How to Grow and Care for Ginger Root (Zingibar officianale)

Ginger roots laid next to each on large leaf

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale), also known as common ginger, is a herbaceous perennial native to Asia, where it is grown commercially. The edible part of the plant is the fat, knobbly, underground rhizome, and it is one of the most popular spices used worldwide. Although the shoots can produce flowers, they aren't considered ornamentally significant, and container plants rarely bloom.

If you live in a hot region of North America, you may be able to grow ginger root outdoors, or you can grow it in containers and move them indoors when temperatures cool. It isn't all that fast-growing and takes around eight to 10 months from planting in the early spring to when the rhizome is ready to harvest.

 Botanical Name  Zingiber officinale,
 Common Name  Common Ginger, Canton Ginger
 Plant Type  Perennial, Herbaceous Shrub
 Mature Size  Up to 4 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure  Full sun, partial shade
 Soil Type  Well-drained, moist, rich
 Soil pH  Neutral, alkaline
 Bloom Time  Fall
 Flower Color  Yellow, cream, green
 Hardiness Zones  8-12 (USDA)
 Native Area  Southeast Asia

Plant Care

To grow ginger root outdoors, you need hot, humid conditions and nutrient-rich soil. Crop rotation will also help increase the chances of a bountiful and healthy harvest. So aim to grow it once every few years to prevent problems with diseases and pests.

If you can't guarantee tropical-type outdoor temperatures, it would be best to grow your ginger root in containers, and you can transfer them indoors when the colder temperatures hit.

Ginger plant pulled out of pot with root exposed and covered in dirt

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Ginger plant in white pot pulled out slightly to expose root in soil

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Ginger plants with thin green stems and large leaves hanging

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Light

Ginger root does best in full sun or partial shade. In southern regions that experience intense heat, filtered sunlight is best.

Soil

Ginger root thrives in a fertile, well-drained, moisture-retaining loamy soil. Although the plant can grow in slightly acidic conditions, it prefers a neutral or alkaline pH.

Water

The one thing you don't want when growing ginger is waterlogged soil. Although you should water the plant deeply and regularly during the growing season—usually at least an inch a week—be careful not to overdo it. Soggy conditions can result in root rot.

Avoid watering during the plant's dormant, leafless season, especially when being grown in containers. Begin watering again when the new season's shoots appear.

If you are concerned about the plant drying out during the growing season, you can apply mulch. This will help with moisture retention and providing additional nutrients, as well as controlling weeds.

Temperature and Humidity

Optimal soil temperatures for growing ginger root outdoors are around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. But anything between 66 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit should result in a healthy crop if you keep the plant protected from strong winds. If temperatures drop below 66 degrees, the plant could fall into dormancy, and when temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure to bring it indoors.

Fertilizer

Unless you plant your ginger root in exceptionally fertile soil, you will need to apply decent volumes of fertilizer for an optimal harvest—these plants are heavy feeders.

Applying a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer high in phosphorous once in spring and summer, along with a monthly application of a liquid fertilizer should produce good results. Some gardeners also apply a summer application of compost. If you experience heavy rainfall, feeding every few weeks may be necessary to top up nutrients that leach from the soil.

Pruning

Common ginger doesn't need much in the way of pruning. Cutting back the spent stems in the autumn once they die back can encourage healthy new growth the following year.

Propagating Ginger Root

Ginger can be grown from roots found in supermarkets in the spring. It is best to select those marketed as organic as some commercial rhizomes are treated with an application of growth inhibitors. Look for pieces that have green buds growing as these have the best chance of propagating successfully.

You can plant the rhizomes whole or divided. Calluses should form over any cut pieces before planting. Some gardeners also like to soak the rhizome for 12 hours in warm water in advance of planting to try to remove any growth inhibitors.

When planting, position the rhizomes around an inch into warm, fertile soil and lightly and regularly water for the first few weeks until the shoots begin to appear above ground. From this point, keep the soil evenly moist.

How to Grow Ginger Root From Seed

Commercial ginger plants are typically sterile, so growing from seed is not usually possible.

Common Problems With Ginger Root

Ginger root is not known for having any major problems with diseases or pests. But bacterial wilt, which is a common problem for tomato and cucumber plants, is something to be aware of.

Curling or Yellowing Leaves

Bacterial wilt is a known problem with commercial ginger root production, and occasionally it is seen in home growing. Watch out for yellowing leaves on the shoots (usually occurring on the margins at first) that begin to curl.

Unfortunately, you will need to pull and destroy infected plants as there is no cure. Keeping your ginger root plants healthy can prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.

FAQ
  • Is ginger root easy to care for?

    Providing you have warm temperatures and rich, well-drained soil, you could have an abundant ginger root harvest with minimal effort.

  • How fast does ginger root grow?

    You can typically harvest ginger root within a year of planting. It isn't a fast-growing plant, but some growers are lucky enough to be able to cut pieces off the rhizome after as little as four months. When the plant is around eight to 10 months old, and the leaves have begun to die down, this is generally the best time to harvest.

  • What is the difference between ginger root and flowering ginger?

    Flowers are rare on ginger root plants, and they aren't ornamentally significant. When they do appear, the plant is usually at least two years old. You can use flowering ginger varieties for decorative purposes, such as 'Crepe Ginger' (Costus speciosus) or 'Red Button Ginger' (Costus woodsonii).