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How to Grow Ginger, Plus Its Amazing Health Benefits

Updated on December 6, 2016
Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

In addition to being a certified herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, Gina finds the unrelenting allure of gardening very strong.

Ginger is one herb or spice that I always have in my pantry. I eat it crystallized and I use the powder for teas and cooking. I also use fresh ginger for cooking. When I decided to start growing this root, I expected it to be difficult. It's not. It is rather simple.

I've been growing ginger at home for years now. You can grow it in the ground, but I have been growing it in pots, and I am going to show you how simple it is.

Harvesting some fresh ginger.
Harvesting some fresh ginger. | Source

What Variety of Ginger Should You Plant?

There are many different species. To grow the most common edible variety, Zingiber officinale, all you need is ginger root from the grocery store.

  • Choose roots (technically rhizomes) that are plump and free of wrinkles, with visible "eyes" (small points) at the end of the "fingers." Eyes that have started to turn green are ideal, but not required.
  • Buy organic if you can. Non-organic may have been treated with a growth inhibitor. Soaking them in warm water overnight will help stimulate inhibited plants.

Freshly harvested ginger.  Some of these can be replanted as you can see the buds on the end of some of these pieces.
Freshly harvested ginger. Some of these can be replanted as you can see the buds on the end of some of these pieces. | Source

Choosing and Preparing the Rhizome for Planting

The easiest way to get started is to simply get a few fresh rhizomes. You can get some from someone who grows ginger, or you can simply buy some at the local grocery store. Make sure you select fresh, plump rhizomes. Yes, we actually use the rhizome (although we call it ginger root) but you all know what I am talking about.

  1. Look for pieces with well developed "eyes" or growth buds. A piece with three or more eyes is more likely to sprout.
  2. Cut the rhizome into pieces. If you'd like to grow more than one plant, cut with a sanitized knife or shears. Any piece at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide with one or more eyes can grow into a separate plant.
  3. After cutting, leave the pieces in a dry place for a few days to allow them to heal. They will form a protective callus over the cut surface, which reduces the risk of infection.
  4. Each piece requires 8 inches (20 cm) of space to grow. Use larger pieces if you need to save space.

Some people recommend soaking the rhizomes in water overnight. That's not a bad idea, since shop-bought ginger might have been treated with a growth retardant. However, it is not necessary to leave them in water until they grow roots. Your plant will be much happier if the roots are in the ground and can breathe right from the start, rather than having to deal with the transplanting shock and the change in conditions.

Your pieces of ginger will sprout fast enough by just sitting out on the counter top. If the ground is moist and warm, they will root very easily.

Some choose to sit the rhizome just under the dirt.
Some choose to sit the rhizome just under the dirt. | Source

Soil

Whether you grow your ginger root in a pot or in the ground, you do need really good soil to start with. It needs to be rich enough to feed your ginger. It needs to hold enough moisture so it doesn't dry out, but it needs to be free draining so the roots don't become waterlogged.

Ginger thrives on high-quality, well-draining soil. Mixing garden soil with an equal amount of well-rotted compost should do the trick. If your soil is poor quality or heavy in clay, purchase rich potting soil instead.

When to Plant

Ginger is a tropical plant that does not survive frost. Start in early spring. Plant after the last spring frost, or at the start of the wet season if you live in the tropics.

If you live in a climate with a short growing season, you can grow the plant indoors.

I personally prefer to grow them in pots, and the information that I am posting today relates to growing them in pots, and since I live in Florida, I can pretty much grow it year-round.

My ginger plant was in bloom just before I harvested it.  You can let it go to flower, but since I grow it for the rhizomes and not the flowers, it didn't bother me to get rid of the flower.
My ginger plant was in bloom just before I harvested it. You can let it go to flower, but since I grow it for the rhizomes and not the flowers, it didn't bother me to get rid of the flower. | Source

Choose the Location for Planting, If Planting in the Ground

Ginger prefers partial shade or areas with morning sun only, away from large roots. The growing location should be sheltered from wind and moist, but not swampy. If the plant has not yet germinated, soil temperatures must be warm — ideally between 71 and 77ºF.

