tell when to harvest ginger root?

Ginger lets you know when it is ready to be harvested by the leaves dying off. This happens soon after the flowers have finished. Here, the rhizome will enter a state of dormancy and stay underground, waiting for the return of humidity and warmth.

ginger and turmeric leaf die back end of season
Seasons end with leaves dying back.

This is where you have a choice to either lift the ginger and store it away for the following years, or you can leave it in the ground over the winter. Do be aware that this is only to be done if you are out of cold climates.

large ginger rhizome under mulch
Last seasons dead leaves pulled back to expose the ginger rhizome.

You should lift all the ginger if you get freezing conditions because this will kill the rhizomes.

What month do you plant the rhizome?

The best month to plant ginger is early to mid-spring, depending on which side of the equator you live. Because we are on the southern side of the equator, the month we would generally plant ginger out is in late October to early November.

We don’t often plant ginger anymore because we have ginger all through the yard. However, we know that in November, we start to see fresh tips. This will accelerate with the start of our wet season early storms, and the gingers start to take off.

This timing is similar for the turmeric, although they seem to get a week or two head-start on the gingers.

Can I grow a plant from a piece of rhizome?

Ginger grows from rhizomes, and each mother rhizome consists of a clump of individual pieces that can each produce a new ginger plant. This is a beautiful thing because you can get up to 8 new plants from a single large rhizome the following season.

Each of these new plants can then give a fresh large rhizome that can each give a further 6-8 new plants.

ginger bud
Ginger growth node waking up.

This process of dividing and replanting is one we did when we started growing ginger about 7-8 years ago (2014). We started with just one kilogram of organic ginger root and expanded it over the following years into having an annual harvest of up to 20 kilos if desired.

There is far more ginger in the garden that we don’t lift at the end of the season, so there could be up to 50 kgs in the ground at any point in time.

This article shows the power of ginger dividing and replanting. The ginger rhizomes in this article “Growing lots of ginger” are direct decedents of the first few rhizomes we bought all those years ago.

How do I sprout ginger?

Sprouting ginger is an easy process and can be done in a couple of ways.

  • Simply plant out the rhizomes before the shoots start.
  • Leave the root on a bench until the shoots appear then plant.
  • Store the rhizome in a moist location to trigger shooting.

The first and easiest method is to break up the rhizomes into single pieces and plant them where you want them. When the conditions are right, the rhizomes will sprout, and the next crop of ginger is on its way.

turmeric sprouting
Turmeric ready for planting out.

The second method is just as simple and all it takes is for you to leave the rhizomes in the open on a bench at the start of spring, and the rhizomes will begin to shoot from the growth nodes on each section of the root.

Once the outside temperatures are warm enough to avoid frost issues, you can plant these sections into the ground. Care should be taken when handling these because the fresh growth tips can break off.

The third method is to wet a paper towel, wrap the rhizome in it, and place it in a closed container. This could be a zip-lock bag or a plastic container.

The idea is to create a moist warm, humid environment that triggers the rhizome into sprouting. While this method is the most detailed, it can give you a great head-start to growing ginger in colder climates, and this can provide an extended growing season.

Just be careful to have the paper only just moist and not soaking, as this can cause the rhizome to rot.

The longer you can give ginger to grow, the bigger the rhizomes will become and the better the harvest overall.

Which part of ginger do you plant?

When growing ginger, the part that you need to plant is the rhizome. This is all you have to work with because the visible pieces of the plant, like the leaves and stems, all die back at the end of the growing season, and this only gives us the rhizomes.

There is a close relative to ginger called turmeric that can be regrown from the roots without rhizomes if the plant is lifted before the season’s end, and the plant can be re-established before the seasonal dieback.

We have personally done this several times. While it is the following season before you obtain any rhizomes to harvest, it does give another plant without planting a dedicated rhizome. It is an excellent way to establish a more extensive planting over time.

Is ginger easy to grow?

If some basic conditions are met, growing ginger is very easy to grow. These conditions are a warm environment that is moist and fertile. A partly shaded location with mulched soil is also good.

