Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is also called Canton ginger, cooking ginger and common ginger. It is an upright growing, herbaceous perennial that is indigenous to regions throughout Southeast Asia. Ginger grows to between 2 and 4 feet tall, depending on the variety, and is hardy in the USDA Zones 8 through 12. If you want to grow ginger in Zone 5, you will need to plant it in a container and overwinter it indoors, since ginger plants are not frost hardy.
Fill up large growing containers with a good quality potting mix until each is approximately three-fourths full. Or you can make your own by mixing together 2 parts peat moss, 1 part loam and 1 part sand or perlite.
Cut the ginger root into individual 1 to 1 1/2 inch long pieces using a sharp knife. If you want to plant a store-bought ginger root, make sure you purchase it in early spring. Look for roots that are both fresh and firm. If they are dried out, they will not sprout.
Place the cut root sections onto a paper towel to let them callous (dry out) before you plant them. This can help prevent the root sections from rotting.
Place two of the ginger root sections onto the surface of the soil in a growing container. Plant the ginger root sections so they are at least 2 to 3 inches apart. Make sure you plant the ginger root sections so the bud, or eye, of each section is facing upward. Then push the root sections gently into the soil to ensure they are set firmly.
Cover each of the ginger root sections with approximately 1 inch of growing media.
Place each of the containers into a location that will provide lots of filtered light. (Ginger cannot tolerate full sun). Water each of the containers to thoroughly saturate the growing media. Keep the soil in the containers toward the moist side, but never overwater so the soil becomes dripping wet. The ginger root sections should begin sprouting in two weeks or longer, depending on conditions.
Fertilize the ginger once they are 3 to 4 inches tall and throughout the growing season (summer) with a monthly dose of fertilizer. Use a liquid fertilizer such as 15-15-15 and follow the directions on the product's label for how many tablespoons or teaspoons to use per gallon or quart of water.
Bring the containers indoors before the first fall frost. The ginger will go into dormancy over winter, so do not water it and let the soil in the containers dry out if you wish to harvest the ginger root. Or provide only minimal water (enough to keep the soil just barely moist) over winter, letting the soil dry out between waterings. In the spring, you can transfer the containers back outside after all danger of further frost has passed.