How To: Grow Ginger in Your Home Garden
Spice up your cooking with homegrown ginger—even in colder climates.
Ginger rhizomes, more commonly known as ginger roots, come from the flowering plant Zingiber officinale. Ginger has been used in cultures around the world in both cooking and alternative medicine and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as for aiding in digestion. This fragrant ingredient is a staple in Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine and is used to make tea, and season stir fries, curries, and soups.
Since ginger is a tropical plant, it can be difficult to grow outdoors in many regions of North America. While it’s true that it can only tolerate temperatures higher than 50 degrees, it’s still possible for ginger to thrive in a nontropical setting. Read on to learn more about how to grow ginger—no matter where you live.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Though this guide explains how to plant ginger outdoors, it also can grow inside in a pot or planter. The same general principles apply when it comes to growing ginger indoors.
STEP 1: Plant in early spring.
While ginger can be planted and grown year-round in tropical areas, cooler climates have a shorter growing season. Ginger can only tolerate temperatures higher than 50 degrees. In the United States it can thrive year-round in zones 9 and higher. Areas of Florida, Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii, Southern Texas, and Louisiana have climates that are conducive to growing ginger all year.
If you live in zone 8 or lower, wait until after the last spring frost has taken place to plant ginger outdoors. Plant ginger in pots so it is easy to bring it inside if cooler temperatures hit unexpectedly. Ginger typically requires 8 months to reach full maturity. Those living in cooler climates, however, can harvest young ginger after 3 or 4 months or bring pots indoors over the winter.
STEP 2: Cut the ginger into 1- to 2-inch long pieces.
Buy ginger rhizomes from the grocery store or a nursery. Look for rhizomes with smooth skin that is light in color. Ideally, pick a 4- to 6-inch long piece of ginger that has multiple fingers and a bud at the end of each finger. If the buds have begun to turn green, you’ll be a step ahead in the growing process. Nonorganic ginger often is treated with a growth inhibitor, so choose organic ginger for the best results.
Cut the fingers off each rhizome, ensuring each piece is at least 1 to 2 inches long and has a bud at the end.
STEP 3: Allow the pieces to dry for 24 to 48 hours before planting.
If using nonorganic ginger, soak it in water for 24 hours to remove any growth inhibitors.
Leave the cut rhizomes in a cool, dry spot for 24 to 48 hours. This allows them to form a protective skin over the recently cut areas, which prevents them from becoming infected with bacteria.
STEP 4: Plant cut sections at least 12 inches apart.
In tropical climates, ginger can grow in full shade, but those in cooler climates should aim for their ginger to receive between 2 and 5 hours of sunlight each day. Choose a fully shaded or partially shady area to plant the ginger, depending on the climate.
Plant the ginger pieces in a pot or directly in a garden bed. The ideal soil is loose and loamy (fertile). Ginger needs plenty of room to grow, so plant each piece 12 inches apart, 2 to 4 inches deep, with the buds pointing upward. If using a pot, choose one that is at least 12 inches deep and offers plenty of drainage. A pot of this size can grow one piece of ginger.
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STEP 5: Water well after planting, and continue to keep the soil moist.
Ginger thrives in moist, warm soil of between 71 and 77 degrees. Water the soil immediately after planting. Continue to keep the soil moist by watering daily before it has the chance to dry out. This replicates its natural, tropical habitat. Depending on the climate, sprouts will appear in between 3 and 14 days.
Spread a layer of mulch on top of the soil to keep it warm if temperatures drop below 50 degrees. This also helps to keep the soil moist. As the weather cools near the end of the growing season, reduce watering.
STEP 6: Harvest anytime and enjoy!
There are two ways to harvest ginger. You can dig up the entire rhizome and harvest the root at any stage of maturity. Rinse the rhizome under cool water, and cut off a section with a bud to replant if you choose.
One thing that makes ginger unique is that it causes the plant no harm to harvest a section while it’s still in the soil, keeping the rhizome alive. As long as a 2-inch piece of rhizome remains attached to the stalk, it will continue to grow.
Fresh ginger can be kept in the fridge or freezer. Unpeeled, it will last 3 weeks in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.
Use this method to grow ginger—no matter where you live. As long as it’s not exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees, you’ll have a fragrant addition for stir fry, soups, curries, and more.