Variegated Ginger: A Guide to Cultivating These Unique Tropical Plants

Growing and caring for variegated ginger can seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t have experience growing plants indoors or in your yard. While most ginger plants are relatively easy to care for, variegated ginger plants are even easier because they prefer to grow in partial shade.

Variegated ginger plants come from a different variety of ginger than the typical kind, so they don’t need as much sun to thrive (but they still do best with some sunlight exposure).

Whether starting with an established variegated ginger plant or growing your own from seed, this detailed guide covers growing and caring for variegated ginger.

What Is Variegated Ginger?

Variegated Ginger

Variegated ginger (Alpinia Zerumbet ‘Variegata’) is a type of ginger with a purple or pink coloration on the leaves. While it may look different from regular ginger, it is just as tasty, if not more. This herbaceous perennial is popular and widespread, especially in extreme south Alabama, south and central Florida, and other warm regions.

The variegated ginger blooms in spring and is grown mainly for its gorgeous leaves in colors of yellow, green, dark red, and sometimes cream. Variegated ginger is a low-maintenance plant with erect clusters of thick, succulent rhizomes that look similar to culinary ginger.

Although this variety can grow up to 10 feet tall, they are usually only 3 or 4 feet tall in gardens, especially in northern climates where they are cultivated as perennial houseplants.

Planting variegated ginger can be done through seeds or cuttings, and pruning should happen two times per year – once in the early spring and again during the summer months. Variegated ginger requires regular watering, but not over-watering, as this will kill off some of the plant’s root system.

Some of the uses variegated ginger serves include:

  • An understory plant among tall trees
  • An exotic plant in the foreground
  • A cover in front of towering green bushes
  • A huge highlight for a mixed bed
  • A single-yard specimen
  • An accent in a home corner
  • A center of a semicircular drive

Where Can I Get Variegated Ginger?

Variegated ginger is often grown as a houseplant because it is easy to grow indoors. You can find it at most garden stores or online, but it is common in the wild. For online stores, you can easily find variegated ginger on Etsy and Amazon.

If you find variegated ginger in the wild, ensure it has not been sprayed with chemicals before harvesting. One way to tell if variegated ginger has been sprayed is by smelling the leaves; if they have a strong chemical smell, do not harvest them.

What to Consider Before Planting Variegated Ginger

Variegated Ginger

1. Choosing a Soil Type

Variegated ginger plants should be grown in soil that is moist, loose, well-drained, and rich in organic matter. Use a potting mix composed of one part compost, one part sand or perlite, and one part peat moss.

The pH balance of the soil should be between 6 and 7. To successfully grow the variegated ginger plant, you must place it in an area with ample sunlight but not direct exposure to the midday sun. Be sure to water the variegated ginger plant sparingly because it will rot if left sitting in water for too long.

2. Choosing a Pot Size

Variegated ginger is an easy houseplant that makes you feel like you have a piece of the tropics in your home. The first step is choosing a pot for your plant; it’s best to choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom, but if not, be sure to water with more frequency than usual.

3. Fertilizer

The next step is picking up some fertilizer (you’ll need half-strength liquid fertilizer every three weeks) and planting your root system in good soil with plenty of compost or organic material.

4. The Right Watering Technique

Keep the soil dry out completely to maximize your variegated ginger’s growth. When watering, make sure the soil is moist but not wet. The best time to water is right before you go to bed or when you get home from work in the evening so that it has plenty of time to dry out before morning.

It is advisable to water your soil a day after watering, especially if it feels damp. If it feels moist after watering, it needs more water. If it feels sandy, then you need less water. Remember that plants will only thrive if they have proper drainage, and overwatering can cause root rot, which can end up killing your plants altogether.

5. Establishing Roots Before Planting Variegated Ginger Outdoors

Variegated ginger is an attractive plant with a beautiful, striped stem. You can grow it indoors or outdoors, but we recommend giving it ample time to develop before being planted outside. Start by planting the rhizome in a pot filled with well-draining potting soil.

Place the pot in a sunny window or under grow lights and water as needed so that the soil remains moist but not soaking wet. After two to four weeks, your variegated ginger should show growth. When this happens, transplant the rhizome into a larger pot (or outdoors) and enjoy.

6. Planting Variegated Ginger Indoors (Don’t Overpot)

Variegated ginger is an annual plant that propagates by root cuttings. It grows best in a potting mix with good drainages, such as cactus or houseplant soil. The pot should be at least 12-inches deep for a rooted cutting or 18-inches deep if you are planting the rhizome itself.

