In today’s article, we discover how to grow ginger in a pot on the balcony or terrace of your home. Originating from East Asia, specifically southern India, this herbal plant has been used for millennia as a spice, thanks to its unmistakable aroma, but its most important use is due to its medicinal properties. Let’s get to know this plant better, starting with its botanical characteristics and medicinal uses. We will also see how easy it is to grow it in a pot, perhaps on the balcony, by planting it in the right period, namely during the spring-summer season.
In this period, our temperatures are suitable for its growth, and with the right care, we will have a healthy and thriving ginger plant.
Ginger, origin, and spread
Ginger, scientific name Zingiber officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the botanical family Zingiberaceae, which includes other plants like turmeric.
Although its origin is Indian, it is a plant widely spread throughout the Asian continent. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been used for millennia for its healing properties. In Indian culture, it is considered a sacred plant, used during religious rituals as a purification tool. It has always been used as a spice in Asian cuisine.
The plant loves warmth and thrives in a sub-tropical climate. That’s why it spread to Europe only through trade with ancient East countries, first with the Greeks and Romans, and later with the East India Company. The English renamed it Ginger and used it in the liquor industry.
At our latitudes, cultivating ginger on a large scale is impossible, so the plant has always had high commercial value for us.
Over the centuries, this cultivation has spread to other parts of the world, diversifying into local species.
Botanical characteristics of ginger
The richness of ginger lies in its root, a large rhizome that can reach over 15 cm in length when fully mature.
With its typical irregular shape, it is fleshy and branched.
When dried, the outer skin becomes brown, while the inside is yellow.
Small secondary roots and vegetative shoots emerge from the rhizome.
The stems are upright and can reach a height of one meter. They end with oblong-lanceolate leaves, about 30 cm long, which sheathe the stem.
The flowers of the species in question are gathered in spike inflorescences, with a broadened tube-shaped corolla divided into three open lobes. Their color is yellowish-white with purple shades.
In many species of ginger, these characteristics may vary, especially concerning the color of the flowers.
Properties and uses of ginger
When we decide to cultivate ginger, what interests us most is the rhizome. As mentioned earlier, its properties and active principles are found in this part of the plant, preferably when dried. Specifically, the rhizome contains an essential oil whose active principle is zingiberene.
It also contains gingerols, a substance very similar to the capsaicin in chili peppers. Other elements found inside are shogaols, resins, and mucilages.
These active principles have an important intestinal action as they stimulate enzymatic secretion, flora rebalancing, and salivary and biliary secretion.
Thus, we have an excellent natural remedy against diarrhea, nausea, and gastrointestinal pains.
In general, ginger is considered a “hot” spice. With its thermogenic effect, it releases a feeling of warmth in the body. For this reason, it can alleviate flu symptoms and cold-related illnesses. A ginger tea helps dissolve mucus and clears the bronchi. Moreover, this plant is considered a natural aphrodisiac. In Chinese medicine, it was used as a remedy for fatigue, asthenia, and male impotence.
It aids in digestion, particularly of carbohydrates and proteins, and helps eliminate intestinal gas.
To benefit from its properties, you can use dried or powdered rhizome for preparing homemade herbal teas, infusions and decoctions. If you don’t want to cultivate it, there are ready-to-use options available.
Culinary uses of ginger
In cooking, fresh ginger is used as it is, sliced thinly, but its most common use is in powdered form as an aromatic spice. The plant can flavor fish-based dishes, soups, and vegetables, thanks to its pungent aroma and pleasant spicy taste. It is also used in the production of sweets, such as gingerbread or candied ginger. It is also used for making liquors and syrups. Its thermogenic effect helps burn calories, making ginger particularly suitable for those who want to lose weight while following a balanced diet.
Growing ginger in a pot, the right period
Now, let’s focus on the technical aspects and understand how to grow ginger organically even at our latitudes. In particular, given the plant’s characteristics, we will focus on pot cultivation.
For the plant to grow and thrive vigorously, it needs temperatures that never drop below 15°C. As mentioned earlier, its ideal climate is sub-tropical, with temperatures never falling below certain thresholds. It also requires high humidity levels.
In our country, growing ginger in open fields would be possible only in limited coastal areas of southern regions, where temperatures theoretically remain high even during the winter. This is why pot cultivation can be a solution. Thanks to the pot, the plant can be brought indoors and protected already in autumn when temperatures drop. This way, it will continue to grow undisturbed.
Moreover, ginger is a very aesthetically pleasing plant, so it makes a beautiful addition to indoor environments.
To start growing ginger in a pot, the right time is late spring, when temperatures are stable, and the risk of cold spells is avoided. To give you an indication, this can be from the second half of April onwards. Now let’s see what precautions are necessary.
The best exposure
Considerable attention should be paid to the exposure to sunlight in which you place your ginger pot. The ideal exposure is semi-shaded, avoiding direct sunlight throughout the day, while choosing a location with strong brightness.
Even when bringing the plant indoors, try to choose areas with strong brightness, and occasionally mist the aerial part of the plant to recreate a humid environment.
Choice of pot and soil
The ideal pot for growing ginger should be wide and sufficiently deep. In fact, the rhizomes need room to multiply, as the rhizome itself is the plant’s root system.
The ideal size and shape are those of a large rectangular pot, with a length of at least 75 cm and a depth of 30-40 cm. This careful choice of the pot is essential because the ginger rhizome tends to grow horizontally. On the bottom of the pot, you should place expanded clay, ensuring good water drainage. This is a common technique for those who do balcony gardening.
For the soil, prepare a mix composed of 1/2 peat, 1/4 fine sand, and 1/4 garden soil. For a base fertilization, you can add the result of earthworm humus or the result of your home composting.
To start growing ginger, you need to get rhizomes from a mature plant, preferably at least 3 years old. Pay attention to whether the rhizome has “eyes,” which are tiny buds that will later give rise to the plant’s vegetation.
To aid germination, soak the rhizome overnight before planting it. Then proceed with planting, burying the root about 5 cm deep. Keep a distance of 15-20 cm between each rhizome. Finally, make sure that the buds are positioned upward.
If you want to grow ginger healthily and vigorously, the plant needs water and humidity. To gauge the right amount of water, simply touch the soil in the pot and water it when it becomes too dry.
To recreate a humid environment, occasionally mist the plant’s leaves with a spray bottle.
However, be cautious not to overwater. Avoid waterlogging, as it could cause rot and damage your precious rhizomes.
Harvest and storage
The best time to harvest ginger rhizomes is during the months of January and February. The plants should be at least 6 months old. If harvested from younger plants, the rhizomes will be tender, light-colored, and have a milder taste. On the other hand, harvesting from older plants will result in a stronger and spicier taste.
Naturally, when harvesting ginger in a pot, it’s advisable to leave some rhizomes and aerial parts of the plant so that it continues to multiply and proliferate.
Once harvested, ginger can be consumed fresh. Alternatively, you can let it sun-dry for about 15 days, then grind it into powder.
Fresh ginger root can be stored in the fridge and will last for about a week. The powder, on the other hand, should be kept in airtight glass containers, protected from light and heat.
- Mount Sinai – New York – “Ginger Information” – Provides information about ginger, a knotted, thick, beige underground stem, called a rhizome, with green stems and lance-shaped leaves, and white or yellowish-green flowers.
- Wisconsin Horticulture – “Ginger, Zingiber officinale” – An article discussing the horticultural aspects of ginger, including its growth and characteristics.
- Pennsylvania State University Extension – “Growing Ginger – Add a Little Spice to Your Life” – This article provides insights into growing ginger, offering guidance on how to cultivate this spice.
- Michigan State University – “Plant science at the dinner table: Ginger” – An exploration of ginger from a plant science perspective, discussing its culinary uses and scientific aspects.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine – “Ginger Benefits” – This article from Johns Hopkins Medicine discusses the various health benefits of ginger, including its wellness and preventive properties.
- Molecules – “Effect of Ginger on Inflammatory Diseases.” – This review discusses the use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) for its anti-inflammatory properties, which could improve the quality of life for patients with inflammatory diseases.
- Phytochemistry – “Gingerols and shogaols: Important nutraceutical principles from ginger.” – Gingerols are the major pungent compounds in ginger and are renowned for their contribution to human health, including the alleviation of nausea and arthritis.
- Phytother Res – “Protective and therapeutic potential of ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract and -gingerol in cancer: A comprehensive review.” – This review explores the protective or therapeutic role of ginger derivatives in oxidative and inflammatory regulations during metabolic disturbance and on the antiproliferative and anticancer properties.
- Food Funct – “A review of the gastroprotective effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe).” – This review highlights the health benefits of ginger, including its anti-emetic effects.
- Food Chem Toxicol – “Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research.” – This review focuses on the renewed interest in ginger, its pharmacological actions, and scientific verification of its constituents.
- Phytother Res – “Herbal formulation “turmeric extract, black pepper, and ginger” versus Naproxen for chronic knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial.” – This clinical trial compares the effects of a herbal formulation including ginger with Naproxen for chronic knee osteoarthritis.
- Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr – “Ginger-Mechanism of action in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: A review.” – This review explores how ginger possesses properties that could exert multiple beneficial effects on chemotherapy patients who experience nausea and vomiting.
- Curr Mol Pharmacol – “Ginger and Heart Health: From Mechanisms to Therapeutics.” – This review discusses the phytochemical properties of ginger and its constituents’ biological activities and health benefits in cardiovascular complications.
- Phytother Res – “Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and its bioactive components are potential resources for health beneficial agents.” – This article explores ginger as a perennial and herbaceous plant with long cultivation history, focusing on its unique pungent flavor and medicinal properties.
- Molecules – “Zingiber officinale var. rubrum: Red Ginger’s Medicinal Uses.” – This review focuses on red ginger, widely used in traditional medicine in Asia, and explores its therapeutic benefits.