  • If growing in pots, choose a pot at least 12 inches (30cm) deep. A plastic pot is better than terra cotta, as long as you poke plenty of drainage holes in the base.
  • Ginger can grow in full shade in the tropics, but these locations may be too cool at other latitudes.

Plant the ginger

Plant each piece of ginger 2–4 inches (5–10 cm) below loose soil, with the buds pointing upward.

If planting in rows, keep each piece 8 inches (20 cm) apart.

If planting in pots, plant 2–3 pieces per large pot (14 in./35 cm diameter).

New growth visible on some freshly planted ginger.  This rhizome is completely submerged.
New growth visible on some freshly planted ginger. This rhizome is completely submerged. | Source

Maintenance of Your Ginger Plant

  • Water lightly right after planting, and keep the soil damp. Check the soil daily and water just before it dries out completely. Ginger needs a lot of moisture while actively growing. The soil should never dry out. Don't overwater, though, because the water that drains away will take nutrients with it. Soggy soil will quickly rot your plants, so reduce watering or improve drainage if water does not drain quickly.
  • Ginger loves humidity. If you have problems with dry air then regular spraying and misting might help. Dry air can cause problems with spider mites, but that's rather a problem for people who try to grow ginger out of its range or indoors. A sheltered, moist spot in a warm climate will provide enough humidity.
  • If you are growing ginger in the ground, mulch it thickly. It helps to keep the ground moist, it helps feed the ginger as the mulch breaks down, and it also keeps down weeds.
  • Remember that ginger is a slow growing plant and easily overgrown by others.
  • Towards the end of summer, as the weather starts cooling down, it will start to die back. Reduce the water, even let the ground dry out. This encourages it to form rhizomes. Once all the leaves have died down, your ginger is ready for harvest.

Let the plant mature before harvesting. Ginger develops a much stronger flavor if allowed to develop in the ground. After the stems die, and at least 8 months after planting, dig up the rhizome.
Let the plant mature before harvesting. Ginger develops a much stronger flavor if allowed to develop in the ground. After the stems die, and at least 8 months after planting, dig up the rhizome.

How Much Space Does Ginger Need to Grow?

Growing ginger doesn't take up much room at all. Every rhizome you plant will first only grow a few leaves, in the one spot. Over time it will become a dense clump and very slowly get bigger, but only if it isn't harvested.

The rhizomes underground also don't seem to mind if they become a bit crowded.

It only grows to about two to three feet in height.

I had to cut the plastic pot to be able to remove the large clump of fresh ginger that was embedded in there.
I had to cut the plastic pot to be able to remove the large clump of fresh ginger that was embedded in there. | Source
It was so exciting being able to harvest my own ginger.  Can you see that large clump?
It was so exciting being able to harvest my own ginger. Can you see that large clump? | Source

To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize...

If you are growing in good, rich soil, it shouldn't need anything extra. I grow mine in pots. I put in fresh compost mix every year and never add any extra fertilizer.

If you don't have good soil, or if you are growing in some standard bought potting mix, then you have to feed it regularly. You will also have to feed it if you are growing in an area that gets torrential summer rains (many tropical regions do). Such rains leach all the goodness from the soil.

Work in some organic slow release fertilizer at planting time. After that you can use some liquid fertilizer like seaweed extract or fish fertilizer every few weeks.

The first clump has been cleared.
The first clump has been cleared. | Source

When and How to Harvest Your Ginger

  1. If you are growing in the garden, you can start stealing little bits of it once it is about four months old. Just dig carefully at the side of a clump.
  2. The best time to harvest ginger is any time after the leaves have died down. Usually it takes eight to ten months to get to that point.
  3. You can now dig up the whole plant. The reason that I grow in pots is that it makes the harvest so easy. I don't have to dig, I just cut the pot and tip out the whole thing.
  4. Break up the rhizomes, select a few nice ones with good growing buds for replanting, and keep the rest for the kitchen.
  5. The rhizomes that have been replanted or left in the ground don't need any water or attention until the weather warms up again.

