Are you thinking about adding to your herb garden this growing season? Cardamom is a great option. Its spicy, somewhat minty, citrusy flavor is simply delicious, and it’s useful for spicing up a variety of dishes in the kitchen.
The perennial herb is native to tropical regions, where it grows across the Middle East, India, and Asia. Cardamom is actually a spice originating from the genus Elettaria and Amomum seeds in the Zingiberaceae family.
The plants produce small, thin seed pods with a paper-like shell and a triangular cross-section. Harvesting, drying, and crushing the seeds gets you the spice cardamom.
Cardamom comes in two distinct varieties – black or green cardamom. Green is the more common cultivar, with the black variety having a bleached appearance. The E. cardamomum grows to heights of five to ten feet, and you’ll find it growing in partial shade conditions in the wild.
The cardamom prefers growing in forest settings, and this perennial suits planting in USDA Zones ten and eleven. South Florida and Hawaii present the best growing climate in the US for cardamom. The plant grows in a clumping fashion, producing rigid, erect stems with leaves that reach lengths of up to two feet.
The plant dies back in the winter and returns the following growing season. All it takes is a few active rhizomes for the plant to regenerate.
The Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all had a fondness for cardamom spice. There’s documented evidence of its use stretching back over 4,000-years. During their pillaging of Europe, the Vikings discovered cardamom, bringing it back to Scandinavia. As a result, cardamom is a popular ingredient featuring in many Swedish dishes.
This guide gives you everything you need to know about growing cardamom spice in your garden this season.
Start your planting activities after the final frosts fall in your area. Check your local listings for more information on frost dates.
You can sow your cardamom seeds directly into flowerbeds or start them in containers. Fill a seedling tray with rich potting mix, and add the seeds to the tray. Cover them with a light layer of peat moss, and soak the soil with a spray bottle.
If you’re growing in the garden, sow the seeds a ½” to an inch apart. Space your rows four to six feet apart and lightly cover the seeds with peat moss before watering. Ensure the soil remains moist throughout the germination process.
If you’re growing indoors, place a plastic tent over the seedling tray to retain moisture in the soil. You can do the same in your flowerbeds by spreading plastic wrap over the planting area, securing it with stakes.
Germination can take up to 20 to 25 days, with some seeds taking as long as 40 days to sprout in cooler climates. If the seeds don’t sprout in the first three weeks, maintain your patience and keep waiting. Provided you follow the right procedure for planting, you’ll eventually see the seedlings emerge from the soil.
After the seeds emerge, clear away the peat moss to allow the plants to grow. Mulch around the base of the plant, but don’t cover the seedling. The cardamom plant enjoys growing in the partial shade, so choose a planting site that gets morning sun and shade in the afternoon.
Planting Cardamom in Containers
Cardamom also makes a great container plant. Choose a container around 10″ deep and ensure that the pot has several drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container with rich potting soil, and place the seedlings in the center of the hole.
Backfill around the seedling with excavated soil, and pat the soil down lightly with your hands to remove air pockets. In the first two weeks after transplanting, water twice a day using distilled water to reduce stress in the plant.
Don’t overwater as you may waterlog the soil, resulting in root rot developing in the cardamom. This plant enjoys humid conditions. Therefore, gardeners will need to mist the plant once or twice a day, especially in hot weather.
You’ll need to increase watering in the summer and back off watering in the winter. During the winter, water the plant every other day and every day during the summer. The cardamom is a thirsty plant, and letting it dry out affects seed production.
Humidity and Temperature
Alternatively, you can take a drip tray and line the bottom of the tray with pebbles. Place the pot on top of the gravel and fill the tray with water. Don’t let the water line touch the bottom of the container, as it will waterlog the soil.
This strategy lets water evaporate around the plant during the day, keeping it happy and healthy. We recommend placing the cardamom pot in a room with a stable temperature between 72F to 80F. Make sure you keep the plant away from cold drafts by the windows and doors.
Keep your cardamom in a warm room, away from the direct sunlight. The cardamom relies on shade for survival. Placing it in direct sunlight will stunt growth and limit foliage production.
Feed your cardamom plants twice a month using a nitrogen-based formula with low potassium levels. A liquid-based fertilizer product is the best choice for your cardamom.
You can grow cardamom easily from seeds or rhizomes. Let’s unpack the propagating process for cardamom.
Growing Cardamom from Seed
You can purchase cardamom seeds from your local nursery. Place your seeds in a glass mason jar, and cover them with 2.5% nitric acid solution. Stir the seeds for two minutes and pour them out into a strainer. Rinse the seeds and place the seeds in a bowl with distilled water. Leave the seeds to soak overnight.
The following day, drain the seeds and plant them out in the flowerbeds, spacing them around an inch apart. The cardamom enjoys growing in slightly acidic soils, with plenty of organic nutrients on hand. Cover the small p[lants with mulch for overwintering and remove the mulch in the early spring after the last frost passes.
Growing from Rhizomes
While it’s easy to grow cardamom from seed, many gardeners don’t want to bother with the hassle of germination. Buying a prepared bush ready for transplanting is the best option. After a year or so, you can dig up the shrub and divide it using garden shears.
How to Grow Cardamom
Follow these tips for growing cardamom in flowerbeds or containers.
As mentioned, it’s critical that gardeners place the plant in a spot in the flowerbed, receiving partial sunlight. The plant prefers growing in the shade of tall trees, and it won’t do well in the full sun.
Cardamom likes growing in loose, airy, nutrient-dense soils. Therefore, you’re probably going to have to amend the soil with some compost and peat moss before planting.
Typically, the cardamom does well in soils that have a pH of between 6 to 6.8. However, the cardamom can tolerate acidic soils down to as low as 6 to 5.5 pH.
In its native rainforest habitat, the cardamom receives rainfall for around 200 days a year. Therefore, gardeners need to keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season.
We recommend adding a layer of mulch or bark chips around the base of the plant to reduce evaporation during the summer. The plant needs less water in the winter and more water in the summer. However, avoid waterlogging the soil.
We recommend feeding your cardamom an organic fertilizer formula that’s high in phosphorous. Use a liquid formula for indoor plants and a granular formula for the flowerbeds.
Pests and Disease Affecting Cardamom
Some of the diseases and pests affecting cardamom include the following.
Aphids are a problem with cardamom plants. These tiny pests are black in color, and they congregate around the stems and nodes of the plant. Aphids suck the juices out of the plant, and they also bring the cardamom mosaic virus onto the plant.
Cardamom mosaic virus is a severe problem for your cardamom, and you’ll have to pull the plant before it infects others. If you notice any form of disease on the plant, cut away the infected parts and throw them away in the trash. Never add diseased plant material to your compost heap, or you’ll infect the organic material.
Nematodes can also be a problem for cardamom plants. Mix a diluted neem oil solution and spray it on the plants to chase away the nematodes from your cardamom.
Harvest your cardamom 30 to 40-days after it finishes flowering. The plant forms long bracts from the base of the plant, which develop into seed pods.
Harvest the seed pods just before they turn fully ripe. To check on the status of your seeds, pick a pod when you think it’s ready and break it open. The seeds should be black in color, and immature seeds are white.
The seed pods should pull away from the plant without tugging. Start your harvest at the base of the plant and work your way up to the taller branches.