When and Where to Plant Ginseng

This article will help you figure out when and where to plant ginseng by helping you understand the habitat where ginseng naturally grows.

When to Plant Ginseng

The best time to plant seeds is after it cools off in fall. In the Ozarks we begin planting in late October. We plant all during winter as long as there’s no ice or snow and the ground isn’t frozen. When you first get your seeds you should put them in the refrigerator. Only take out as many as you intend to plant and carry that portion with you out to the woods. That way, if you accidentally dump or lose the bag, you’ve only lost a small portion of your seeds.

Later in the winter the seeds will begin to sprout even inside the bag in the refrigerator. You can still plant them, but be extra careful not to break off the sprout. When the seeds are like this they’re called “smiling”.

 

Image for When and Where to Plant Ginseng: smiling ginseng seeds
“Smiling” ginseng seeds

In spring after the seedlings have emerged you can transplant them to different locations if you have some that are too close together.

When to Scout Planting Locations

Summer is the best time to scout out places to plant. That’s when you can see if the undergrowth is too thick or the sun too bright. This is also when you’ll be able to find the plants that grow where ginseng grows. These are called “companion plants”.

  • goldenseal
  • bloodroot
  • black cohosh
  • maidenhair fern (my best indicator)
  • christmas fern
  • doll’s eyes
  • rattlesnake or grape fern (also called sang pointers)

Where to Plant Ginseng

Look for the deep shade and the cool, moist woods.

♥ It likes a certain mix of trees:

  •  oak (but not too many)
  •  hickory (but not too many)
  • beech
  • maple
  • redbud
  • pawpaw
  • poplar
  • other deciduous trees with leaves that break down easily

♥ What does ginseng need?

  • tall shade (which is given by tall trees of a mature forest)
  • loamy soil (preferably with high Calcium levels and low pH)
  • good air flow (on the lower end of a hill is best, but I’ve planted higher)
  • morning sun is what it likes (dappled by the trees), north-facing slope best of all but mine do well on west-facing slopes

The very best location will have all the right conditions, but it’s not a lost cause if you can’t meet them all. I’ve planted in various places to test the suitability and found some surprises. The ones I planted under a cedar tree are doing pretty good and I’d always heard they don’t like cedars.

 

18 Replies to “When and Where to Plant Ginseng”

  1. I am in the process of purchasing a property in eastern Oklahoma. It is heavily wooded and has some elevation change, in fact a nice north facing slope I have in mind. Do you know if ginseng does well growing in this part of the country, it’s just the other side of the Arkansas border. Is it legal to grow and sale in Oklahoma?

  2. It sounds very promising! I’m pretty sure it’ll be legal but you can check with the OK state Plant Board to be sure of the rules. Do you know if any of the companion plants are there? Is the ground moist with good leaf litter cover? pH is important as well… ginseng does best with a low pH (4.5-5) but high calcium levels. You’d have to have it analyzed at a lab to get that info, but if you see companion plants, it’s a very good indicator that all is right.

    1. Hi Haywood, I only have experience with OzarkMountainGinseng.com and will most likely only buy from them until my own plants are producing enough seeds. The reason for it is because they have quality seeds, but also because they’re my most local source. I like to source all of my seeds for anything as close to home as possible because they’ll be adapted to my climate, but especially for ginseng because I’m trying to minimize genetic pollution. Although OMG’s seeds are not originally from the Ozarks, I believe they are from WV, which is a closer type to our Ozark variety of ginseng than any of the others. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to buy or take wild ginseng seeds, which is about the only way to ensure not introducing outside genetics. So the best company to recommend for you would depend on which state you’re in. Try to find one with seeds sourced as close to home as possible if you can.

  3. hello and thank you so much for all the info you provide at this website!
    I live in the Pacific NW, about an hour north of Seattle, and I’ve read that this location is good for growing Ginseng. I have five acres of forested land and a stream, and across the stream is a slope that faces north so I think that would be a good place to plant. There are some maples on my land, but none of the other trees you listed. The forest is mostly Cedar, with Fir, Hemlock and Alder. Near the stream it seems to be mostly Alder. Do you think that would be a suitable habitat for Ginseng? I don’t think any of the companion plants you listed grow here naturally. There is usually some Holly or Oregon grape, Huckleberry and Solomon’s Seal in the undergrowth. Before I invest in the roots or seeds, I would like to know if this will be worth the effort.

    thanks!