TIP: You can also plant many clumps around your place and just dig up what you need, when you need it. The plants grow outwards from the mature rhizomes. Once a clump is big enough you can harvest the mature tubers without damaging new shoots.

By the way, if you are serious about growing ginger at home then resist the urge to harvest it for a year or two.

Source
Source
Source
Ginger tea
Ginger tea | Source
Ginger syrup
Ginger syrup
Powdered ginger, great for tea, cooking and so much more
Powdered ginger, great for tea, cooking and so much more
Crystallized ginger
Crystallized ginger

Uses of Ginger

Ginger can be consumed in many ways.

  • Sliced root can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • It can be crystallized into a candy.
  • The powder is commonly used as a spice in many different foods.
  • It can be consumed as a fluid, usually as ginger tea or ginger ale.
  • An extract is available to take in pill form.
  • It can be juiced and mixed into smoothies or other drinks.

I use ginger in my immunity blend in powdered form. It is definitely a factor in helping with chronic inflammation, and it has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years.

One of my favorite ways to use it is in cooking, whether in stir-fry or in making crystallized ginger.

Ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries. Oil taken from the plant is used as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medication, with no known side effects and no interactions with other drugs or nutrients. It stimulates the digestive system and prevents irritation to the intestinal walls. In TCM, it is used to treat atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, motion sickness, colds and cough, and headaches. It is also considered a safe treatment for pregnant women with morning sickness.

How do you use ginger?

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    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image
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      Gina Welds Hulse 5 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Thank you for sharing. I appreciate that!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 5 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great post and you have inspired me give it another go.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 months ago from Hamburg, New York

      My next project. I never knew that I could grow Ginger in my home. I might just try this.

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image
      Author

      Gina Welds Hulse 5 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Hi Nadine. Hi Nancy. I'm so glad you have been inspired. Being able to harvest your own fresh ginger is wonderful. Yes, Nancy, and it is quite simple.

    • Happymommy2520 profile image

      Amy 5 months ago from East Coast

      Another interesting Hub. Thank you for including the fact that it doesn't need that much space to grow. I have a habit of putting to many seeds into a pot. You have inspired my first early Spring gardening project!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 months ago from Central Florida

      Ginger is such a flavorful and useful spice. I always have some on hand to make tea for belly problems, cold and flu, etc. I think I'll try my hand at growing my own.

      I always know your gardening tips will work in my garden because we're practically next door neighbors. We share the same weather and soil conditions.

      Thanks for posting this, Gina!

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image
      Author

      Gina Welds Hulse 5 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Hi @Happymommy2520 So glad you stopped by. You have to let me know of your ginger success when you plant.

      Yes, Shauna, you should be very successful, as we are not different in climate. I'm working on sweet potatoes at the moment. That hub to come soon. :-)

    • profile image

      Barbara Casey 5 months ago

      Thanks for the photos. And the advice to wait longer to harvest my ginger. I have mine in a large felt pot, which makes it easy to carry into the sunroom if the weather gets too cold outside.

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image
      Author

      Gina Welds Hulse 5 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      I am glad the images helped. I am a visual learner, so I try to include as many images as possible. TIP: You could start another pot that would be growing while you are harvesting from the current one.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 5 months ago from Colorado

      I have been reading a lot about the benefits of ginger lately, and I have been wanting to grow my own herbs. Your article motivates me to do it! Thanks for a very informative article.

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image
      Author

      Gina Welds Hulse 4 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Hi Geri. Thanks for visiting. I'm glad the article was helpful. Growing ginger is truly very easy, with a lot of reward.

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