growing shampoo ginger in florida

How to Grow Shampoo Ginger

There are 3 reasons why shampoo ginger is one of my favorite plants in my Florida garden:

  1. Under the right conditions, it needs no care.
  2. Shampoo ginger is very tropical-looking and is great for taking up space in wet, shady areas (which I have a lot of since I live in swampy Central Florida).
  3. You can use the flowers to make a homemade awapuhi hair treatment.

If you want to grow a tropical plant that’s as striking as it is useful, shampoo ginger may be what you’re looking for. Learn how to grow shampoo ginger with this comprehensive guide.

What is shampoo ginger?

Zingiber zerumbet is a plant of many names, including shampoo ginger, awapuhi kuahiwi, bitter ginger, and pinecone ginger. A relative to common ginger, this is a fast-growing tropical plant popular in Hawaii, Florida, and other subtropical/tropical climates.

Most of the time, shampoo ginger looks like a green stalk with thin, sword-shaped leaves growing out of either side. When grown under ideal conditions, you can expect shampoo ginger to grow to be about 6 to 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

It’s easy to see why some people call this plant pinecone ginger when it produces its inflorescence. This is the part of the plant that produces “shampoo.” Shampoo ginger inflorescence starts out green and turns bright reddish-pink as it matures. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see a few small, white, lily-like blooms at the top of the inflorescence. However, these blooms only last for a day or so, so they’re easy to miss.

homemade awapuhi hair treatment

The easiest way to tell if your shampoo ginger flower is mature is to give the inflorescence a squeeze – if a fragrant, slippery liquid comes streaming out, your shampoo ginger is ready for harvest.

Pro-tip: Grow shampoo ginger along with Jamaican leaf of life, mix them together and you’ll have a super soothing, super nourishing skin treatment that’s great for healing abrasions.

How to plant shampoo ginger

While it’s possible to grow shampoo ginger seeds, it’s easier and quicker to grow this plant from rhizomes.

  • Prepare your planting area by digging up all grass and weeds before planting.
  • Bury your shampoo ginger rhizome about 1.5 inches below the surface of the soil.
  • Apply a thin layer of mulch or pine straw over your planted shampoo ginger rhizome. This step is optional, but it can help cut down on weeds.
  • Water your rhizome and keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Shampoo ginger growing conditions


The shampoo ginger USDA hardiness zones are 8 through 10.  In these zones, shampoo ginger is perennial. This plant can survive some pretty harsh conditions, but it is frost sensitive. The ideal temperature range is 70 to 78°F. Don’t worry if it gets hotter than 78°, however – as long as your shampoo ginger has enough shade, it will be fine even if temperatures reach 100°F+.

During winter, shampoo ginger dies back but the rhizome should survive underground as long as it doesn’t completely freeze over. If you’d like, shear off the dead foliage at ground level to keep your garden looking clean. When spring arrives, the shampoo ginger rhizome will send out new stems and its life cycle starts again.

If you do live in an area that gets hard freezes, you can treat your shampoo ginger rhizome like you would a bulb. Dig up the rhizome, store it in a cool, dry area over winter, and replant it during spring.


Shampoo ginger does best in part shade, especially in very sunny locations.


Shampoo ginger is a tropical plant that needs consistent moisture to grow at its best. Since I live in Florida where it rains nearly every day during summer, I’ve never gone out of my way to water my shampoo ginger – our summer storms are enough to keep it going. If you’re experiencing a drought or live in a drier climate, you should give your shampoo ginger at least 1 inch of water a week. Just be sure not to keep the soil too soggy, otherwise, your shampoo ginger rhizome may rot.


Since shampoo ginger needs a fair amount of water, it also needs well-draining, sandy soil. Fertile is best but don’t sweat it if your soil lacks nutrients. When growing shampoo ginger outdoors, temperature, water, and light are more important than the soil it’s grown in.


If your soil is especially barren, you may want to consider side-dressing your shampoo ginger with oak leaf compost. I’ll be honest, though – my soil is mostly sand and I’ve never amended or fertilized my shampoo ginger and it grows wild in my backyard.

How to grow shampoo ginger indoors

Growing shampoo ginger in a pot indoors is a good way for gardeners north of the subtropics to enjoy this plant year-round.

  • Fill a 10-gallon pot with a well-draining potting mix.
  • Bury your rhizome about 1.5 inches deep.
  • Water your rhizome and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  • Keep your shampoo ginger container away from any drafts (doors, under an AC vent, etc.).
  • Make sure your plant gets plenty of sunlight.
  • When it’s warm during spring and summer, keep your shampoo ginger plant outside. In the fall, bring your shampoo ginger container back inside to protect it from frost.

How long does it take shampoo ginger to grow

You should be able to harvest your first shampoo ginger flowers in a little under a year after planting a rhizome. Shampoo ginger harvest season is late summer to early fall.

If you’re growing shampoo ginger to use as a hair or skin treatment, you can either snip the inflorescence off the plant with scissors, or you can leave the inflorescence on the plant and just give it a squeeze. The inflorescence will replenish its liquid if you leave it on the plant. Personally, I snip the inflorescence off so that I can squeeze the liquid out into a jar. I also have an abundance of shampoo ginger growing in my backyard, so I don’t need to worry about conserving it.

awapuhi flowers

How hard is it to grow shampoo ginger lily?

If you live in the right zones, shampoo ginger lily is very easy to grow. In fact, shampoo ginger lily is the most carefree plant in my Florida garden.

Is shampoo ginger invasive?

how to grow shampoo ginger
Clumps of shampoo ginger spreading along my fenceline.

Since shampoo ginger is native to Asia, it’s not a Florida-native plant. While not technically invasive in Florida, shampoo ginger is considered invasive in some states, such as North Carolina.

Shampoo ginger spreads very easily, so it’s important to plant it in a spot where it will have some room to roam. If you plant shampoo ginger in too small of an area, it will more than likely choke out the plants around it and take over.

Another important thing to note is that it’s hard to completely get rid of shampoo ginger once it’s established. To rid an area of shampoo ginger, you have to dig up every single piece of the rhizome. This can be next to impossible – it’s easy to accidentally break the rhizomes into smaller pieces with the shovel while you are digging them up.

Is shampoo ginger edible?

Yes! Shampoo ginger is edible, but it’s quite bitter (that’s why it’s also called bitter ginger). You can use the rhizome as a spice like you would regular ginger, but give it a taste before adding it to your dish. It can be easy to overpower a dish with bitter ginger because the flavor is so strong.

Shampoo ginger leaves and flowers are also edible. Some people use the leaves to wrap meat before steaming it, and the flowers are a gorgeous addition to salads.

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