Fresh ginseng can be hard to come by, so growing your own seems like a logical practice. However, ginseng seed sowing takes patience and time, plus a bit of know-how. Planting ginseng from seed is the cheapest way to grow your own plant but can take up to 5 or more years before the roots are ready to harvest.
Get some tips on ginseng seed propagation so you can reap the benefits of this potentially helpful herb. Keep reading to learn how to plant ginseng seeds and what special circumstances these helpful roots require.
About Ginseng Seed Propagation
Ginseng is purported to have a variety of health benefits. It is commonly found dried in health food or supplement stores but getting hold of fresh roots can be difficult unless you have a good Asian market nearby. Ginseng is a shade-loving perennial whose seeds need several specialized conditions before germination can occur.
Ginseng is grown either from root or seed. Starting with roots results in a faster plant and earlier harvest but is more costly than growing from seed. The plant is native to deciduous forests of the eastern United States. The perennial drops its berries, but they do not sprout until the following year. This is because the berries need to lose their flesh and the seeds need to experience a period of cold. This process of stratification can be mimicked in the home grower’s garden or greenhouse.
Seeds purchased have already had the flesh surrounding them removed and may already be stratified. It is best to check with the seller to determine if this is the case; otherwise, you will have to stratify seeds yourself.
Tips on Germinating Ginseng Seeds
If your seed has not been stratified, the process is quite easy but will delay germination. Ginseng from seed can take up to 18 months to germinate. Make sure your seed is viable. They should be firm and off-white to tan in color with no odor.
Experts suggest soaking unstratified seeds in formaldehyde followed by fungicide. Then bury the seed outside in moist sand or place it in the refrigerator. The seed must experience cold temperatures for 18 to 22 months before planting. The best time to plant is in the fall.
If you receive seed during a time outside of that period, store it in the refrigerator until planting time. Seeds that are not properly stratified will likely fail to germinate or can take nearly two years to sprout.
How to Plant Ginseng Seeds
Ginseng seed sowing should start in fall to early winter. Select a site with no weeds in at least partial shade where the soil drains well. Plant seeds 1 ½ inches (4 cm.) deep and at least 14 inches (35.5 cm.) apart.
Ginseng will do well if left alone. All you need to do is keep weeds away from the bed and make sure the soil is moderately moist. As the plants develop, keep watch for slugs and other pests as well as fungal issues.
The rest relies upon your patience. You can start harvesting roots in the fall, 5 to 10 years from sowing.