    1. Hi Jodi, your plants and plant communities in the Pacific NW are different than ours out here. I’m totally unfamiliar with your bioregion, but I’ve seen pictures of places out there that looked as if they would be perfect for ginseng. Maybe one of the readers here might have some experience in your neck of the woods and leave a comment. I’ll also post your question over on the 2015 Prices page because it gets lots of visitors from all over the world. Someone there might have some experience. If you can afford to do so, I would buy a small amount of seeds just to see if it will grow. You can get smaller quantities than full pounds, which is what i always do anyway. But the problem with all this is your intended goal. If there are no buyers in your state, and no laws in your state to allow for digging and selling roots, then it might be illegal to sell them once you have any. If you’re growing for your own personal use, then that’s not a problem. Do you know if there are other growers in your state?

      1. Thanks so much for your reply. I had no idea there were any legal issues around the cultivation and sale of Ginseng, after all, it’s not an illegal substance. I looked into it and discovered that it’s possible to get a certificate from the state, however, the very last paragraph on this page makes it all more confusing–it seems to be saying that if you’re shipping out of state to a consumer who isn’t a wholesale dealer, then you don’t need the certificate. I will have to make some calls to confirm this before I go much further with my ideas of starting a little Ginseng farm. Here is the page I referenced: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/Wac/default.aspx?cite=16-695-040

        And Ginseng is being grown commercially in our state west of the Cascade mountains which is where I live. This page describes how most growers approach cultivation http://www.ipmcenters.org/cropprofiles/docs/waginseng.pdf
        I would not grow in this manner, however, I am an organic farmer and permaculturist. I would create terraced beds in the forest and I don’t think I could grow a significant amount but I’m not intending for this to be 100% of my income, I have other crops and products to sell. I haven’t looked into where I would sell the Ginseng because most likely I would be making tinctures and chocolates with it before trying to sell in bulk to others.

        I found a place to get 3 year old rootlets and was thinking I would get a combination of those and some seeds to observe how they establish themselves and so I could see a harvest in a year or two. I have to look around this site more to find out what you have available. I found this site in a search for growing information so that was where I landed.

        thanks again!

        1. LOL, oh yes there are lots of legalities involved because it’s a plant on the endangered list. But at least you know it can be done in your state! Now all you have to do is work out the details. For your long-term interests, if you want to be able to get the most money for your roots, make sure not to plant in “beds” with cultivated soil. For the roots to look wild, they’ll need to grow pretty much undisturbed for their entire lifetime. Roots more than 10 years old will get better prices than younger ones. Some people do till and cultivate beds in the forests before planting but then leave it alone after that and they say this doesn’t affect the roots. I can’t say, since I never do that. I always just put the seeds in place and nature takes its course after that. If it’s plants I intend to transplant or sell, then it’s less of an issue because it will go to the permanent home after that. But once it’s in the place I intend to let it grow out to maturity, I don’t cultivate, fertilize, or spray. I may move it if something happens to the habitat, like perhaps if an ice storm takes out one of the trees it needs for shade. Another tip is to save all of your seed purchase receipts, because that is how you will be able to prove they are “wild-simulated” and not true wild. If restrictions are placed on export of wild at some point, you’ll need that proof. Good luck in your learning journey! Please come back to share here if you find out things that might help others who land on this site looking for info in your region 🙂

          1. Thanks again for all your advice. I just bought your book and will share it with my partner. I am going to find out if goldenseal grows here naturally, and if so, I would begin by planting that. And if it’s ok to plant the ginseng seed in the winter, I will get some seed really soon. Especially after reading that most of the Ginseng producers in Washington state kill everything with RoundUp and then plant the seeds under plastic shade covers, I am even more excited about wildcrafting in my forest. Perhaps I would have an edge as an organic, wild producer in my local market.

