Ginseng is a popular plant in use for thousands of years for its healing properties, but can you grow it successfully in a greenhouse?
Yes, by following the steps below, you can grow ginseng in a greenhouse. You can also learn more about the plant by reading the answers to some frequently asked questions about ginseng cultivation.
American ginseng is a common variety of ginseng, but there are other types. Ginseng root can bring a tidy profit to gardeners who master the art of growing this plant, so let’s look at the best way to do so!
Reasons to Grow Ginseng
Here are the main reasons you should grow ginseng:
- Personal use of the root for medicinal purposes
- Sale of mature roots for profit
- Sale of “rootlets” or seeds for profit
- Enjoyable foliage and bright red berries
While waiting for the roots to mature, a gardener can benefit from collecting and selling off the seeds. You can also harvest young roots, known at rootlets after they age enough and sell them to other gardeners.
What You Need To Grow Ginseng
To grow ginseng, you need to understand how they grow in nature and adapt that knowledge to your greenhouse garden.
Temperature And Shade
Ginseng thrives in hardwood forests that average a cool and temperate climate along with 20 to 50 inches of annual rainfall. Wild American Ginseng grows in most of the Midwest and Eastern portions of the US but does not fare well in the South due to higher temperatures.
This factor means that you should expect to provide plenty of shade and regular waterings inside your greenhouse for your ginseng plants. The plant also needs several weeks of cold temps for the plant to go dormant, which is part of its lifecycle.
Inside a greenhouse, keeping the heat down can be a real issue, especially in climates that have high summer temperatures. You will need shade cloth that filters out between 70-percent to 90-percent of sunlight as well as use supplemental cooling or fans to keep the plants healthy.
Soil And pH, Pots, And Fertilizing
You will need well-drained soil that is high in organic matter and calcium and retains moisture. Here is a soil mix that I find works well:
- 4 parts sphagnum peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part perlite
You can also use a sandy loam planting mixture, which enables good drainage but is loose enough to encourage vigorous root expansion.
Soil pH levels need to remain between 5.0 to 6.0 since ginseng needs acidic soil and a low pH also inhibits the growth of many bacterial diseases.
Never use clay pots in your greenhouse for ginseng because they absorb too much moisture and can dry out the soil quickly. Always use plastic containers with drainage holes, which helps control water loss without letting the roots sit in soggy soil.
The best pot size is 15-inches in diameter and depth, which allows for full growth and avoids repotting issues later on.
Refrain from adding fertilizer to ginseng plants and rely on a quality potting soil full of organic matter to provide nutrients.
Obtaining Ginseng Seeds Or Rootlets
You will need either ginseng seeds or rootlets to begin your greenhouse ginseng garden. You should buy ginseng rootlets or seedlings from a local source where you can inspect the product for quality.
Stratified seeds will germinate faster than natural seeds, but they will cost more, although they are less than buying rootlets.
Growing Ginseng In A Greenhouse
Follow these steps to start your ginseng greenhouse garden:
Step 1 – Sets Seeds, Seedlings, Or Rootlets
Sow your ginseng seeds in the fall or early winter. Regular seeds will take 18 months to two years to germinate, while stratified seeds should bloom in around six months or so.
Set seedlings in soil 1 to 2 inches deep, depending on size. Firmly place soil around the seedling so it stays upright without assistance.
Plant rootlets in the early spring. Evenly moisten the potting mix before placing it into your containers. You should see growth from rootlets in a short time.
For seeds, plant the ginseng at a depth of one and a half inches and cover it with soil.
For rootlets, fill the container about halfway with potting mix and stand the rootlet upright (tendrils down), and gently pack soil around the root until it reaches the top of the pot. Expose the very top nub of the rootlet at the surface of the container.
Step 2 – Place Your Pots In The Greenhouse
Find or create a shady spot in your greenhouse. The optimal light conditions for ginseng is between 8 to 36-percent.
Along with shade, you need to maintain cooler temperatures because ginseng will wither under excessive heat. Ensure good air circulation and venting to reduce heat in the greenhouse or use a supplemental cooling system.
Step 3 – Water
Ginseng needs very regular watering. One inch or so a week is best for greenhouse ginseng. Adjust the level of watering according to the conditions you see in your soil.
Avoid over or underwatering, as both are very detrimental to ginseng growth. A quality soil moisture meter can be beneficial to control this issue.
Step 4 – Wait For Seeds And Root Maturity
In the fall, seeds should form and be ready for harvest on plants that are around three years old or more. You can harvest the seeds for future plantings, home stratification, or sale.
Roots will not mature for harvest for at least four years, but it’s best to wait five or six years for optimal size.
Step 5 – Harvest And Dry Mature Roots
When it’s time to harvest the mature roots (or younger roots you wish to sell as rootlets), the best method is to gently dump the pot out onto a table and use your fingers to expose the root. Taking this precaution prevents damage to the roots that can affect profit or use.
Clip off the stem and leaves and rinse off the dirt. Do not scrub the root harshly, as this will also cause damage.
Dry the ginseng roots out in a room that stays between 60 and 90-degrees Farhenheit that offers excellent ventilation. It’ll take one to two weeks for the ginseng to dry thoroughly and be ready for sale.
You can also use the ginseng for personal use in a variety of ways, but do your research about proper usage.
Ginseng Growing FAQs
How Long Does It Take Ginseng To Grow?
From seed to maturity, ginseng is not a plant for gardeners looking for instant gratification.
Ginseng seeds need around 18 months to germinate. Many growers use stratification to bring the seeds through two cold seasons, which forces germination. By purchasing and planting stratified seeds, you can avoid the long wait to see initial growth.
From seedling to mature plant, expect it to take four to five years on up to ten years or even more to harvest a large root. You know your ginseng is mature when the plant displays three or more prongs.
Why Can You Only Grow Ginseng Once?
You can only grow a ginseng plant once because most gardeners are planting ginseng for the root, although the foliage is quite attractive and brings dimension to a garden. Once you pull the root, the plant is no longer viable.
The second reason is that it is tough to grow or replant new ginseng crops on the same land or soil since it has a high chance of suffering from replant disease. Even waiting decades between plantings does not seem to alleviate this issue.
Is Growing Ginseng Illegal In The USA?
No, it is not illegal to grow ginseng in the US. There is no regulation for homeowners looking to grow ginseng in a greenhouse or a shady garden plot on their private land.
The confusion on this matter is most likely from the laws on the harvesting of wild ginseng. Some states require permitting for wild collection, and most state and national parks forbid any harvesting on their land.
Occasionally the US Forest Service issues ginseng harvest permits, but otherwise, the activity is illegal.
Cultivating ginseng root for personal use or profit can be done in a greenhouse when you follow the guide’s information and steps.
The best part about growing ginseng in a greenhouse is that once you create the right environment, they require less tending than many plants.
Once you have mature roots, you can sell them to make a little money on the side or use them for tea, stir-frys, soups, or dried for grating or turning into a powder.
Now that you know more about how to grow ginseng in a greenhouse, you can test out your green thumb and give this unusual and medicinal plant a try!