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Turmeric is native to South East Asia and is usually recognizable as a bright yellow/orange and pungent spice associated with asian cooking - particularly Indian curries. It is often referred to as a “super food” that has many therapeutic applications. It also has been identified as containing a very large number of substances that promote good health - providing turmeric with health benefits not available in many other foods.

Turmeric is very easy to grow in the right conditions and if you have the room in your garden, or even a spare pot either indoors or outside, you should consider adding it to your list of plants to grow.

Turmeric Plant Details

Common Names: Turmeric; Indian saffron
Scientific Name: Curcuma longa

Turmeric Plant Description

Turmeric is a perennial plant and as such, can be maintained year after year. It grows up to 1m tall and produces rhizomes underground - it is these rhizomes that provide the spice that is so sought after. However, if left to fully mature for about 1 year, turmeric plants will produce beautiful flower spikes that are themselves worth growing this wonderful plant for.

Water availability is important for turmeric - it is a native of the warm high rainfall areas of southeast Asia. Therefore adequate water availability is critical. Because Turmeric produces a substantial rhizome, it is also important that the soil drains well - if it gets too wet, the rhizome will rot.

Turmeric Plant

Best Climate to Grow Turmeric

Turmeric is a tropical plant and therefore can only be grown outdoors in temperatures above 18oC (Zones 9 or warmer). It will not tolerate frosts. Turmeric can tolerate light shade (think rain forest). In fact, this can even be good for it, although it will result in a reduced yield. If you don’t live in an area with this climate, turmeric can be grown very well in pots indoors.

Turmeric Planting Guide

Plant turmeric early to mid spring - the soil should be warm. Rhizomes can be broken up into sections (setts), ensuring that there is a “growing bud’ on each sett you intend planting. Sow each sett approximately 6cm deep, while maintaining about 30cm between plants. 

Harvest after 9 to 10 months. It will be clear when they are ready - the plant leaves and stem turn brown and dry out - the plant actually appears to be dying back.

Common Uses of Turmeric

It is turmeric that give curries their distinctive yellow colour - typical curry powder consists of approximately 25% turmeric. Turmeric can be used fresh or dried. Don’t overlook the the leaves - these can be used to wrap around fish while being baked providing a lovely flavour.

Turmeric latte

Turmeric Positives

  • There are very few pests that affect turmeric. Therefore there is little that needs to be done in this area.
  • Very easy to care for.

Turmeric Negatives

  • Limitation to subtropical or tropical areas if you want to grow them outside
  • Require regular watering.

Caring for Turmeric

  • They prefer full sun, but can tolerate part-shade.
  • Soil should be well drained and enriched with organic matter such as compost and/or well aged manures.
  • Water regularly.
  • Add liquid fertiliser every 2 weeks.

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About the author: Steven McLean

I am an educator and passionate gardener and traveler. Throughout my adult life, gardening has been my passion, therapy, drive and source of purpose. Even as a child I had an intrinsic interest in plants and a desire to understand what makes them grow.

I distinctly remember the moment this began - my family was on one of our regular road trips from Hervey Bay; Australia. We were driving past a field of sugar cane. Dad pulled the car over and we cut a couple of sugar cane stems and brought them home for a treat. To be honest, I didn’t really like the taste, but I did want to try and grow it; and that is exactly what I did. It was then that my fascination, interest and passion for gardening and understanding plants began.

Fast forward a few years and I studied biological sciences and began what would be a 36 year career as a Biology educator. From this, I don’t only love gardening, but I also love helping others learn about gardening. I am also always looking for new ways to develop my own gardening knowledge. I like to think I am truly a life-long learner.

Fundamental to my beliefs about education is that learning is often best done as a part of a community - learning from others, and helping others to learn. It is this type of community that I hope iCultivate will be for its members - a community of gardeners, keen to share their gardening knowledge and wanting to learn about new ways to garden - a community built on the love of gardening.

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