Curcuma [KER-koo-muh] is an elegant perennial summer plant with over 100 species.
It belongs to the family Zingiberaceae (ginger) which consists of notable species as Siam Tulip and turmeric.
Curcuma and its species are native to Southern China, Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, and New Guinea.
Reportedly, some species of the tropical plant are naturalized in warmer regions of the world such as Florida, Central America, tropical Africa, and several islands (Indian, Pacific Ocean, and Atlantic Oceans).
The term “Curcuma” is derived from the Sanskrit word Kunkuma, which means turmeric.
This summer ginger was originally named by Linnaeus (a Swedish botanist and zoologist) in 1753.
Since then, almost 130 species of the genus have been named and described so far.
However, descriptions of some of the tropical species have remained unclear.
The two widely-known Curcuma species are Curcuma longa of the ginger family and Curcuma zedoaria.
The common name of curcuma longa is “common turmeric” while curcuma zedoaria is often known as “white turmeric” or “zedoary”.
Caring For Curcuma Plants
Size & Growth
The Curcuma ginger are small, outdoor plants. They do not spread and remain to be the same size throughout the season.
During mid-summer, dense spikes of clustered flowers grace the plant. These mildly-fragrant flowers last for three weeks.
Once the flowering period is over, the turmeric becomes dormant.
The heat-loving turmeric is usually cultivated in nursery pots from rhizomes planted in early spring.
While cultivating rhizomes, make sure to plant them at a depth of 2″ – 4″ inches.
Potted plants must be set into the soil at the same level at which they typically grow in the pot.
When curcumas are grown with other flowers, they spike up to 18″ – 24″ inches in height.
Flowering & Fragrance
The ginger Curcuma is recognized as one of the most vibrant summer garden plants.
During its flowering season, this plant produces bright, trumpet-shaped flower bracts with blooms in pink, white, and purple hues.
They also produce bitter-smelling leaves which make them stand out from the crowd.
Some curcuma species emerge before the foliage (hidden gingers) and make for the best summer cut flowers.
These small, summery flowers adorn the plant’s lengthy stems which also boast green, lance-shaped leaves.
They make for a gorgeous addition to garden beds, garden borders, and container gardens.
Light & Temperature
Curcuma plants thrive best in full sun as they stay moist and healthy in hot climatic conditions.
At times, the soil of these heat-tolerant plants may dry out in warm temperature.
This usually happens due to lack of watering.
In such a case, it is ideal to grow curcuma in partial shade and water them daily.
These summer-loving plants prefer moist, well-drained soil, full of organic matter like compost and humus.
For optimal performance, the soil must have a high clay content and organic matter before sowing the seeds.
The ideal temperature range for curcuma to growing curcuma is between 68° – 95° degrees Fahrenheit (20° – 35° C).
If the temperature drops below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C), the plant suffers.
Watering & Feeding
Curcumas have intensive water needs as they require well-drained and moist soil to grow.
Throughout the growing season, the soil must be moist. If an area doesn’t receive much rainfall, irrigation is required to maintain moisture.
Don’t hesitate to mist the foliage in dry weather as it helps increase the humidity levels.
Fertilize in early spring or summer with any general-purpose fertilizer.
With proper fertilization, the plant produces lovely flowers which are a sight to behold, indeed.
Soil & Transplanting
Make sure to apply fertilizer when transplanting to ensure high yields – avoid overwatering.
Overwatering turns the leaves yellow.
It is crucial to water the plant every five to seven days until the canopy is well established.
Every four or five days, touch the soil with a finger and if it is dry down about 1½” – 2″ inches, water immediately.
Keep the soil damp but avoid overdamping at all costs.
Grooming & Maintenance
Curcumas are a low-maintenance in the garden. All they require is full/partial sun and well-moist soil to flourish.
However, they need special care and attention during winters as these house plants do not hold well to cold weather. If growing in a pot store them in a frost free location.
During winters, bring the curcuma container or pot indoors and allow them to enjoy filtered light and high humidity.
How To Propagate The Turmeric Plant
A curcuma turmeric grows best outdoors in maximum sunlight or part shade.
The easiest way to grow a curcuma is in a pot.
Use a pot at least 12″ inches tall and 12″ – 18″ inches wide. Fill the pot with rich, well-drained soil.
Get one or two rhizomes from the nearest organic plant store and break them into small pieces.
Place the tubers or rhizome pieces at least 2″ inches below the soil surface.
Make sure the buds or tips are facing upward.
Water the pot regularly to ensure the healthy growth of the plant.
Curcuma Pests & Diseases
Owing to their pungent odor, curcumas suffer from fungal diseases and pests.
For example, when the soil becomes overly-dry, spider mites may attack.
This problem is often treated by mild insecticidal sprays or soaps.
The same is done in the case of a fungal disease.
Also, water the soil to prevent harmful diseases.
Curcuma Plant Uses
Several curcuma species such as spice turmeric are an essential culinary ingredient in South Asian cuisines.
They are savored in the form of curry powder.
The turmeric rhizomes are often used in herbal medicines and for food flavoring.
These flowering plants have broad green leaves and attractive flowers that are used for indoor decoration purposes.