Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet)

Bitter Ginger, Pinecone Ginger, Pinecone Lily, Shampoo Ginger, Wild Ginger

The shampoo ginger plant (Zingiber zerumbet), also known as “awapuhi” or “pinecone ginger,” is a captivating and unique addition to any tropical or subtropical garden. Renowned for its ornamental beauty and practical uses, this plant offers both aesthetic appeal and potential benefits for personal care. In this article, we will delve into the world of the shampoo ginger plant, providing insights into its characteristics, cultivation, and care.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Zingiber zerumbet is a species of plant in the ginger family with leafy stems growing to about 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall. 

The rhizomes of Z. zerumbet are used as food flavoring and appetizers in various cuisines, and the rhizome extracts have been used in herbal medicine.

Zingiber zerumbet is a perennial. From autumn until spring it goes dormant above ground as the leafy stems shrivel and die away, leaving the pale brown, creeping stems (rhizomes) at ground level. In the spring, the plant springs up anew. The 10–12 blade-shaped leaves 15–20 cm long grow in an alternate arrangement on thin, upright stem to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall. Among the leafy stems, the conical or club-shaped flower heads burst forth on separate and shorter stalks. These appear in the summer, after the leafy stems have been growing for a while. The flower heads are initially green and are 3 to 10 cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) long with overlapping scales, enclosing small yellowish-white flowers that poke out a few at a time. As the flower heads mature, they gradually fill with an aromatic, slimy liquid and turn a brighter red color. The flower stalks usually remain hidden beneath the leaf stalks.

Z. zerumbet is native to tropical Asia and Australasia. The subspecies Zingiber zerumbet subsp. cochinchinense (Gagnep.) Triboun & K.Larsen (previously Z. cochinchinense) is found in Vietnam.

Remains of Z. zerumbet have been identified at the Kuk Swamp archaeological site of New Guinea at the Phase 1 layers, dated to 10,220 to 9,910 BP. However, whether it was cultivated or merely exploited from the wild is unknown. Like the ginger, the earliest evidence of its cultivation is from the Austronesian peoples who carried it with them during the Austronesian expansion (c. 5,000 BP) as canoe plants, reaching as far as Remote Oceania.

II. How to Grow and Care


Shampoo ginger lily plants prefer full sun to partial shade and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

If you want to grow them indoors, you can put them near South or West-facing windows, which get the most light all day. Even a window facing east will do. The least amount of sunlight comes in through windows that face north, so your Shampoo ginger may not do well there.

Temperature and Humidity

These are tropical plants, so they like it when it’s warm and humid. However, they can be grown outside in zones as low as 8, and they can handle cold better than other tropical plants. Shampoo ginger plants will thrive in general household temperatures.

Temperatures should be kept above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, though these plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should bring your plant indoors to overwinter it if you’re growing it outdoors and outside of USDA zones 8 to 12. Instead of overwintering indoors, growers in USDA zone 8 can add mulch to protect their rhizomes from frost during the winter.

If you live in a zone that is not between 8 and 12, you can dig up the rhizomes (roots) of the plant in the late fall, after the growing season has ended, and store them until the following year.

Since they are tropical plants, the humidity should be at least 50%. If your house has trouble with humidity, there are several ways to bring in more moisture. To increase humidity, you can use a humidifier, group similar plants together, or set your plant on a tray of pebbles and water.

Place the plant in a location that receives bright, diffused light for at least half the day if you plan on growing it outdoors. This is preferably in a spot that is partially shaded.


During their growing season, from late spring to late fall, shampoo ginger plants thrive in consistently moist soil. Keep the plant dry during the winter as it enters dormancy.

As a general rule, your plant should be watered once per week. To avoid fungal infections, water the soil directly rather than the leaves.

Be sure to use a container with drainage holes when planting. Using tap water can lead to a buildup of salts, so distilled water or rainwater is generally recommended instead.


Pinecone ginger prefers nutrient-rich soil with a pH range of slightly acidic to neutral. Plant it in a container with rich potting soil if you live in a region where the plant is regarded as aggressive or invasive.

If growing indoors, use a standard houseplant soil mix and supplement with perlite, vermiculite, or orchid bark to ensure that excess water drains well.

In order to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged, be sure to plant your shampoo ginger in a container with drainage holes. Waterlogging increases the risk of root rot as well as other fungal diseases.