          2. If you are able to find a buyer, growing organic will help even if you have to grow it “farmed” rather than wild-simulated. It seems you would have to have some sort of marketing edge with that, but I’d do some research on that, too, before you get started just so you have an idea what the market looks like for the various growing methods out there. Thanks for buying my book! You’ll get a free DVD with it, since you ordered from my shop instead of Amazon 🙂

        2. Yes, I would say that you are correct in your interpretation of that last paragraph. If the person you sell it to is a retail outlet, like a health food store or someone who is using the product and not exporting it onward, you only need to keep the specified records. But it’s a good idea to verify that, since legalese is sometimes tricky.

          1. oh and the reason I thought to create “beds” is that I am not sure the ginseng will like the soil. I have to learn more about what it wants beyond the Ph…we have a lot of Cedar here. But perhaps mulching with fir sawdust and maple leaves will suffice and I won’t have to amend the soil otherwise. The slope that faces north ends in a creek so I would need to terrace it at least a little bit to prevent erosion when I walk up there. Hopefully that could be done without disturbing the soil too much where I’ll be planting.

          2. I am not sure the sawdust is a good idea, but the maple leaves would be. I have a nice patch growing under mostly cedar and some maple and other deciduous trees. Terracing the slope slightly just to help with erosion on your paths will not hurt much, but importing soil to make beds will change your method from “wild-simulated” and likely make your roots look “cultivated” instead, which is a whole different ball game and market that I have no experience with. it might still be profitable for you, with your organic goals, but something to look into.

      2. I am looking at trying to grow ginseng, however i have limeted wooded areas so i was looking at trying to grow them in an open filed with small wood built three sided frames that are open toward the east, i have seen a number of ginseng plants, actually hundreds at a time grown in Korea in this way, your thoughts?

        1. Hi Charley, it depends on why you want to grow ginseng. If for your own personal use and you don’t care whether it’s wild or wild-simulated, then you can certainly grow them that way if you have the right climate. If you plan to sell the roots, you should find a buyer before investing in large-scale growing. Price per pound paid for roots grown this way are tremendously lower than wild or wild-simulated roots. Personally we grow ours wild-simulated and except for the fact that I know exactly where some plants are located, there is no way to tell the difference between true wild and our wild-sim. I like to grow them this way for a few reasons: 1.)It’s more natural. I’m trying to recreate what was once a native habitat for these endangered plants. 2.)I believe in the “energetics” of food and medicine. I’ll write a more detailed blog post on this soon, but to me it matters how something lived before it is consumed. It’s not practical to only consume things that grow wild, but where I can I like to use the plants that grow wild over the ones I have to force to grow by cultivating. It’s not a scientific reason, I know, lol. But if you like to eat rabbit, for example, the wild rabbits taste different that pen-raised. Our free-range eggs have more color, substance, and flavor than the grocery store eggs. Wild mushrooms are far better tasting than farmed ones. I’m not so sure my husband would enjoy his venison as much if the deer had been raised in a pen. Ect. I believe the medicinal value of a plant that struggles for its survival is greater than that of a pampered plant.

          Bottom line is what you want out of the end result. Most wild ginseng is exported to China. The Chinese market prefers wild over cultivated and so the prices paid for it reflects that preference. To my knowledge, you would need to sell farm-raised ginseng to a botanical supply purchaser or to a pharmaceutical company, or some other manufacturer. I know of no other place to sell that sort of ginseng. If you do look into it and find information on where to sell it, please comment here and let me know.

          Thanks for writing. Hope that answers your question 🙂

  4. We aslo do the farm eggs and for several reasons, one they have been proven scientifically to be better for you, they do taste better, and we like the chickens. The way I saw the ginseng grown in Korea was due to lack of space, all elements, soil, light, nutrients in these two places I saw were much as [ossible as in the wild, the ground was not cultivated, the plants were “mulched” with forest floor material, and watered. The small fram houses where to act as shade only and each plant had it’s own small shelter. I will let you know what I find out on buyers, If nothing else I would like to grow some for my family as we are big users of ginseng with my wife being frrom Asia, having four sons, and currently four grandsons, everone in all five households use ginseng, for teas, eating, stews, and other drinks as well as a few medicinal things.

    1. I have areas where I will need to add some shade because the trees aren’t grown enough yet, but it sounds like the same concept as what you saw in Korea. I’d love to share some pictures of that if you have any. Good luck with your adventure in growing it and let me know how it goes!

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