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How to grow galangal

Marcelle Nankervis

Marcelle Nankervis

July 31, 2015

If you’re like me and just can’t get enough Thai inspired cuisine at home, it’s time you considered growing more Asian herbs in your garden. Lots of people now grow coriander, Thai basil and chilli as a garden staple, but it’s time to consider another essential Asian herb – galangal (Alpinia galanga).

It may look like ginger and even be related, but don’t let its family ties fool you – it is pink in colour with a more peppery-citrus flavour. It can also be a little pithy so it needs to be chopped finely or even crushed for optimal flavour.

Alpinia galangaGalangal is best planted in early spring by positioning small rhizomes with at least 1-2 buds about 20cm apart. Mark the area so you do not mistakenly destroy any rhizomes with a shovel when dormant. Try to plant them as understory plants where they will be protected from full sun and frost. Drought and frost sensitive, galangal does prefer tropical and sub-tropical conditions, but will grow well in warm temperate areas as long as they are protected from frost. In cooler areas you can always try growing them under a cloche. Galangal is relatively disease free; the only problem that may occur is root rot if the ground is too wet, even though they do prefer a moist soil.

Because galangal is a rhizome, the plants multiply in the soil, and it is these additional rhizomes that can be harvested. To harvest, carefully remove a few rhizomes from the side of the clump at a time rather than digging up the whole thing. This will allow the plant to keep producing for many years to come. It’s best to wait at least a year before beginning to harvest from new plants so that they can establish, but in only a few years’ time, you will be able to harvest whenever it is needed. If harvesting in large quantities or dividing plants for propagation, wait until the leaves have yellowed or died off in late autumn and winter.

Alpinia galanga Photo Arno King

Galangal Alpinia galanga Photo Arno King

Once harvested, galangal can be kept in the crisper section of the fridge for several weeks or if you need to store it for longer periods, it can be frozen or dried. Be sure to leave the skin on until use to preserve its freshness. Just wrap the roots in grease-proof paper and place in a zip-lock plastic bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook. If freezing, cut it into more convenient lengths and freeze in plastic. If dried, cut in slices and store in an airtight container. It can be easily rehydrated before use.

Now I grow things because of their flavour, but many people like to know what other health benefits you may gain. Being a part of the ginger family, galangal is said to be a cure for everything from motion sickness to impotence – so a little in your diet will go a long way!

Galangal is an important ingredient in most south-east Asian curries and dishes, especially Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian cuisine. A thin slither of fresh galangal is equivalent to about a teaspoon of dried galangal so use it with caution.

Below is a quick and easy Green Curry Paste recipe that will undoubtedly help to motivate you to order that very first rhizome. Bon appetit!

Green Curry Paste
15 birdseye chillies
10 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tsp chopped galangal
1 tblsp lemongrass (thinly sliced)
½ tsp lime zest
1 tsp cilantro/coriander root (chopped)
5 white pepper corns
1 tblsp coriander seeds (roasted)
1 tsp cumin seeds (roasted)
1 tsp shrimp paste (Kapi)
Fish sauce to taste

Mix in a mortar and pestle or food processor until it forms a paste. Place in a sealed container in the fridge. Use as you would any store bought curry paste although this one is MSG and preservative free, as well as delicious. It will keep in the fridge for about a month.

Marcelle Nankervis

Marcelle Nankervis

Garden journalist, author of Plants for Australian Dry Gardens and Smart Gardening – grow your own fruit and vegetables, contributor to many garden magazines. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
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Arno King
Arno King
5 years ago

Hello Marcelle

Like you, I love Thai food and galangal is an essential plant in my garden, as are Lemon Grass, Kaffir Lime and Thai Basil.

I find Galangal to be the hardiest spice in the subtropics. It is evergreen here and I regard it as the most drought hardy of all gingers. It just keeps on keeping on.

There are also two clones grown, the typical tall, commercial clone and a compact cultivar, identical in every way but size. This last plant is starting to be sold up here and worth looking out for.

I think Galangal also looks stunning in the garden and adds texture and interest to the edible/ spice garden. It is also great as a shelter belt and as a barrier to keep larger unwelcome animals away.

Great article


Tinh Le
Tinh Le
10 months ago
Reply to  Arno King

Tinh Le
I bought plant on Amazon but it did not survive. I don’t know where I could buy the plant, I am living in North California, I don’t know whether I can grow it here or not. Can you help me?

Thao Phan
Thao Phan
7 months ago
Reply to  Tinh Le

I bought mine on Ebay. I’ve just planted it, not sure if it can survive

5 months ago
Reply to  Tinh Le

Go to an Asian grocery store.

3 years ago

I am so keen to try this plant out…just tried to do a bit of google research about the flower scent but can’t seem to get any definitive info. Does anyone know if the flowers have a nice scent?

Anne Highfield
Anne Highfield
2 years ago

Hi Lina,
No particular scent.
Exquisite little flowers!
Non gardeners thought they were orchids.
They are that beautiful.

I grew galangal in Darwin for 3 years. Really tough. Survives the Dry season ( no rain for 5 months and no irrigation) it flowered every year. Needs control up there or it can fill up your garden.Bit weedy.
Whereas my 3yr old galangal on Sunshine Coast has never flowered, is much smaller ( maybe it’s that low growing variety. I’ve never heard of it before).

2 years ago

Hi It’s now so dry in Cairns that my galangal stems are falling over. Should I cut them down and wait for the wet season to rejuevenate the rhizomes, or will cutting off the stems be a problem?

Dinyar M. Dalal
Dinyar M. Dalal
1 year ago

Hello Gorgeous Marcelle,
Can you please tell me where I can buy Thai Alpinia Galanga? I love the spicy taste and thought of growing them here in southern Atlanta 30253 (Zone 8b).
I bought some from an Asian grocery store but it is not growing.
I will really appreciate your input.

Thank you dear.