American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), an herbaceous woodland perennial, grows naturally throughout the eastern United States. Wild American ginseng classifies as endangered due to overharvesting because of its high market value and popularity as an herbal remedy. Studies show that ginseng may help with diabetes and immune system function, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People use the 6-year-old plant roots for herbal remedies. Growing the plant provides benefits whether you plan to use it or market the roots.
Locate an appropriate growing site. American ginseng requires shady, moist conditions. The Ohio State University Extension recommends an east or north-facing slope. Ginseng needs 70 percent or more shade. Trees that the plant performs well under include black walnut, sugar maple and tulip poplar. Because ginseng has a high value on the herbal market, choose a location that has privacy that you can monitor.
Remove plant growth and prune lower tree branches with loppers to improve air circulation. Pull any weeds and small plants that may compete with the ginseng.
Prepare the soil. You want rich, fertile and well-drained soil with a pH of about 5.5 to 6.0. Amend the soil with compost or leaf mold. Spread 1 to 2 inches of the material over the planting site. Till or dig to a depth of approximately 8 inches. If the soil has a dense, hard and clumping texture, add sand when you till. Hill the soil into a 4-foot wide bed, leaving paths between the beds.
Plant live, dormant roots or seedlings in the fall. Plant the roots 1-inch deep. While you can use seeds, the low germination rate and stratification causes difficulty and time. Space the plants approximately one per square foot. Ginseng needs room to mature.
Spread a 4- to 5-inch layer of leaf mulch over the bed in late fall. This protects the roots form heaving and provides nutrients as the mulch breaks down. Pull the leaves off the plants in the spring, leaving a layer around the ginseng to conserve moisture.
Weed the bed regularly. Loosen the soil if it compacts. Avoid disturbing the roots when maintaining the planting site.