Common ginger, root ginger
Ginger is an essential ingredient in cooking, a spice that is a vital part of Oriental dishes, as well as in cakes and biscuits. You may never have considered growing your own root ginger, but it is possible in the UK.
Ginger is not cold and frost hardy and is best grown indoors – preferably in a warm greenhouse or conservatory.
Ginger produces long grass-like leaves on rush-like stems and, although it does flower, it’s unlikely to do so unless you can provide lots of warmth and humidity. But, of course, it's the roots (properly known as rhizomes) that we desire for use in our cooking.
How to grow ginger
Although plants need plenty of light, they do not like hot, strong, direct sunlight. They will do much better in diffused, dappled or filtered light.
They need a rich, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil or compost and are best grown in containers.
There is only the straight species, Zingiber officinale.
The best time to plant ginger is in late winter or early spring. It takes 8-10 months for a good crop of root ginger to form.
Choose a plump, fresh rhizome, or ‘hand’ that isn’t wrinkled, shrunken or dried out. Look for a hand with many 'fingers' and preferably with well-developed 'eyes' or growth buds at the tips of the rhizome, although this isn’t essential.
Ginger bought from stores is often treated with a growth inhibitor, so either wash it in lukewarm water or soak it for about 2 hours. Then cut the hand into fingers with a sharp knife, each piece being 2.5-5cm (1-2in) long with at least 1 eye or bud, or preferably 3 or 4. Allow the cuts to dry in a warm place for 1 to 2 days before planting.
Pot up the pieces individually in 10-15cm (4-6in) pots of good potting compost, placing them just below the compost surface. Keep somewhere warm – preferably in a heated propagator at a temperature of 25-29C (77-85C) – until the rhizomes start to produce shoots. You could try it on a warm, well-lit windowsill. Water the compost sparingly until the top growth develops.
Suggested planting locations and garden types
Houseplant, indoor plant, summer patio plant.
How to care for ginger
Ginger likes plenty of heat and humidity and needs these to produce a good crop. It can be put outside on a warm, sunny patio sheltered from cold winds in summer, but is best grown indoors – preferably a greenhouse or conservatory.
Keep the compost moist, but not wet or waterlogged, throughout spring and summer – always use tepid rather than cold water.
Feed with a balanced liquid plant food fortnightly throughout summer while plants are growing.
Spray the plants with a mister regularly to improve humidity around the leaves.
Repot plants as and when necessary to prevent them becoming rootbound and to keep the plants growing well. Potbound plants become stunted and produce poor crops of ginger.
Cut back the old stems as they die down in autumn. Your ginger should now be ready to dig up and harvest.