Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe), also known as Jamaican ginger, is a tropical perennial originally from Asia. It is an important spice plant with a long history of cultivation throughout the world, grown for its flavoring and medicinal characteristics.
Ginger grows 2 to 3 feet high. Its leaves are simple, smooth and thin, with long narrow blades. Yellow-green flowers with purple tips grow in dense spikes. Ginger plants produce highly branched rhizomes that grow close to the soil surface. The thin outer rhizome skin is scaly, light brown or tan in color and the intensely aromatic interior is pale yellow.
Ginger prefers partial to full shade conditions. Ginger plants in full sun grow poorly and develop brown-tipped leaf margins. Nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive, yet well-drained soil is best for ginger cultivation. Most good garden soils, combined with fertilization and irrigation, are sufficient for growing ginger, according to University of Florida Extension. Early in spring, plant 1- to 1 ½-inch-long rhizome segments containing at least one eye (nodal bud) 15 inches apart in a well-prepared garden bed. Grow in USDA zones 8 through 12. Ginger can be grown in a container and brought indoors during the winter months.
Harvest and Storage
Dig up rhizomes in the fall after the leafy tops have died back. Allow to dry in the shade and store fresh, unpeeled ginger in paper towels placed in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Ginger is used fresh, dried or in dehydrated powdered form and is also candied or prepared as a syrup. It is also used in drinks, such as ginger ale, and has some perfume use. Ginger is commonly used as an antinausea agent in various forms. Cooking ginger is not a particularly ornamental species. Its relative, Zingiber zerumbet, commonly known as pine cone lily or wild ginger, is a showy plant with an unusual pinecone-like inflorescence.
Ginger has few bothersome pests, but mites can be a problem and may be controlled by misting the plants. Mites are typical in warm, dry environments. Your local county extension office is a good source of pest identification and management techniques.