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Elettaria cardamomum is often confused with:
Amomum subulatum Amomum subulatum
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Myrtus communis Myrtus communis
Saururus cernuus Saururus cernuus
Ulmus americana Full Form

Elettaria cardamomum

Description

Its scientific name originates from the native tongue of Malabar, India where this plant is called elettari and Greek word kardamomom which is a description of an Indian spice.

Cardamom is an aromatic evergreen member of the Ginger family and is one of the most ancient spices in the world, being traded for over 1,000 years. The seeds and pods are used to flavor dishes and drinks. Known as the “Queen of Spices”, cardamom is grown for its fruit in tropical climates, and as an ornamental plant in other areas for its fragrant leaves.  When grown in locations other than tropical, the plant will not flower.

The fruit and seed are internationally traded and is the third most expensive spice by weight. Cardamom is native to southern India and until 1980 India was the largest producer in the world. After being introduced to other tropical areas, Guatemala is currently the largest producer of the spice. There are two varieties, major is the wild indigenous variety known as the oblong or long cardamom, and minor that compromises the cultivated groups.  The seeds are often used in Indian and Asian dishes.  In Scandinavia countries it is used as a flavoring when baking, while in Middle Eastern countries it is added to tea and coffee as a flavoring.

Cardamom thrives in non-fluctuating tropical rain forest conditions, with temperatures between 65-95 degrees and humidity levels of 75%. Temperatures below 50 degrees F will suffer damage.  The soil required is loamy, well-drained, and consistently moist, with PH levels between 5.5 and 6.8. Direct sunlight and sudden changes in environmental conditions must be avoided. Outside a natural tropical environment, cardamom can be grown in heated greenhouses or warm bathrooms. To grow indoors, choose a pot at least 10” deep with multiple drainage holes and fill it with well-draining, moisture-retaining soil that is sandy-loamy and amended with organic matter and well-rotted manure. Place the pot on a large saucer of pebbles and spray pebbles with water to provide humidity as well as misting the leaves several times per week. Keep the plant soil constantly moist, but never let the pot sit in the saucer water. Feed with a high nitrogen and low potassium fertilizer for houseplants twice a month. Keep in mind that plants grown indoors can reach 10’ in height in 5-10 years.  Growing indoors or in a greenhouse will not produce flowers, however, it is often grown just for the showy foliage.

Propagate cardamom by dividing the fleshy, knobby rhizomes.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

There are no known difficult disease or insect problems.

Avoid direct sunlight.  

Picking the fruits is labor-intensive, as they must be picked by hand.  

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Malabar'
    Widely cultivated.
  • 'Mysore'
    Widely cultivated.
  • 'Vazhukka'
    A hybrid cross between 'Malabar' and 'Mysore'.
'Malabar', 'Mysore', 'Vazhukka'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#showy flowers#rain garden#heat tolerant#frost tender#winter interest#wetlands#tropical evergreen#edible fruits#naturalized area#humidity tolerant#wet soils tolerant#wetland margins#winter garden#tropical#spice#edible#showy fruit
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Malabar'
    Widely cultivated.
  • 'Mysore'
    Widely cultivated.
  • 'Vazhukka'
    A hybrid cross between 'Malabar' and 'Mysore'.
'Malabar', 'Mysore', 'Vazhukka'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#showy flowers#rain garden#heat tolerant#frost tender#winter interest#wetlands#tropical evergreen#edible fruits#naturalized area#humidity tolerant#wet soils tolerant#wetland margins#winter garden#tropical#spice#edible#showy fruit
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Elettaria
    Species:
    cardamomum
    Family:
    Zingiberaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Cardamom has a wide array of bioactives. The seed extract is an ingredient used in herbal formulas for treating Alzheimer’s, anxiety, tension, and insomnia. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it useful for sore throats, skin conditions, and digestive problems. Oil from the seed is used in aromatherapy products, cosmetics, perfume, and breath freshener. The seed is often added to tobacco.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    India, Burma, and Sri Lanka
    Distribution:
    India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Guatemala
    Wildlife Value:
    nectar
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Edible fruit
    Edibility:
    Cardamom is the main ingredient in curry powder that is used in food flavoring. It can be used whole or crushed and used for flavorings in sweet and savory dishes, such as meat, vegetables, coffee, and baked goods. The seed oil has antibacterial properties and can be used to preserve meats.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Clumping
    Erect
    Horizontal
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b, 13a, 13b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The ¾” long, yellow-green capsules are oblong and paper-thin. Capsules are three angled, smooth, and contain 15-20 aromatic seeds. To prevent losing the valuable seed, the fruit is handpicked before it is ripe so the capsule does not split.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Loose panicles to 1-2’ long of orchid-like spring flowers feature white or yellowish petals with lilac-purple veins and pink or yellow margins. Flowers and fruit will only appear when grown outdoors under tropical rainforest conditions, and with frequent natural misting. Plants will not bloom when grown indoors. In its outdoor tropical habitat, flowers are produced all year.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The smooth, glossy evergreen leaves are sword-shaped and can grow to 24” long. Leaves can have a slightly undulate margin.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The cane-like stems can grow to 6’-15’ and have two ranks of leaves. Separate horizontal pseudostems or shoots, spread from the base of the plant and trail along the ground, bearing flowers followed by seed capsules.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heat
    Humidity
    Wet Soil