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Turmeric Curcuma longa

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Curcuma domestica
Phonetic Spelling
kr-koo-muh laang-guh
Description

Common Turmeric is an upright perennial herb with rhizomes that grow about 40 inches tall. The rhizomes are the source of a bright yellow-orange culinary spice. The bright yellow dye in the rhizomes is frequently used in food coloring, fabrics, and paints. It also has been used for medicinal purposes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The plant is a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family. Common Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder.

The exact origin of turmeric is thought to be southwestern India over 2000 years ago. India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of turmeric. It is also cultivated in Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Experts believed that  Common Turmeric is a hybrid between wild turmeric and other related species.

The genus name, Curcuma, is Latin, from the Arabic "kurkum or saffron." It acquired the name because the color of the spice resembles saffron. In fact, Turmeric is known as the poor man's saffron because it is less expensive. The species name, longa, is from the Latin, "longus," meaning "long."

Common Turmeric grows best in hot, humid conditions with full sun in the morning and afternoon shade. Rich, slightly acidic soils with moisture levels of medium to wet are preferred. In India, Turmeric grows during the monsoon season and becomes dormant once the season ends. The USDA Hardiness Zones are 8-11. In areas where the plant is not winter hardy, it may be grown as an annual. Remove the rhizomes from the soil in the fall and store them in a cool, dry location. If planted in a container, the plant may need to be re-potted.  The rhizomes grow so thick and large that they may split the container open. The plant requires a lot of water if planted in a container. The rhizomes are harvested in the fall when the foliage begins to wilt and dry out. Turmeric is reproduced from its rhizomes. Divison of the rhizomes is best done in the spring or summer months.

The leaves are large, clumped, green, lanceolate shaped, and measure up to 40 inches in length. Each shoot has 8-12 leaves. The flowers are yellow-white and appear as dense, short spikes measuring 4-6 inches long. The flowers are sterile and do not produce viable seeds. The seeds are small, ovoid, and brown in color. The rhizomes are thick and branched. After the rhizomes are dug, boiled, dried, and ground, they produce the yellow-orange Turmeric spice.

Common Turmeric may be grown in containers or herb gardens.

Caution: If the roots are cut open, the yellow dye will stain your hands and clothing. Some people may also develop an allergic skin reaction from the dye.

Diseases, Pests, and Other Problems:

Common Turmeric has no serious insect or disease problems. Red spider mites can occur in older plants and if the soil is too dry. Young leaves may be troubled by slugs and snails.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Snowdrift'
    Variegated white and creamy foliage, white and golden flowers
'Snowdrift'
Tags:
#rain garden#annuals#perennials#yellow flowers#large leaves#summer flowers#herb garden culinary#rhizomes#herbaceous perennials#yellow dye plant#spice
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Snowdrift'
    Variegated white and creamy foliage, white and golden flowers
'Snowdrift'
Tags:
#rain garden#annuals#perennials#yellow flowers#large leaves#summer flowers#herb garden culinary#rhizomes#herbaceous perennials#yellow dye plant#spice
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Curcuma
    Species:
    longa
    Family:
    Zingiberaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Turmeric was first cultivated as a dye. It later became valued as a condiment and is the main ingredient in curry powder. In India, Turmeric is used cosmetically. Medically, the rhizomes are used in combination with other plants to treat headaches, wounds, snake bites, stings, sprains, and fractures.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    India
    Distribution:
    Bangladesh, Belize, Borneo, Cambodia, China South-Central and Southeast, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Haiti, Hawaii, Malaya, Myanmar, New Guinea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Tonga, Trinidad-Tobago, Vietnam, and the Windward Islands
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Edibility:
    Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder. The rhizomes may be boiled, dried, peeled, and then ground to produce the spice.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Herb
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Description:
    The seeds are brown in color, small, and ovoid in shape. The seeds are not viable.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flower is yellowish-white and grows on a spike-like stalk measuring 4-6 inches long. They bloom from July to August. The flowers are sterile.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Sheath
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green on the upper surface and pale green on the undersides. The leaves are large, pleated, lanceolate to elliptical in shape, and measure up to 40 inches in length. They resemble Canna leaves.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Edible Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Humidity
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis