What we call fresh ginger root is actually the rhizome of the ginger (Zingiber officinale) plant. Choose a smooth, shiny root that has some buds beginning. These will look similar to the eyes of a potato.
- A fun way to start a ginger plant is to suspend a two-inch piece of the rhizome over a glass of water. Do this by poking a toothpick on either side of the root. Fill the glass, submerging about one-third of the ginger. When roots grow to about an inch long, plant the rhizome just below the surface of a rich, moist potting mixture in a pot that has good drainage.
- Plant ginger in a pot for growing indoors or out! Using a rich potting mixture, choose a pot at least four times the size of your ginger rhizome or plant it in the large pot that will be its permanent home on your patio, deck, or other outdoor garden area. Fill the pot three-quarters full of potting mixture; lay your rhizome flat on top and cover it with about an inch of soil. Keep the pot in a sunny location until sprouts appear, then move it to an area with good indirect light. Ginger won’t tolerate bright, direct light.
- Start a small plant for transplanting into your garden. Plant your ginger root directly into a pot filled with rich potting mixture. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and place it on a sunny windowsill. When the first shoots appear, remove the plastic bag. If all danger of frost is past, move your young ginger plant directly into your garden. Alternatively put the pot in a location where it will get indirect sunlight. Water it regularly, but be sure not to let the soil become saturated.
Your ginger plant will grow two to four feet tall. Slender stems and narrow, glossy leaves may reach up to a foot long and resemble the foliage of a lily. Occasionally, your ginger may produce a yellow green flower, but flowers are both rare and unnecessary for the health of the plant.
Ginger is not frost hardy so in temperate areas bring plants indoors for the winter and ignore it! Foliage will yellow and die back, but the plant will return to growth in the spring.
Harvest ginger after the rhizome has grown three to four months. Since the best time to plant ginger is in the spring, this usually means a fall harvest. Harvested ginger root is usually sun-dried for longer preservation. It can either be stored in a dry cupboard or refrigerated.