Curcuma longa

Common Name: common turmeric 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Zingiberaceae
Native Range: India, Malaysia
Zone: 8 to 11
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Pale yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Wet Soil

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-11 where it is easily grown in organically rich, fertile, consistently moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best with morning sun and some afternoon shade. Plants like hot summers and high humidity. In early spring, plant rhizomes to 4” deep.

Growing options in areas where plants are not winter hardy include (a) grow plants as annuals, (b) dig rhizomes in fall, remove top growth, and store indoors in a cool, dry location in sawdust, peat or vermiculite that is kept very slightly moist throughout winter, or (c) grow in containers that are overwintered indoors in a cool dry location. Plants grown in large containers may require frequent repotting because the thick rhizomes quickly grow large enough to split open a pot. Potted specimens require lots of water during the growing season.

Rhizomes are typically harvested in fall when the foliage begins to dry off. Some of the harvested rhizomes can be set aside for propagation.

Turmeric is native to tropical southwestern India where temperatures typically range from 65 to 85 degrees F. in moist humid conditions. Turmeric typically begins growth at the beginning of the monsoon season and thrives in monsoon conditions, but becomes dormant when the monsoon ends and drier soils prevail. A large percentage of the world’s commercial crop is produced in India. There is no monsoon in the U.S., but plants grown in Zones 8-11 require a moist summer growing season followed by a dormant winter season.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric, is a tropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennial in the ginger family. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall in a foliage clump of ornamentally-attractive, canna-like, pleated, elliptic to lanceolate green leaves (each to 3 1/2’ long). Short dense spikes of pale yellow flowers are produced in summer. This plant is most noted for its thick, branched rhizomes which are the source (after unearthing, boiling, drying and grinding) of the bright yellow-orange powdery spice known round the world as turmeric. It has a pungent somewhat bitter flavor. Turmeric has a number of well-known uses including culinary (ingredient in curry powder which contributes taste and distinctive yellow-orange color), medicinal (purportedly helps relieve pain, clean wounds, lower blood pressure, treat liver ailments and contain Alzheimer’s disease) and dark yellow dye (food coloring and cosmetic dye which is sometimes considered to be a less expensive saffron-substitute). In addition, plant leaves are sometimes used for wrapping and cooking food. Plant flowers may be eaten as a vegetable.

Genus name is the Latinized version of the Arabic name.

Specific epithet from Latin means long.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Spider mites may appear if soils become overly dry. Slugs and snails may attack young leaves.

Garden Uses

Herb gardens. Containers.