Cardamom is a plant in the ginger family. It is native to tropical regions, and the seeds are often used in Indian cooking. In order to grow cardamom, its native tropical environment should be duplicated as closely as possible. The plant needs moist soil in a warm environment with filtered sunlight. Cardamom plants will not survive in cool environments, but they are easily adapted to growing in containers placed in warm locations. Specific fertilizers also encourage growth.
These plants do best in locations with temperatures at a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius). They can survive in slightly warmer temperatures, but they do not tolerate cooler environments. In order to grow a cardamom in cooler locales, it should be planted in a container that is kept indoors. An ideal location for a cardamom plant is in a bathroom, where it will benefit from the warmth and high humidity.
Cardamom plants can grow up to 12 feet (3.6 meters), so any container used to grow them needs to be able to handle a large plant. The container should be placed in an area that receives filtered or indirect sunlight as cardamom plants will not thrive in direct sun. When planting a cardamom outdoors, it needs a location that is constantly shaded. The best soil in which to grow a cardamom is a rich soil that holds moisture as these plants like their roots to be constantly wet. The soil should be mildly to strongly acidic.
Cuttings or seedlings should be planted in the soil at the same depth they were previously grown. Seeds should be planted 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) deep. The soil should be thoroughly moistened after planting. Cardamom seeds are very slow to germinate and may take up to two months to sprout.
Once planted, the soil around the cardamom plant needs to be watered often. The soil should never be allowed to become dry. Foliage growth can be encouraged by fertilizing the plant with a high-nitrogen, low-potassium fertilizer. Indoor plants should be fertilized less often than outdoor plants.
The leaves, sometimes used for wrapping foods, can be harvested at any time. Cardamom seeds are used as a spice in cooking. The cardamom plants must be three years old before they begin producing their signature seed pods. The seeds are removed from the pods after the pods have dried. The pods can be left on the plant to dry or removed and placed on paper towels to dry more quickly.