Shampoo ginger

Although my main focus is growing vegetables, I venture into growing perennial, medicinal, and fruit trees. One of the plants that caught my interest is the perennial “shampoo ginger” or “zingiber zerumbet”. This plant belongs to the same family as two powerful medicinal plants, turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ginger (zingiber Officinale).

So what is so special about this plant? Recently this plant got the attention of many social media users after viral videos showed how this plant could be used. When squeezed, the flowers produce a sap that can be used as a shampoo. However, the benefits of shampoo ginger go further than that!

Where can I grow shampoo ginger?

Originating from Asia but found in many different countries, this plant prefers tropical environments (hot and humid). When grown outdoors, USDA zones 9-12 are the most suitable for it as most members of the Zingiberaceae family, it prefers diffused light, receiving less than 6 hours of sun a day.

If grown in regions where frost is a constant worry is better to be grown in pots and be moved indoors when there is a risk of frost.

How much water does shampoo ginger need?

This plant prefers rich soil that holds moisture well. If grown in places where the soil is too sandy or has a high clay content, it is recommended to improve soil quality before planting the rhizomes. Watering is necessary when the top 3 inches of the soil is dry. However, in regions where the plants die off in winter, it is preferred to keep watering to a minimum.

Fertilizing shampoo ginger

When planted for the first time, I recommend using a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen level. After that, fertilize lightly every 4-6 weeks with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer. However, when temperatures cool down in winter and, the rhizomes go into dormancy stop fertilization.

Humidity requirement

Like most tropical plants, this one prefers high-humidity environments. If grown indoors, it is beneficial to have a water diffuser close by or mist the plant every few days.

Pruning

Pruning is not necessary for this plant, but it can be beneficial. After the flowers die off, the stem can be pruned near the base.

Harvesting the sap of the shampoo ginger

Most people are growing this plant for the natural shampoo its flower produces. But how and when can the shampoo be harvested? Wait until the flowers turn deep red and squeeze the cone-shaped flower. You can use a bucket or bowl under the flower to collect all the liquid. Many growers harvest the liquid more than once from the same flower until the flower shows signs of dying off. If you are lucky enough to have an abundance of it and don’t want to waste the nature shampoo, there are two ways to save the sap.

The first thing you can do is to separate the shampoo into containers and freeze it to use later. However, once frozen and defrosted, it won’t have the same consistency (although it continues to have the same benefits). The second is to pressure can the liquid. I won’t get into the details of how to do it as it is not my expertise, but many growers use this strategy.

Propagating rhizomes vs seeds

Rhizomes are underground stems that have the ability to produce new shoots and roots. This method is the most common way of reproducing the members of this family. The rhizomes are genetically identical to their “mother” plant. After pulling the rhizomes out of the soil, find the growth points and snap between those parts to create new plants. The rhizomes will continue to replicate, creating new plants.

Although seeds are possible to be used, it takes much longer for the plant to grow and reach maturity. The plants grown from seeds are also genetically different from their “mother” plant.

Common problems

Mealybug

These are white soft-bodied waxy insects that thrive in moist, rich environments. Mealybugs can usually be found in colonies underneath leaves, at stem bases, or in any other protected areas. This pest sucks the plant fluid out of plants and produces a sticky substance called honeydew that can cause fungal problems. This pest can be killed by using neem oil in the afternoon.

Root rot

Root rot is caused by excess water in the roots. The best way to ensure this problem doesn’t occur is to plant in a well-drained location or in a pot with drainage holes. It is also important to choose the right soil medium that provides good drainage while retaining some water. If the plant is waterlogged, the leaves will start to wilt and turn yellow. The roots will turn dark and become mushy.

Spider mites

Spider mites are small, soft-bodied insects that tend to live on underside leaves, sucking plant fluids. Insecticide soap or neem oil applied later in the afternoon can be used to kill this pest.

Aphids

Aphids are a small soft-body sap-sucking insect that tends to prefer new shoots. These pests can attack many different issues, and if you are a new gardener, they will become your number one enemy. Luckily the same method used to kill the other insects cited above will also kill this one. I, however, recommend using a water hose to dislodge a portion of the population before using insecticides.

Grubs

Grubs are the immature phase of beetles that feed on roots and rhizomes of plants stunting their growth. Beneficial nematodoes and milky spores (bacteria) will kill this insect.

FAQ

Is shampoo ginger toxic or poisonous?

No, in fact, this plant is also edible and has many medicinal uses. The leaves and shoots can be used in dishes.

Is shampoo ginger invasive?

In some areas of the world, this plant can be considered invasive. However, it is not considered invasive in the US. Due to its fast propagation, it can take over large areas.

What are the other uses of shampoo ginger?

The rhizomes, although bitter, can be used medicinally. The leaves and new shoots are used in different parts of the world in dishes. The flowers can also be used as cut flowers or as ornamental flowers in the backyard. The sap is also used to make essential oils and perfumes.

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