Are you able to Develop Ginger from Retailer-Purchased Rhizomes?

From warming chai tea to spicy curries, Asian and Indian cuisine would not be the same without ginger. The fiery, warming flavor of these spicy beige enhances the flavor of hundreds of dishes and adds digestion-soothing benefits to any meal. But the knobby pieces of ginger at the grocery store can come with quite a price tag. Is it possible to plant store-bought ginger rhizomes to grow your own plants?

Ginger grows from thick, knotty underground stems called rhizomes. These beige, finger-like knobs are what we buy at the store and eat in our kitchen. Rhizomes are mistaken as roots because they grow underground, but they are technically modified stems since they produce nodes, sprouts, and leaves. However, not all ginger rhizomes are capable of sprouting into new plants.

Let’s dig into the nuances of planting ginger purchased at the grocery store and how to determine which rhizomes are functional for the garden.

The Short Answer

Yes, you can grow ginger from store-bought rhizomes, as long as they are young enough to sprout and they are not sprayed with a growth inhibitor. Ginger knobs from the grocery store are often dry and old, meaning they are less likely to grow new sprouts. If they’ve been treated with a sprout inhibitor, the rhizomes are chemically unable to develop the buds needed to grow into a full-size plant.

Seed-grade ginger rhizomes are much more reliable for growing new plants because they are younger, fresher, and have buds that are ready to sprout. But if you want a cheap and simple option, plant ginger in the soil, water it, keep it warm, and hope for the best.

The Long Answer

Store-bought ginger is technically a chunk of the plant’s rhizome, which, if planted underground, can grow roots and shoots. Rhizomes are modified underground stem structures that form dense clumps of branched, corky growth rather than standard roots. This is why the term “ginger root” is a misnomer. 

Because the ginger rhizome is the most edible portion of the plant, this store-bought ingredient also functions as propagation material. However, there are some major differences between seed-grade ginger and store-bought rhizomes. Although store-bought ginger is often cheaper and more readily available than seed-grade, planting ginger from the grocery store may have mixed results if you don’t pick the right rhizomes.

Why Can’t You Plant Regular Ginger from the Store?

Close-up of ginger roots on the supermarket counter. Ginger roots exhibit a tan to light brown outer skin with a knobby, irregular shape.Overcoming growth inhibitors is key for grocery store ginger.

Growth inhibitors pose the biggest problems when planting ginger from the grocery store. Sprout inhibitor chemicals are applied to conventional grocery store produce like ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, and potatoes to prevent them from growing sprouts during transport and storage. This is why conventional, non-organic produce won’t usually sprout on your countertop or in your fridge. Certified organic ginger knobs are usually capable of sprouting, and we’ll explain why below.

Some anecdotes report that soaking conventional store-bought ginger in water for 24 hours can remove the sprout inhibitors, but this may have disappointing results. Sprout inhibitors are often quite persistent and sprayed on the rhizomes several times post-harvest and during transport and storage. By the time a vegetable reaches the supermarket, it might have been sprayed several times. Moreover, it is older and dryer, making it less capable of sprouting new shoots for growth.

What Are Sprout Inhibitors?

Close-up of female hands holding sprouted ginger roots on a blurred background of trays with ginger rhizomes. Sprouted ginger roots showcase pale green shoots emerging from the knobby, tan to light brown outer skin.Maleic hydrazide and chlorpropham prevent sprouting in root vegetables.

The most common sprout inhibitors are maleic hydrazide and chlorpropham (CIPC). Both growth inhibitors are also used as herbicides and are prohibited in USDA-certified organic agriculture. These chemicals are widely applied to conventionally grown root vegetables and plant structures described as modified roots, including tubers (like potatoes) and rhizomes (like ginger). The sprout inhibitors are used post-harvest to prevent rotting, sprouting, and the loss of turgidity in the vegetables. 

Turgidity describes the plumpness of plant cells when they are full of water. If a potato tuber sprouts, it loses turgidity and becomes more soft and mushy, making it undesirable for purchase and cooking. Softness significantly reduces storage time and eliminates the vegetable’s value. This is why sprout inhibitors are important for fresh produce wholesalers and grocery stores, which aim to keep their products fresh and marketable for as long as possible.

