Zingiber Zerumbet Care: All About Growing Shampoo Ginger

Shampoo ginger – Zingiber Zerumbet [zing-ee-ber, ZER-um-bet] is an aromatic, clump-forming perennial belonging to the moderately large ginger Zingiber genus of the family Zingiberaceae. 

Shampoo ginger plant is an important monocot plant of order Zingiberales.

Unique blooms of the Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet). The blooms look like pine cones rising up from ground level.Pin
The blooms look like bright colored pine cones

Some of the popular members of the ginger plant family include:

Its botanical name is Zingiber zerumbet (L.) Smith. 

Zingiber is a Sanskrit word meaning a bull’s horn, which hints at the horn-like appendage attached to its stamen.

Other common names include:

  • Bitter ginger
  • Pinecone ginger
  • Shampoo ginger
  • Pinecone lily
  • Wild ginger
  • Awapuhi kuahiwi (in Hawaii)
  • Lampoyang (in Malaysia and Indonesia)

The pinecone ginger is a rhizomatous herbaceous plant that is traditionally found in the tropical lands of Asia. 

While the exact land of origin is still unknown, it is believed to be a native of the Indian Subcontinent and Malaysian Peninsula, from where it was spread to Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Thailand by Polynesian settlers. 

Shampoo ginger Zingiber Zerumbet is also readily grown in various parts of Hawaii.

Also known as Amomum zerumbet L. , this tuberous root herb plant is extensively used as an ornamental and medicinal plant. 

Shampoo ginger prefers to grow in damp regions with partial shade and humid conditions. 

It’s found scattered around wet roadsides, shady lowlands, streams and river banks, and hill slopes.

Shampoo flower gets its various names due to its pinecone-shaped inflorescence, which when squeezed produces a fragrant milky-white substance which is often used as a shampoo or hair conditioner. 

Wild pinecone ginger is called ‘wild’ or bitter ginger because of its use as a culinary additive with a bitter taste.

Zingiber Zerumbet Care

Size & Growth

With a clumping growth habit, Zingiber Zerumbet usually grows about 4’ feet tall, however, in some cases, it is found to grow up to 6′ to 7’ feet tall.

It’s reed-like, erect stems rise up to 4’ feet and are clumped by sheaths of 8” inches long, narrow leaves. 

The inflorescence grows 2” to 4” inches in length.

Flowering and Fragrance

Aromaticum is a broad-leaved plant that produces showy blooms on flower stalks from August to September. 

In spring, 9 to 12 blade-like green leaves appear on the underground stem. 

By mid to late summer, the thick shampoo ginger rhizomes produce flower spikes each topped with a globular, brightly-colored inflorescence.

The inflorescence resembles a pinecone and is initially wrapped by green, waxy bracts, which turn a vibrant shade of red upon reaching maturity. 

The red pine cones have a fresh, aromatic, ginger-like scent.

The pinecone-shaped inflorescence produces tiny tri-petaled flowers in hues of yellow and is full of fresh-smelling, bitter-tasting, creamy white sap.

Light & Temperature

Bitter ginger is winter hardy to the USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10. 

They prefer tropical or subtropical climates, but also grow in mild climates on the mainland. 

In colder climates, pinecone ginger plant is grown indoors. When growing outdoors in Central Florida the pinecone ginger begins to dieback as the weather changes.

The ideal temperature for these exotic plants is 32° degrees Fahrenheit (0° C) or higher. 

These perennials enjoy full sun to part shade.

Watering and Feeding

Shampoo ginger should be seasonally waterlogged. 

Water them with free-draining soils during the warmer months and keep them dry during the dormant winter months.

Similarly, fertilize shampoo ginger plants with an all-purpose fertilizer during summer only. 

Supply phosphorus-rich fertilizer by the end of the growing season to ensure healthy and well-grown rhizomes.

Soil & Transplanting

Pine cone ginger thrives in filtered shade and rich soil. 

It prefers soil with a neutral pH and a light to medium texture. 