Add well-draining organic material such as peat moss or sand to fill up about two-thirds of the pot before adding your variegated ginger. Keep it moist during spring until it sprouts new growth, but after it blooms, allow the soil to dry out for a while before watering it again.

7. Transplanting Variegated Ginger Outdoors

Variegated ginger is a plant that grows well in tropical climates and tolerates lower temperatures so that it can be grown outdoors during the warmer months. The plant prefers moist soil rich in organic matter, but it will grow well in just about any soil type. If you live in a cooler climate, you can grow variegated ginger as an indoor houseplant or as an outdoor landscape plant.

Steps for Growing Variegated Ginger

Growing variegated ginger is simple and rewarding, and it takes patience and water to grow ginger into an elegant plant once it has been planted. To grow variegated ginger, we recommend following these steps:

1. Get a ginger root.

To start growing variegated ginger, you only need to get ginger roots from a plant nursery or a grocery store. We recommend using plump ginger roots (rhizomes) that are free of wrinkles. You can also buy organic ginger since non-organic will likely have been treated with a growth inhibitor.

2. Cut the ginger root into pieces (optional).

If you intend to grow more than one variegated ginger, we recommend cutting the ginger root at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) with sanitized shears or a knife. After cutting, place the pieces in a dry place to enable them to recover for a few days. They’ll build a protective callus over the cut surface, lowering the danger of infection. Each piece of ginger takes up 8 inches (20 cm) of space, and using larger pieces will save much-needed room.

3. Prepare the soil.

 Mix the garden soil with well-rotted compost to provide enough nutrients to sustain the ginger roots. We recommend using a garden shop pH kit to modify the soil to somewhere around 6.1 and 6.5 pH, especially if the soil in your location is alkaline.

4. Pick an ideal location.

We recommend picking a non-swampy spot sheltered from moisture and wind to get the best results. The soil temperature should be around 71 and 77ºF. Use a pot that is 30cm deep if you’re growing the variegated ginger in a pot or vase.

5. Plant the ginger root.

When planting the variegated ginger, place each root 5-10 cm below the soil while ensuring that the buds are facing upward. If you’re using a pot to plant, place one piece per pot. It usually takes 3-4 months for the ginger to reach maturity.

Caring For Variegated Ginger

Below are the different ways you can care for variegated ginger:

1. Soil and Transplanting

Variegated ginger is a plant that is typically grown indoors. In addition, you can also plant them outside in the shade, but they will not grow as tall. This herb needs rich soil, so you should use a potting soil mix. It also needs plenty of water, so keeping the soil moist is essential.

The Variegated Shell Ginger is not fussy about its potting mix. Growing this plant, however, requires organically rich and well-draining soil. Hence, you should provide the plant slightly acidic sand, loam, or clay combination.

As the variegated ginger prefers a wet soil surface, ensure the potting mixture you choose does not dry up. You can also increase the soil’s quality by adding organic fertilizer.

2. Light and Temperature

One last thing that this plant requires is warmth, so you should keep the temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want your variegated ginger to flower, it will need 12 hours of sunlight per day. When planting your variegated ginger, ensure the crown is about two inches below the surface.

When growing indoors, position the plant near a window that faces south, where it will receive filtered sun or partial sun and will be shielded from the intense rays of the afternoon sun—the USDA hardiness zones for the variegated ginger span from 8 to 10. However, if appropriately covered throughout the winter, they can tolerate up to zone 7.

3. Maintenance and Grooming

The variegated ginger grows well in humid environments and under bright sunlight. A lack of moisture, as well as harsh freezing temperatures, can cause the margins of the leaves to turn brown. Therefore, applying a layer of mulch around the roots is best to protect them from the elements.

4. Watering and Feeding

Variegated ginger demands a lot of water during its growing season. Avoid allowing the soil to dry up, but keep it from being permanently moist. It is not a drought-tolerant species and will suffer considerably if not properly irrigated, particularly during the summer.

Furthermore, frequent watering and moderate shade guarantee that the plant grows to optimal levels. If you’re growing them in pots, ensure to provide the plant with a liquid food once a month (fertilizer).

Variegated ginger is a unique type of ginger that can be grown in pots, containers, or even on the ground. It is an excellent addition to any garden because it adds color and produces beautiful flowers. To grow this plant, you will need a sunny location with moist soil and lots of room for the roots to spread out.

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