Growing a curcuma ginger plant indoors

Credit: Flickr / Theerawat Sangprakarn

Q: I live in zone 5 in Pennsylvania. I have purchased a curcuma ginger plant and would like to pot it and bring it indoors for the winter months. Will this work and will it survive indoors?

Curcuma is a genus in the ginger family that is adapted to seasonally drought-prone areas in tropical Asia and Australia, so  you can keep it through winter much as you would a begonia tuber.

Lift it in fall (once temperatures fall below 18 degrees C or 64 degrees F), shake the soil off the fleshy rhizome and let it dry out somewhat. Keep it packed in loose peat moss at 12 degrees C (54 degrees F) – for example in a cool basement or slightly heated garage. Check the rhizomes every month in winter and sprinkle with water if it looks too dry (begins to wither). In spring, pot it up in good soil and begin to water it so that it sprouts again. Use a balanced fertilizer monthly and water freely.

Of course, if you have a very bright location, such as a greenhouse or conservatory, you could keep the whole plant there, without allowing it to go into dormancy. Or you could rig up a grow light. Most homes have too little light in winter to grow this plant as an indoor plant.