How to Start Growing Turmeric at Home (No Matter What Zone You’re In!)

Growing a turmeric plant at home is easy! Here’s how to grow turmeric to add to your spice (and medicine) cabinet. 

You can make your own dried turmeric powder from the roots!

white bowl full of freshly harvested turmeric rhizomes

All about growing turmeric at home

When you hear “turmeric,” you may immediately think of the deep golden colored spice that is frequently used in curries. It’s a must-use ingredient for bread and butter pickles, too.

That familiar spice is made from turmeric roots, dried and ground into a fine powder. When you grow your own turmeric plant, you can use the roots fresh, dry your own, or even use the bright roots as a dye plant.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is related to ginger and in fact is grown, harvested, and used much like ginger. Here in Hawaii, it’s called olena.

growing turmeric plant, green with white flower

What does turmeric look like growing in a garden?

Turmeric plants have lovely wide leaves and can work easily as part of a front yard landscape, so long as they’re placed somewhere that can be dug up once a year or so.

Near the end of its growing cycle, turmeric plants develop beautiful white (in most cases) flowers. There’s a very famous Hawaiian song about it, Pua ‘Olena

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turmeric roots, some cut open showing bright orange color.

Varieties of turmeric to grow

There are more than 130 varieties of turmeric grown around the world. There are a few named varieties you can look for to plant turmeric at home.

Hawaiian Red is a deep dark orange. Because the darker the rhizome, the higher the curcumin levels in turmeric, this variety makes a good one for people including this in their diet for health reasons. Order seed rhizomes here.

Black turmeric (curcuma caesia) is a fun variety worth noting. Rather than the yellow and orange coloring, this turmeric has a deep blue root. Order seed rhizomes here.

How to grow turmeric

To plant turmeric outside, work the ground well and incorporate some compost into your planting area. Separate rhizomes into fingers that each have at least two buds, or eyes. Plant, buds up, about 2-3″ deep and 12″ apart. Leaves should start to appear in six to eight weeks.

If you’re replanting your own rhizomes to grow turmeric, choose the best, fullest roots for use in the kitchen and set aside those that are less beautiful for planting. The “mother,” the main stalk of the plant with a small portion of root, is often the most productive piece you can plant. Go ahead and plant it in the ground with portion of the stalk remaining.

Can you start an ‘olena plant from seed?

Not really seeds; you’ll need turmeric seed rhizomes to start a new plant. This is the same thing as the fresh turmeric root you’d eat. These are available for sale from a variety of sellers online

Once you have grown turmeric yourself, though, it’s kind of a perpetual crop, as you’ll harvest the roots and replant some of those each year.


 

pretty garden with tomatoes and flowers - cover of book "edible front yard garden"The Edible Front Yard Garden

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freshly harvested olena roots on a green lawn

Requirements for growing turmeric

‘Olena is hardy outdoors in zones 8 and higher. It thrives in my garden here in Hawaii; to grow it in cooler regions, you’ll need to give it a little extra care. (See below for how to grow turmeric indoors.) The plant has a long growing season, requiring 8-10 months in the ground before being ready to harvest.

Light requirements

Give turmeric plants full sun in most regions. If you regularly get scorching days (say, 85 degrees or higher) during the summer months, they will appreciate a little midday shade.       

Fertilizer and water requirements

‘Olena plants are pretty carefree. If you’re growing yours in containers, you’ll want to side dress with a handful of compost every month or so, to make sure it has enough nutrients to thrive.

Root ball of turmeric plant, showing some of the orange tuber

Planting turmeric in containers

Turmeric grows well in containers. ‘Olena plants grown in containers can be moved to assure the best lighting. 

Use a pot that’s roughly 12″ wide and just as deep. Fill with good quality potting soil, and plant the turmeric rhizomes 2-3 inches deep. You’ll only plant one finger in each pot. Turmeric likes it warm and will be fine outside during the summer months, so long as you keep the soil damp.

Growing turmeric indoors

This root crop is native to southern India and Indonesia and thrives in warm climates. In the US, you’ll need to be in zone 8 or higher in order for the plants to grow well outdoors all season long. 

If you’re gardening in cooler regions, you can still grow this crop. You’ll just need to adjust your methods a bit. It takes a turmeric plant between 8-10 months to mature for harvest. In cooler regions, you simply won’t have enough warmth for a long enough period to make this happen.

Here’s the workaround: Starting turmeric indoors. 

Plant the rhizomes in a container during the early spring, move it outdoors for garden season, then — if it’s not ready to harvest yet, move it inside again when you’re expecting your first frost. Whether planted in the ground or in a pot, your turmeric plant will appreciate some protection from the hot midday sun.

