Ginger grows best in tropical environments with high rainfall, in humus rich, slightly acidic soils but can be grown in cooler sub-tropical and temperate climates with care.
The wet tropics are gingers home turf, where the ginger plant is a natural part of the ecosystem called the earth’s lungs.
This is where we live and grow enough ginger varieties to be completely self-sufficient in them.
While we consider ourselves fortunate, we still envy the folks who can grow so many other food plants that won’t survive the heat and humidity of this great area.
What conditions do ginger plants like?
Ginger thrives in well-draining, rich, moist organic soil that is well mulched and a humid, warm atmosphere above ground. It needs part shade in the tropics but will need more sun further from the tropics.
We are fortunate to see the ginger respond to ideal conditions as our tropical wet season begins. The plants burst out of the ground and grow rapidly.
The response from ginger in less-than-ideal conditions that could be just a few feet away from those referenced above can be remarkably different. These conditions could be as simple as a sandy patch in the yard, and we have discussed the issues with this in “will ginger grow in sand?“
We grow a lot of ginger where we live and use it as a filler plant in the yard. Because of this, we have plants in all soil conditions, and it is good to see how ginger responds to the variations.
If you get it right, ginger can really give a crop.
How do you take care of a ginger plant?
Moisture should be monitored to ensure the plant has water. Ginger should be watered when the soil starts to dry out, which can be checked at the soil surface. If it is beginning to dry, then water the plant without overwatering.
This can lead to soggy soil and eventually rotting of the ginger rhizome. If in the tropics, gingers should be in full shade for the hottest hours of the day. More sun should be available further from the tropics.
If your ginger is a food plant where you intend to harvest the rhizomes, it will serve you well to provide the best conditions for your ginger. For a little more effort, the rewards can be measured in extra ginger rhizomes.
What habitat does ginger grow in?
Ginger grows in well-shaded humid habitats that receive generous rainfall and is warm throughout the year. It is a tropical plant that can extend away from the tropics but will need more attention the further from these tropical areas.
Many people travel to the tropics on vacation and fall in love with the plants. They then decide to grow these plants back where they live, and sometimes this is in very cold climates. While ginger is somewhat adaptable to different environments, it struggles in cold weather.
Where does ginger usually grow?
Ginger usually grows in the wet rainforests of the world, where the climate is humid and moist and where nutrients are quickly recycled and made available to many plants, including ginger.
We are fortunate to have several ginger varieties native to this area, and we get to see them as they grow with the rainforest changes.
The blue ginger grows along highway edges where the roads cut through the tropical jungles because the sunlight can penetrate where there was once a dense canopy.
We try to emulate the same growing conditions in our yard. It is the simplest method on how to care for a ginger plant.
Where can ginger be found?
Ginger can be found in the rainforest’s clearings, openings, and at stream and rainforest edges. Clearings can be created by fallen trees that allow sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor.
It is amazing to see the plants respond to a fallen tree. There is no wasted day in this process, and it is all about a race to claim the nutrients and sunlight that are now available.
Gingers are fortunate in that they are shallow-rooted, small, and low, so they can quickly access the freshly rotted dead leaves from the fallen trees as the natural composting process ramps up.
The gingers will have a few good seasons before the trees grow tall again and eventually shade them. We don’t know how the gingers find these clearings so quickly, but we suspect it is spread by birds who feed on seeds in the ginger’s fruits.
Where should I plant ginger in my garden?
You should plant ginger in part shade if in the tropics or a very hot climate. In temperate climates, ginger should be in full sun all day.
In warmer climates, the ginger plant will benefit from growing beneath fruit trees and similar. This can serve several purposes simultaneously.
It can give you a crop of ginger, act as an excellent filler plant for an empty spot, help the tree above through plant harmonization, and the aesthetic effects can be stunning when the gingers flower.
In cooler climate you need less shade, so planting on the sunny side of the tree can serve the same purpose.
Where is the best place to plant ginger?
The best place to plant ginger is in shaded spots beneath trees that drop leaves often. These leaves form litter that naturally mulch the ground and slowly feeds the soil as they break down. In temperate zones, ginger should be placed in the sun to get the required sunlight.
It doesn’t really matter where you plant your ginger as long as it gets the nutrients, water, and sunlight it needs. It is reasonably forgiving in sub-tropical to tropical zones and only needs close attention in the coldest climates.
Do you soak ginger before planting?
