Curcuma is a rhizome plant native to parts of south and southeast Asia, according to information published by the Pacific Bulb Society. These striking plants, which can reach heights of 2 feet, are desirable for their tall stems covered with colorful bracts, and glossy green leaves. They are equally desirable for their rhizomes (thick, horizontal roots) that are dried and ground for use as a spice. In fact, this tropical beauty is related the ginger plant. Curcuma can be grown outdoors in tropical areas, or indoors as a houseplant if cared for properly.
Curcumas are not cold-hardy and can be damaged or killed if exposed to prolonged temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to information published by North Carolina State University. They should only be grown outdoors in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, and only in zone 9 if protected with mulch. Curcumas can be grown in containers and brought indoors for the winter in USDA zones 4 through 8, or as a year-round, indoor houseplant in any zone.
Place or plant your curcuma where it will receive either full sunlight or morning sun followed by light afternoon shade. These plants will thrive if the amount of daily shade exposure is 25 percent of the time or less, according to information published by North Carolina State University. Indoor plants can be placed near a window, but not against the window, as it may suffer from temperature extremes in that location. Diffuse very bright, afternoon light with a curtain, lest it be strong enough to scorch the leaves of the plant.
Soil and Water
Curcumas prefer rich, loamy soil that drains well. Keep the soil moist, but not overly waterlogged, as very wet soil can cause the delicate tubers (rhizomes) to rot. Water when the top layer of soil begins to dry out. Use rainwater or distilled water, not tap water, and keep the water at room temperature.
Curcumas, like many tropical foliage plants, do best in humid conditions. Indoor curcumas should be placed on a humidity tray. This is a tray filled with pebbles and a layer of water to a depth that barely covers the pebbles. Rest the pot on the pebbles, and the evaporating water will add humidity to the air.
Feed your curcuma once or twice a month during the growing season (spring through summer) with a half-dose of water-soluble, balanced fertilizer formulated for tropical foliage plants. Orchid fertilizer also works well, according to information published by Florists' Review Enterprises. Cease watering and feeding during the winter to allow the plant to go dormant.