Is Organic Ginger Treated with a Growth Inhibitor?

Close-up of a woman's hands holding a pair of ginger rhizomes against a blurred background of a wooden box with ginger rhizomes. Ginger rhizomes exhibit a knobby, irregular shape with a tan outer skin that is slightly wrinkled and bumpy.Choose organic ginger for planting and avoid synthetic chemicals.

Certified organic ginger is not treated with growth inhibitor chemicals, which means it can be planted in your garden and grow into a new plant. If you want to avoid eating sprout inhibitor chemicals or plant store-bought vegetables in your garden, you must purchase organic produce. Look for the green and blue USDA Certified Organic label.

Only organic ginger will grow into a new plant because USDA-certified organic regulations prohibit the use of synthetic chemicals, including synthetic sprout inhibitors. Organic farmers can only apply certain approved naturally occurring products to their vegetables. Silver nitrate and 3-decen-2-one (a naturally occurring plant growth regulator) are the only sprout inhibitors allowed for use in organics, but they are mostly used on organic potatoes, not ginger.

Seed-Grade vs. Store-Bought Ginger Rhizomes

Close-up of a white plastic box filled with seed-grade ginger rhizomes. Ginger rhizomes are knobby, irregularly-shaped underground stems with a pale yellowish-tan to light brown skin that appears slightly wrinkled or bumpy. They feature small, finger-like protrusions and fibrous roots.Opt for seed-grade ginger for vigorous, disease-free growth.

Although store-bought organic ginger rhizomes can grow into new plants, seed-grade ginger is a better choice. It looks similar to the mature ginger you see on grocery store shelves, but it is disease-free and professionally grown specifically for gardeners and farmers.

Seed-grade ginger is harvested fresh from the best ginger stock and then graded (selected) for the highest quality. This means the rhizomes have lots of buds, vigorous stems, and thick skins to prevent rotting. You also have more cultivars to choose from.

However, seed-grade ginger is more expensive and often requires a pre-order from a nursery or seed company. Store-bought rhizomes are a cheaper, easier option for many gardeners, but they may have issues like rotting, a lack of sprouts, or plant diseases. If possible, source your planting stock from a local organic farmer with quality-looking ginger at the farmer’s market. Follow the steps in the next section to determine if the rhizomes are garden-worthy.

Seed-Grade Planting Stock is Higher Quality

Close-up of sprouted ginger root ready for planting in a woman's hand on a blurred background of a clay pot filled with soil. Germinated ginger root exhibits pale yellow shoots emerging from the tan-colored rhizome. The rhizome itself appears firm and plump, with a slight moisture content.Choose top-quality ginger stock for a bountiful harvest.

Ginger is one of those plants that we propagate vegetatively (asexually). So, the quality of the propagation stock directly determines the quality of your harvest. The new plants are genetic clones of the parent planting stock. A small, overly fibrous rhizome will yield plants with weak roots and ginger harvests with an icky texture. But if you repeatedly save the best ginger rhizomes from your garden and replant them each year, you will gradually select the highest-quality ginger possible

If you’ve ever grown garlic or potatoes, you will recognize a similar pattern. Of course, you can plant store-bought garlic cloves or garlic purchased from the farmer’s market, but seed-grade garlic is of higher quality and less likely to rot. Potatoes are the same way. Nearly any untreated potato will sprout on your countertop, but will it produce a quality plant of the desired variety, color, and size that you’re hoping for?

Whenever I was a commercial organic farmer, we always selected the absolute best garlic cloves and ginger rhizomes from the harvest. The top-tier largest cloves and rhizomes were set aside to save for planting stock. The middle-grade stuff is what we sell to customers, and the lowest-grade stock is used for processing, drying, or eating for ourselves. 

Nonetheless, organic grocery store ginger is still fine for planting as long as you keep your eye out for a few things.

How to Select Grocery Store Ginger for Planting

Close-up of a woman's hands cutting a ginger rhizome on a kitchen board. A ginger rhizome with green shoots features vibrant, verdant sprouts emerging from its light brown surface. The shoots are slender and elongated, showcasing a fresh, vibrant green coloration. The rhizome itself appears firm and robust, with the shoots indicating active growth and readiness for planting. On the table there are two garden rakes with red handles and two bowls filled with soil.Select fresh, plump ginger with healthy buds for planting.