If your soil is rich, your bitter ginger shouldn’t need any other fertilizer other than a topping up of compost each year. However, if you have poor-quality soil, or your bitter ginger is being grown in a regular potting mix, then it will need regular feeding. plants growing in regions with heavy rainfall will also need to be fed regularly in order to replace the nutrients lost through wash-out. If fertilizers are necessary, an organic, slow-release fertilizer can be added at planting time. During the active growing period, a liquid fertilizer, such as seaweed extract or fish fertilizer, should be used every few weeks.

Planting Instructions

Bitter ginger is best planted in late winter or early spring. Rhizomes can be broken up into smaller pieces, provided each piece has an eye, or they can just be planted whole. 

Rhizomes should be planted at a depth of 5 to 10 cm with growing buds facing up, and should be spaced 15 to 20 cm apart. Water thoroughly after planting and then mulch heavily – this will help to keep the soil moist while also providing nutrients and reducing competition from weeds.

Bitter ginger can also be planted in pots and containers. A standard 36 cm pot will hold an average of three rhizomes, and a standard rectangular polystyrene box nine to twelve.


Bitter ginger does not need pruning. However, if the plant is not being harvested, the clump may need to be divided once every 3 or 4 years to prevent it from becoming over-crowded. Divide container-grown plants whenever the pot begins to get crowded.



Shampoo ginger lily plants can be propagated through seeds, but seeds are typically difficult to find. The most common method for propagating shampoo ginger is by using rhizomes.

  • Put on gloves and have sterilized shears on hand before you begin propagation.
  • You need to dig up your plant so that the rhizomes are exposed. These rhizomes, which are roots, look like the ginger you buy at the store.
  • You should remove enough of a rhizome so that it contains multiple buds. Give the cuts a few days to dry out and harden.
  • After that, soak the roots in a container of warm water overnight before planting. Plant the rhizomes with the buds facing up in a new container that has been filled with an equal mixture of soil and compost.
  • Keep the plant indoors in a warm, sheltered spot with plenty of indirect light. Maintain a consistent watering schedule and fertilizer applications every other week for your plant until the rhizomes begin to sprout.


  • It is uncommon to grow shampoo ginger from seed. If you can get shampoo ginger plant seeds from a reputable seller, here’s what you need to do to get your shampoo plant going.
  • Start by taking your seeds and soaking them in water overnight. They should appear swollen afterward. Then fill a seedling tray with a seed starting mix or nutrient-dense medium.
  • Place the seeds in the growing medium. If you’re putting multiple seeds in the same container, make sure they’re at least 1 to 2 inches apart.
  • Put your seedling tray somewhere warm and humid. You can help it grow by covering it with plastic wrap and putting it on a heated seedling tray.
  • It may take a few weeks to germinate and 1 to 2 months to grow before transplanting.

Pests and Diseases

Common pests that often attack the shampoo ginger lily are mealybugs and spider mites. To handle this, spray the plant with fast-running water. Also, use Neem oil or insecticidal soap to wash the leaves of the plant.

Root rot is common with most ginger plants. This is a fungal infection caused by overwatering (waterlogging).

III. Uses and Benefits 

The leaves and leaf stalks, which are also fragrant, were used in baking in the imu, underground oven, to enhance the flavor of pork and fish as they cooked. Traditionally, the aromatic underground rhizomes were sliced, dried, and pounded to a powder, then added to the folds of stored kapa cloth.

Perhaps the most common use of the plant awapuhi is as a shampoo and conditioner. The clear fragrant juice present in the mature flower heads that resemble red pine cones is used for softening and bringing shininess to the hair. It can be left in the hair or rinsed out and can also be used as a massage lubricant.

IV. Harvesting and Storage

Once its leaves begin to die down, your bitter ginger is ready for harvest. This is usually about four months after planting. However, for really rich-flavored ginger, wait until about eight to ten months after planting, meaning four months after the point at which the leaves have first begun to die down.

Bitter ginger can be harvested simply by digging carefully at the side of a clump. If the rhizome has reached full maturity (that is, 8 months after planting) the entire rhizome can be dug up and used. Growing bitter ginger in tubs makes harvesting easier; the entire tub can be emptied out and the ginger just collected out of the soil. Those with good growing buds should be saved for immediate replanting, and the others used in the kitchen or for medicinal purposes.

Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet) Details

Common name Bitter Ginger, Pinecone Ginger, Pinecone Lily, Shampoo Ginger, Wild Ginger
Botanical name Zingiber zerumbet
Plant type Herbaceous Perennial
Hardiness zone 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
Growth rate Fast
Height 4 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
Width 4 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
Soil condition High Organic Matter
Flower color Cream/Tan
Leaf color Green