The most significant risk in growing ginger is the climate where you live. If you are above zone 8, you stand a great chance of getting regular crops each time you plant it, and the colder you go from there, the less chance you have and the more effort you need to put in.

It is worth the trouble though because the benefits of ginger are well known and you can trust what you grow yourself.

Can you plant ginger root from the grocery store?

Growing ginger from rhizome you bought from the grocery store is entirely possible, but there are a few things to be aware of before jumping in and grabbing what you first see.

There are things to look for when choosing a rhizome to plant, and this article titled “how to grow ginger from store-bought roots” details the many traps that exist. We recommend you read that to get a good idea of how to start growing ginger using this method.

How do you Care for Ginger plants?

Caring for a ginger plant is not rocket science, and once you have the basics covered, it is pretty straightforward. We are often asked a few common questions about growing and caring for ginger, and since we produce more than enough to be self-sufficient, we think we can answer the following queries with a high degree of confidence.

Is ginger an indoor or an outdoor plant?

Because ginger is such a useful spice, it is grown in many different climates. When you live in warmer climates it makes sense to grow this plant in the garden where it will be able to grow with little attention.

When you are in a colder climate, keeping ginger indoors becomes important. Ginger can be grown indoors and outdoors, and where you live decides your choices about growing it.

Growing ginger indoors.

If the plant can get enough sunlight or manufactured UV and the moisture levels in the soil are maintained then yes, growing ginger can be grown indoors successfully.

As you move further from the equator, you also move further from the natural environment where gingers are naturally found growing.

In these cases, you need to supply the plant’s requirements through human intervention rather than relying on the natural conditions of the area you live in to do this task.

Ginger requires humidity, and you must supply this. The ginger plant also requires acidic soil, so you must also provide this as well. To grow your ginger indoors, you must first understand the plant’s needs and have them available as the plant is growing, or it could be a miserable failure.

When can ginger be moved outside?

Assuming you are in a colder climate and have the ginger plant in a pot, you can move the ginger plant outside when the daytime temperature is above 15C and the warmer season is coming.

Ginger needs temperatures above this to grow a rhizome and is happiest when the temperature is at or above 25C.

You can also grow ginger in pots that are moved into the sun during the day and brought in out of the nighttime chill to protect the plant. This is a lot of work, though, and the payoff for a daily routine is questionable.

How much sun does a ginger plant need?

This question can be answered by where you live. If you live in a tropical zone, then just 2-3 hours of dappled sunlight is all that is required to grow healthy edible ginger.

If you live in a sub-tropical zone, the time in the sun can be extended to 4-5 hours of similar sunlight.

Some commercial growers plant in full sun; however, they are primarily in sub-tropical areas and irrigate to maintain moisture levels in the soil.

If you live in temperate regions, you can plant edible gingers in full sun without fear, as the plant will be looking for warmth.

Does ginger grow well in full shade?

This is similar to the question above and directly relates to where you live. Ginger loves to grow in full shade if the plant is in a tropical zone.

This is because the plants of the ginger family have evolved and adapted to this climate. In a similar way we have discussed above, the further you move from the ginger plant’s natural tropical zones, the more the shade will retard growth and more care is needed. Well designed gardens should be able to find a suitable location for ginger plants with the appropriate soil.

How long does it take to grow ginger?

The standard growing season for edible ginger is between 8-10 months. Generally speaking, the commercial crops of ginger are grown in this time-frame, and the growers have fine-tuned the farming of ginger.

We also see the same time till harvest in our garden, but our work load is almost zero with minimal inputs or care.

Conclusions.

Caring for your ginger plants is quite simple once you understand the ginger’s requirements and how to provide them if you are outside of the natural environment of these plants.

The effort to grow ginger is well worth it, and one harvest will not be enough once you have some success with the first trials. It is relatively easy to become self-sufficient in ginger if you put your mind to it.

If you have a particular query on ginger, the search icon at the top is available.

This article has been written by Tim Blanch as part-owner of selfsufficienthomelife.com. He is a qualified Permaculture Designer.