The best source of fresh ginger planting stock is a reputable organic grower or seed company, but the second-best option is a grocery store with organic ginger knobs. Here is how to find the best rhizomes for planting in your garden.

  1. Sort through the ginger selection: Discard anything that looks dry, old, shriveled, dehydrated, or dark in color. Avoid damaged sections or anything with signs of mold.
  2. Find the freshest, plumpest rhizomes: The best ginger for planting is a golden-beige color with thick, fleshy “fingers” and solid skins free of nicks or scrapes. 
  3. Identify ginger buds: Similar to potato “eyes,” the lumpy warps on a ginger rhizome are where sprouts will emerge.
  4. Look for pieces at least two to three inches long with multiple buds: If there aren’t at least two buds, it may not sprout.
  5. Divide larger sections: If you can only find large, whole rhizomes, you’ll need to cut them into two to three-inch long sections. Use a sanitized knife and leave the chunks on your countertop for a day or two to form a callous over the cut ends.

In summary, the best ginger for planting will be brightly colored, plump and turgid (not dehydrated), thick, and full of healthy buds that are ready to sprout. The skins should be mostly intact, without any nicks or scrapes. If the rhizome skin is super shredded, it is more prone to rotting after you plant it in your containers or garden.

How to Grow Ginger from Store-Bought Rhizomes

Close-up shot of a sprouted ginger plant in a white pot on a blurred green background. The young sprout of ginger, also known as a shoot, is characterized by delicate, pale green emerging leaves from the tip of a slender, light green stem. The leaves are small and tender, with a slightly waxy texture, and unfurl from a central point.Mastering ginger cultivation ensures a bountiful, year-round harvest.

Once you understand the nuances of selecting quality ginger planting stock, growing this tropical plant is a breeze. In zones 9 and warmer, you can plant ginger outdoors and grow it as a perennial. In colder zones, it’s best to grow in containers that you can move indoors or in a greenhouse. These frost-tender plants cannot handle temperatures below 40°F (4°C).

Alternatively, you can grow it as an annual in your garden beds and dig up all the rhizomes at the end of the growing season. Don’t forget to save the best ones to plant again next year! Selecting the best rhizomes ensures you always have quality ginger plants.


  1. Prepare a container or bed with well-drained soil rich in peat moss and compost.
  2. Mix in a small amount of slow-release balanced organic fertilizer.
  3. Plant the chunks of rhizomes two to three inches deep.
  4. Ensure each rhizome is horizontal (flat) in the soil.
  5. Gently backfill with soil and water thoroughly.
  6. Place in partial shade and maintain consistent moisture.
  7. It may take two to three weeks for the rhizomes to sprout.
  8. Do not let plants dry out! Soaker hoses or ollas are ideal for maintaining soil moisture.
  9. Once sprouted, move to an area with filtered sunlight. Avoid direct sun hitting the plants.
  10. Plants grow to about three feet tall and provide continuous harvests if protected from cold.
  11. After planting, ginger requires almost no maintenance.


Ginger can be harvested at any time, but the best rhizomes mature after 8-10 months. Check your plants regularly to ensure they’re getting enough moisture and humidity. They don’t like soggy soil, but they cannot handle drought. A happy medium is essential for healthy, long-lived plants.

When ready to harvest, dig up a small portion at a time to check that the rhizomes are sizable. You can eat the leaves and shoots by chopping them up finely for use as a seasoning. They have a milder flavor and sometimes a slightly stringy texture, but they’re very delicious when cooked.

If you live in zones 8 or colder, you will need to overwinter your ginger. Bring the container indoors and place it near a windowsill with bright, indirect sunlight. The plants won’t grow much through the winter, but they still need sufficient warmth to survive. Cold or drafty windows can still pose issues for this tropical plant. Keep it in the warmest part of your house. Cut back on watering in the winter and regularly check that the plants appear upright and happy. 

Final Thoughts

All complicated science aside, it is perfectly fine to plant ginger from the grocery store. However, true ginger lovers will want to understand how to select the best planting stock. You need to ensure that the rhizomes are untreated, full of healthy buds, and ready to sprout once planted in the garden.

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