Soaking ginger before planting is unnecessary to get a healthy ginger plant, but it can be used to get the ginger started if the climate is not humid. Ginger loves humidity.
This technique is not required in tropical zones but can help colder climates.
Because the warmer growing season may be shorter in duration in zones seven and lower, it helps to get a head start on plant growth by soaking and rooting your ginger while it is still cold outside. Do this indoors though.
The plants can have the first leaf up before planting it in the garden. You can start this 4-6 weeks before you expect to plant out.
The only other time we can think of for soaking your ginger is if you are using store-bought ginger root and are washing off any chemicals that may retard the growth of the rhizome nodes.
What is the best month to plant ginger?
The best month to plant ginger in the northern hemisphere is late March to early April. In the southern hemisphere it best to plant ginger in late October into November.
We are fortunate here in the tropics to not be concerned with planting seasons for edible ginger. Most of our ginger is left in the ground during the winter, similar to how the natural gingers are in the rainforests.
We can still harvest ginger as we need it throughout the year, and on occasion, we will plant out a dedicated bed expressly to gain a lot of ginger in one go.
When should I plant ginger?
Ginger should be planted when the last frost has passed or the risk of frost is low.
Understanding the ginger plants’ weaknesses is an excellent way to plan around working with gingers. These main weaknesses are cold and water-logged soil.
If you can plan around these two issues and/or dodge them completely, you are on the way to being a successful ginger grower.
Can I plant ginger in winter?
Ginger will not grow in winter, as it is a tropical plant that becomes dormant in the year’s coldest months.
Even in the tropics, the edible ginger, or common ginger, is seasonal. It grows in the wet season and dies back in the dry season. Wet summers and dry winters. This growth habit is the same the world over for edible ginger.
Ornamental gingers are a different kettle of fish. Some die back each year, but many grow leaves all year long, and some even continue to flower all through the year.
Torch ginger is one of these ornamentals, and it happens to be edible as well.
Will cold climates limit the ginger rhizome size?
Cold climates will affect the rhizome size. The length of active growing time plays a large part in the size of the rhizome if for no other reason than it allows the plant to access nutrients over a longer time frame, and this, in turn, allows the ginger plant to store more energy in the rhizome for the following season.
The summer temperatures in colder climates get warm enough to grow ginger plants, but the further you go from the equatorial zones, the less warm weather you have to produce the rhizomes.
You will, however, get good leaf growth, and this can be a fruitful harvest in and of itself if you dehydrate foods and leaves. Don’t think that the foliage of ginger is worthless as it can add a great flavor hit in many recipes. The shoots, stems, and fronds/leaves are all edible on the common ginger plant.
Starting with quality ginger rhizomes is essential in cold climates, so you have the best chance of a good return. Sometimes finding a good seed rhizome can be challenging, but “can ginger be grown from store bought roots?” may help in this situation.
What zones won’t grow ginger?
The best guide to growing ginger can be based on the soil temperature. When your soil reaches 25C (75-77F), the rhizomes should be shooting. It is too simplistic to define where ginger will or won’t grow by allocating a zone to it. You will get rhizomes if soil temperatures are warm enough for long enough.
Now here is the thing. How long your soil will hold at or above that temperature is how long you have to grow it.
In ideal conditions, 8-9 months is required to grow lots of ginger, and every week that falls short of this will gradually decrease the rhizome size until you arrive at a soil temperature that is far too low to be of any benefit.
Will indoor grown ginger grow rhizomes in cold climates?
There is no reason they won’t, as long you can get and keep the soil temperature warm enough, and the plant gets enough good light.
Remember that ginger also loves humidity, so having a plastic grow tunnel or greenhouse to start the gingers should allow some good-sized rhizomes to be produced. Large enough to make the project worthwhile, at least.
Once the tops start to die off, don’t assume that the plant is dead because the growth habits of this plant are like an annual, but the plant is a perennial. More on this here.
We recommend you either lift the ginger rhizomes at the end of the season or bring the pots or containers away from the freeze because this will kill the rhizomes, and they will likely rot.
To get the most from your ginger plant, it is best to provide the optimum conditions for growing ginger. The checklist below is a suggested guide.
- Match the tropical conditions if you can.
- Keep water up to the plant without overwatering.
- Mulch the gingers well if in a garden setting.
- Shade the plant in the hottest hours of the day.
- Aged manures beneath the mulch will slowly feed the ginger.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.