Brown plants in a green lush garden

The browning leaves that you see here are turmeric plants ready for harvest.

When to harvest turmeric

Turmeric roots are actively growing under the soil when the leaves are a lush green. When the leaves start to brown and die back, it’s time to harvest. There are two ways you can do this. One, use a shovel to dig up the entire root ball.

One note of caution: Keep an eye on the browning leaves if you’re growing the crop right in the garden. Once they die back completely, you’ll have a hard time finding the root ball! 

Alternatively, you can harvest just some of the turmeric by loosening the soil around the plant and harvesting from the outer part of the root ball. Leave the main portion of the root ball intact, much as you would harvest new potatoes.

The plant will sprout green leaves again when it comes out of its dormancy, and produce fresh rhizomes. With this method, the center part of the root ball will get dark and soft. If you pull up an older plant, be sure to use just the robust bright orange fingers.

human hand washing orange rhizomes.

Wash the soil away from the roots and store in a cool, dry place. You’ll replant some of those rhizomes to start fresh plants. If the tubers start to sprout in storage, plant turmeric as described above.

basket of rhizomes, with some cut in foreground.

It’s easy to see why turmeric makes such a great dye plant!

Storing turmeric

We’ve found that the best way to store turmeric in its raw form is in an open-air container. When stored in sealed containers, the rhizomes tend to mold. We harvest (and use!) lots of turmeric, so we store it in a large garden trug which allows air to flow around the roots. 

turmeric powder in a short glass jar with more on a spoon, white board background

Drying turmeric

The dried powder will keep longer than the fresh roots. If you prefer keeping the powder on hand, you can make your own. Head over here to find out how.

Using turmeric in the kitchen

Most recipes call for the dried powder standard on your grocer’s spice rack, but if you’ve got fresh tubers on hand, you can use it instead. Use a microplane to finely shred the fresh root and add that to recipes; use twice as much fresh root to replace the dried, more concentrated powder.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate this healthy spice into your diet is to simply toss a piece of the fresh root into a smoothie. A one inch piece will do nicely; add more if you’re especially fond of the flavor it brings.

Using fresh turmeric as a dye

If you’ve ever used turmeric, you know that the bright yellow color of the tubers stains terribly. Spill it on your counter, get it on your hands; the yellow will last for quite some time. So you won’t be surprised to know that turmeric has been used as a dye for centuries. You can use it to dye eggs, too!

turmeric roots fresh out of the ground with soil still clinging to the rhizomes

Using turmeric for better health

While lately turmeric is the talk of the town — so to speak — in natural healing communities, its use as a nutritional supplement or herbal treatment is not new. These days, there’s discussion about its ability to aid osteoarthritis pain, reduce inflammation, or even assist in the treatment of cancer, but it’s been used medicinally for a long time, especially as an anti inflammatory.

PBS talks about the history of turmeric and its medicinal uses.

It was around 500 BCE that turmeric emerged as an important part of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of natural healing that is still practiced today. Ayurveda translates to “science of life”– ayur meaning “life” and veda meaning “science or knowledge.”

Inhaling fumes from burning turmeric was said to alleviate congestion, turmeric juice aided with the healing of wounds and bruises, and turmeric paste was applied to all sorts of skin conditions – from smallpox and chicken pox to blemishes and shingles.

We love this sore throat soother made with turmeric, honey, ginger, and lemon and this golden milk.

slices of olena, ginger and lemonOriginally published in December, 2015; this post has been updated. 

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About the author: Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle. She’s a certified Master Food Preserver and longtime gardener who loves to turn the harvest into pantry staples.

32 comments… add one
  • Robin Konick Dec 14, 2020 @ 18:28

    Thank you for your tumeric information and recipes, I just started growing tumeric in my green house but the ends of the leaves are turning yellow and crackling any idea what I am doing wrong.
    Mahalo nui loa

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 19, 2020 @ 13:33

      The leaves die back at the end of its growing season – could that be it?

      • Robin Dec 26, 2020 @ 16:49

        Mahalo for your reply. I don’t think it could be dying back the plant only has 3 leaves and is 8 inches tall it is just a baby. Any ideas?
        Mahalo nui loa,
        Robin

  • Jerilyn Ingram Jan 24, 2020 @ 3:59

    Can you just use chunks of tumeric root in the water when you are making a bone broth?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 24, 2020 @ 7:46

      Absolutely.

      • Gerry Mar 17, 2020 @ 16:08

        Hi, my turmeric has an abundance of big green leave but as last year I still have no flowers, Is there a reason why?
        Thank you.