In summer, provide the plant with consistently moist soils and keep the soil dry during winters since the plant goes dormant and requires less moisture.

While the plant shows great tolerance for poor sandy soil, hard soils need to be adjusted by adding gypsum before planting the plant.

Wild ginger is cultivated by seeds and rhizome extracts. 

Transplant the plant by harvesting new shampoo ginger rhizomes 10-12 months after planting, preferably in late winter or early spring.

Grooming and Maintenance

Shampoo ginger is a forgiving and fast-growing perennial which can spread across a garden within years under ideal conditions.

In USDA Zone 8, these plants survive winter when mulch is added to the soil and the roots and rhizomes are protected from freezing. 

However, in regions located in the north of Zone 8 up to Zone 10, the rhizomes should be picked up and overwintered indoors.

Also, potted plants should be kept indoors, away from the frost, when temperatures fall below 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C).

Snip the leaves which die to the ground after the first frost. 

Keep an eye out for pests and, if infested, spray with a strong water jet and apply plant-based horticulture oil on the leaves. 

Do not apply oils when the climate is hot and humid.

Shampoo ginger flowersPin
Shampoo ginger flowers

How To Propagate Shampoo Ginger

While Zingiber zerumbet grows via seeds and roots bought from the store, the most preferred method of propagation is via rhizomes.

  • A clump of thick, of juicy bitter ginger with multiple buds should be used for this purpose. 
  • Wear gloves and use a sharp knife to cut the rhizomes in pieces. 
  • Each piece should consist of several buds. 
  • Keep the pieces for a few days until the cuts are dry.
  • Next, soak the pieces of rhizomes overnight in a container filled with warm water. 
  • Take equal parts of potting soil and compost in a 5-gallon container and mix the ingredients until a rich, moist mixture is obtained. 
  • Fill the pot with this mixture and plant a couple of pieces half-inch deep in the soil with the buds facing upwards.
  • Keep the plant indoors in a warm, sheltered place with filtered light. 
  • In colder regions, place it under full sun. 
  • Water the plant whenever the upper surface of the soil feels dry to touch. 
  • Supply organic fertilizer twice a week until the rhizomes have sprouted.

Shampoo Ginger Pest or Disease Problems

The plant is mostly free from any serious pest or disease problem. 

However, sometimes aphids and mites attack the young, tender growth. 

It also occasionally hosts spiraled whitefly, Aleurodicus disperse, and cardamom root grub, Basilepta fulvicornis.

Is Bitter GInger Toxic or Poisonous?

Bitter ginger is an edible plant and has medicinal uses. 

It is not poisonous. 

It contains a wide range of chemical compounds like polyphenols, terpenes, and zerumbone. 

It also contains flavonoids.

Is The Pinecone Ginger Invasive?

The plant is not considered a high-risk invasive species, but is sometimes deemed invasive outside its native range. 

However, it spreads at a rapid pace and has the potential to restrict the spread of other plants if provided limited space.

Suggested Zingiber Zerumbet Uses

Red pinecone ginger serves the purpose of an exotic, landscape accent due to its bright green foliage and flamboyant red cone-like inflorescences.  

They make a beautiful floral arrangement when used as cut flowers and are used as ornamental plants.

It has been used for traditional medicines since ancient times and is associated with Southeast Asian ginger sesquiterpene: cancer cell proliferation, free radical generation, and protein production.

This plant is known and used widely for its anti-inflammatory activity. 

It has also exhibited antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, analgesic, antiviral, and antimicrobial activity. 

Its traditional uses include treatment of a myriad of conditions like stomach aches, diarrhea, sprains, toothaches, and even cancer. 

Due to this, recent studies have established a number of pharmacological uses for zingiber zerumbet smith.

The leaves of the plant are used as a food additive and wrapping material. 

The slippery sap extracted from the rhizomes of zingiber zerumbet is used to make shampoo, hair conditioners, essential oils, and perfumes.

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