Updated: Jun 24
Ginger is a tropical plant, but it is easily grown in a container in your home with just a little bit of soil and some patience. Turmeric is a close relative of ginger and can be grown in the same way.
What we call ginger root is not actually a root but a rhizome. Rhizomes are modified stems that grow horizontally underground. As they spread, they send roots down and shoots up.
You can grow ginger from a store bought piece. Look for organic, but conventionally grown may also grow. Look for fresh, firm pieces with lots of nodes. Sometimes you can even find a piece in the store that is already sprouting!
The best growing conditions for your ginger are: moist soil, lots of light, warmth, and protection from strong winds. It is a great houseplant!
Ginger leaves can grow tall, up to 3 feet! But the rhizomes and roots are underground and require much less space. Look for a container that wider on top and 10-12 inches deep. At the Teaching Garden we plant our ginger and turmeric in fabric-lined milk crates.
Cut or break your ginger rhizome into pieces that have 2-3 buds each, and allow the cuts to dry out for a day or two before planting. Alternatively, you can just plant the whole thing as a big piece. This preference really depends on the size and shape of your container. For smaller pieces, plan to plant them roughly 6 inches apart from each other so they have lots of room to spread out.
Dig a hole for each piece that is about 2-4 inches deep and place the rhizome in with the sprouts or nodes facing up. Cover gently with soil and water to moisten the soil around them. This water will signal to the rhizome that it is time to start growing.
(Cameo by Teaching Garden seed starting supervisor, Jefe – small doses of ginger is safe and can even be beneficial for cats and dogs. Talk to your vet before adding anything to your cat or dog’s diet!)
Remember, before they sprout they do not need any light so go for the warmest place in your home. After they sprout, move them to a sunny window or under a lamp.
Be patient, it may be a few weeks or even months until you see a sprout, but once you do the plants will grow quickly. Just keep on top of watering so the soil is moist but not overly wet. Keep the soil just damp – overwatering can lead to rotting before the ginger sprouts.
Ginger takes about 8 - 10 months to grow, so you want to make sure your soil has a lot of compost OR you are prepared to add fertilizer throughout the growing season. I like to use seaweed extract, which I can dilute in my watering can to water the plant with every few months, but you could also top it with more compost. You can even mist the leaves with a spray bottle to mimic its natural tropical environment.
But don’t worry, you can dig down and cut pieces of the rhizomes for use after 4 months or so if you don’t want to wait the full 8 - 10 months. To harvest young ginger, reach a finger down about two inches from the leaves of the plant and feel for the rhizome. When you find it, simply take a small knife and cut off a piece. Be aware that the ginger from a young plant is less flavorful than mature ginger, so if you can wait you will be rewarded greatly!
After about 10 months, the leaves will die back and you can dig up the entire rhizome for stronger ginger like what you buy in the store. If you want, you can take a piece off of your harvest and keep it to replant.
Uses for ginger
Ginger has a number of culinary and medicinal uses.
Medicinally, it is best known to help digestion and reduce nausea, heartburn, and cramping. It may also boost your immune system to help shorten colds or avoid them all together. It can soothe a sore throat and sore muscles. You can cook with ginger, boil it in water for tea, or even take a bath in it.
Ginger should be used in moderation, up to 3 tablespoons a day.
If you have a lot of ginger, you can simply cut it up or grate it and freeze it in small portions for later use in smoothies, soups, and stir-fry.