        • Kris Bordessa Mar 18, 2020 @ 9:47

          I often have plants that don’t flower. The roots still grow and can be harvested when the leaves start to brown and die off.

  • Debra Oct 28, 2018 @ 11:16

    We have a few international farmers markets in our area, where I can buy turmeric for under $10.00/lb. organic. I’m surprised to hear it’s so expensive in other areas. There’s a great reason to grow it!

  • Ed Hunt Sep 4, 2017 @ 1:11

    I found fresh turmeric roots at Whole foods. $20 plus / pound. I bought 2 small pieces and planted them in a pot.They are doing great.

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 5, 2017 @ 7:00

      Good to hear!

  • Elaine Aug 24, 2017 @ 20:12

    I would like this article if I can. How can I get a copy?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 5, 2017 @ 7:08

      There’s a green “print” button at the bottom of the post.

  • David Page Mar 6, 2017 @ 16:21

    Are there any interactions with medication such as warfarin or diabetes/ blood pressure meds?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 8, 2017 @ 13:10

      This I don’t know. I’d ask your doctor.

      • Asha May 28, 2020 @ 6:29

        Hi, Many Indians are diabetic. Turmeric is used almost in every dish cooked everyday. There has never been any talk of an interaction. I am diabetic and I use it every day in almost every curry. It’s been with me forever as for my mother and father and many generations before them. Check with your doctor as you are new to turmeric.

  • Arlene Feb 12, 2016 @ 5:47

    What is the preferred pH level for this plant?

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016 @ 15:01

      Oh, goodness. That’s not something I tested.

  • Arlene Feb 12, 2016 @ 5:45

    Do I peel the root before I slice it for dehydrating?

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016 @ 15:02

      The fresh root is pretty soft and should be fine if you leave it in place. Just wash it well.

      • Betty Oct 22, 2016 @ 7:59

        Where can I find a plant or root to start growing turmeric

        • Kris Bordessa Oct 25, 2016 @ 13:33

          I believe Baker Creek Seeds had them in their catalog last year.

        • Mitch Apr 2, 2017 @ 5:10

          If you have a big Indian(Hindu) community in your area you will find their vegetable store carry this roots. I just bought some and started its propagation. Good luck to you.

  • Dave Ely Jan 11, 2016 @ 3:51

    Have been wanting to grow turmeric for some time now but can’t find out anywhere how long a growing season I need. I live in northwest Ohio and typically our growing season (frost-free) is from mid May to mid October. Is 5 months long enough to mature this plant? I imagine I can store the roots to replant the following year as I would with canna’s, dahlia’s, etc. Is growing fresh turmeric in my future or should I just stick with the powdered form where I am unsure of the purity or freshness? Thank you very much.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 11, 2016 @ 7:19

      The growing season is *about 6-8 months. If you want to try it, I’d plant some in a pot a couple months early and keep it inside to get started. Once it warms up, move it outside.

  • Krystal Frank Jan 4, 2016 @ 7:11

    What about storing your harvest? If you don’t dry the root and create powdered turmeric, can the root be stored in any way?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 11, 2016 @ 7:22

      It lasts quite awhile, like fresh ginger. I washed mine up and have some in the fridge, and some in a cool, dry place. So far they’re fine and it’s been a couple of months. I’ve also heard that you can freeze it.

    • Lemongrass Mar 25, 2017 @ 15:05

      after harvesting my turmeric, I grate the root and freeze them on a pie dish. Spread a thin layer on the dish to freeze overnight. Leave the dish on the counter for a few minutes. Using a butter knife, lift the turmeric. Break into small pieces and place in a wide mouth glass jar. Return to the freezer. Use as needed.

      • Kris Bordessa Mar 27, 2017 @ 8:29

        Excellent!

  • Tessa Dec 29, 2015 @ 10:23

    I’ve been kicking around the idea of growing if for awhile – maybe this will give me the push I need. My biggest problem is that I stink at indoor plants and would need to bring this in for the winter. Sound like I just really NEED my greenhouse. Turmeric is a very good reason to finally build the greenhouse!

  • Chris Dec 9, 2015 @ 14:30

    Ok, you had me at Butter Chicken and Chicken Shawarma. Now I’m drooling…I may have to change the menu tonight….

    Thanks for sharing my Fire Cider recipe.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 9, 2015 @ 17:50

      We’ve been eating a lot of Indian food lately and loving it.

    • Carmen Jan 31, 2019 @ 14:46

      Thank you for your Turmeric information. I just getting worst with my arthritis pain in my hands and my Doc, who know I don’t want chemicals in my body, recommend Turmeric. I bought the roots today, will grow my own and start to use it everyday. I may will be blessed and released of the pain.
      Thank you.

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