Ginger is a perennial herb that grows from rhizomes. Separating a ginger periodically will encourage new growth and can garner new plants from divided rhizomes. Ginger plant division should be done when a container is crowded or when garden plants are at least three years old. You can use the rhizomes for flavoring and tea, or plant them anew to develop additional plants for your landscape or give away to a deserving family member or friend. The trick is knowing when to divide ginger and how to do it without damaging the parent plant.
When to Divide Ginger
The culinary ginger we know and love comes from Zinginber officinale but there are ornamental gingers in the genera Hedychium and Curcuma which produce beautiful flowers and attractive foliage as well. Most are natives of tropical to sub-tropical regions and require well-draining soil, sun, and warm temperatures. Rhizomes are the part of the plant which is divided in order to make new plants or simply to separate old rhizomes from new and increase growth.
The prevailing wisdom on separating ginger points to dividing when the weather is warm but recent rains have occurred. Most gingers produce rhizomes near the top 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.). Rhizomes are underground modified stems which have growth nodes. It is from these growth nodes that new plant material will sprout. Therefore, it is the rhizomes you are harvesting during ginger plant division.
If you are seeing numerous rhizomes pushing to the surface of the soil, it is time to divide the plant. Splitting a ginger plant once this occurs will keep the plant healthy and allow you to harvest those rhizomes, either for culinary use as in the case of Zinginber or just to create more plants.
How to Divide Ginger Plants
Ginger has glorious leaves and flowers. It adds a tropical aspect to the home interior if there is proper lighting or as an outdoor plant. The majority of a ginger plant’s growth occurs when temperatures are warm and plenty of moisture is available.
To separate the plant, dig it up carefully without damaging the rhizomes and roots. Use a sharp knife or root saw and cut away individual rhizomes. Check each rhizome for damage from rot or insect/rodent damage. Discard any damaged rhizomes.
Take the healthy rhizomes and select all that have at least several eyes or growth nodes. These will be the source of sprouts and new plant growth. Ensuring that each piece planted has plenty of nodes is insurance in case one doesn’t sprout. You can also store the rhizomes in peat moss in a paper bag until planting conditions are favorable.
What to Do After Ginger Plant Division
After splitting a ginger plant, you should have several healthy viable roots or rhizomes. You can use some of these as kitchen flavoring or immediately plant them. In many regions, it is best to start the plant off in a container so it can be brought indoors in case of cold snaps.
Use a well-draining soil with plenty of compost incorporated into it. Lightly moisten the soil and install each rhizome at least 3 inches (8 cm.) under the surface of the soil with the majority of the growth nodes pointing to the sky. Keep the soil lightly moist but never soggy.
If temperatures are at least 70 to 80 degrees F. (21-27 C.), the rhizomes should sprout in a few weeks. You can move them into the ground once there are a pair of true leaves, or grow them on in the container.