Used widely in Indonesian and Indian cooking, Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron and the botanical name is Curcuma longa.
It is easy to grow, and as a perennial is long lived. Growing from rhizomes, this is a plant that needs a warm climate and moist soil to grow successfully. The other important factor is good drainage. This is important to stop the rhizome from rotting.
You can grow Tumeric in containers, and for those in cooler climates this is the best method.
The natural environment is as a rainforest plant, so put together, warmth, moist soil, good filtered light and good soil and you are well on the way to growing turmeric at home
Turmeric is related to the gingers and is grown to use either fresh or dried in cooking. Curcuma longa is from South East Asia, Curcuma domestica is from India.
The plant itself will reach around 1m in height and many gardeners grow turmeric purely for the wonderful pure white flowers. Usually seen as a tropical or sub tropical plant it can be grown in cooler climates as a perennial. Usually turmeric is grown for the roots or tubers, however the wide green leaves are also used in Malaysian cooking, either as wraps to stem food in or finely cut and used in curries.
How to grow Turmeric
Growing turmeric is not difficult, a humus rich well drained moist soil in part shade, full shade will encourage leaf growth but will decrease the growth of tubers. In cooler climates we suggest growing turmeric in pots or containers and giving it some protection from the winter cold, use a greenhouse or warm sunny patio area.
You can grow Turmeric from the tubers you buy in markets. You will need a healthy rhizome to start with. If you look at the rhizomes you will see some buds, and this is what you want.
In warmer climates (sub tropical) you can plant at any time of the year. In cooler areas plant in a container in spring as the weather warms. Or grow turmeric earlier in a container in a warm position on a patio, or verandah.
You can grow numeric indoors if you have the right conditions.
To start you will need :
- Some turmeric root or rhizome. You can choose a healthy looking rhizome from any market and use this as a starter.
- A large container.
- A good quality humus rich growing medium with some added perlite to improve drainage..
- Look for fresh healthy rhizomes at a market or specialist fruit and vegetable shop.
- Choose a rhizome (or root) that has some buds visible.
- Cut the rhizome into pieces that have at least 3 buds on the section.
- Mix 2/3 good quality potting mix with 1/3 cow manure. Add a little blood and bone or bone meal.
- Plant the root at around 6 – 10 cm deep with the ‘buds’, or ‘eyes’ facing upwards.
- Water regularly with a liquid seaweed fertiliser. Avoid nitrogen rich fertilisers.
- Keep the container in a warm position with dappled light
In autumn the plant will begin to die back, at this stage you can cut it back to the ground. To over winter in cooler climates, place the container in a warm sheltered position where it does not get a lot of rain over winter. Cold wet soils are the combination that causes the root to rot.
When to Harvest Turmeric
As the foliage dies back the tubers are ready to harvest. The whole clump can be lifted and tubers divided, some for culinary use some for replanting. Some gardeners will dig away at the side of the clump to obtain a little fresh turmeric at other times of the year.
Turmeric also has very pretty white flowers, and could be grown as a garden plant for these alone.
- Botanical Name – Curcuma longa
- Common Names – Turmeric, Indian Saffron.
- Climate – Tropical to sub tropical.
- Soil – Humus rich moist and well drained.
- Light – Strong filtered light
- Height – Will reach 3ft (1 metre) in height
- Foliage mid to deep green.
- Flowers – Fragrant white to pink.
- Frost tolerant – NO
- Drought tolerant – NO
- Best climate Zone – Sub tropical to Tropical