Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) is native to Southeast Asia and has been cultivated in Japan since 1710. After harvest, its roots are heated and soaked in a liquid containing other herbs when they are processed—this causes them to turn red. Ten other species of ginseng exist around the world, and all are used in Chinese medicine. Korean ginseng has been over-harvested in the wild and is almost extinct, so growing your own is a good way to help save this species. All ginseng seeds are difficult to start—growers recommend that you begin with roots that you can order from Internet seed suppliers.
Growing Korean Red Ginseng
Prepare a planting area in the spring for fall planting that receives 80 percent shade and has loamy soil that is 8 to 10 inches deep. Dig out any rocks. A soil pH of 5.5 is ideal. If you need to add loam, add a generous amount of compost into the soil.
Plant the Korean red ginseng rootlets in the fall by gently inserting each unbroken root into a planting hole 2 inches deep. Cover the roots with topsoil and gently tamp down the area with your foot.
Watch for germination as spring approaches. The seedlings look like small strawberry plants. Keep the area weeded.
Fertilize the plants during their dormant season, if you wish, with organic ingredients such as sawdust, shredded hardwood, rotted leaves and/or bone meal. Wild ginseng is said to be better than cultivated ginseng, so avoid commercial or chemical fertilizers.
Protect young ginseng plants from rodents, which love to eat ginseng roots. Provide fencing, traps or other methods of deterring such animals.
Prevent fungal diseases by growing ginseng in an area that has good soil drainage and air circulation. If the plants are thinned to at last 8 inches between plants, this allows for good circulation.
Things You Will Need
- Shady environment
- Average temperature of 50 degrees F.
- Cold winter
- 40 to 50 inches of rain each year (or irrigation)
- Deep, loamy soil
- Panax ginseng rootlets
- To start ginseng from seeds, purchase stratified seed because the germination time for unstratified, or "green," seeds can be as long as two years.
- To raise pH, add hydrated lime to the soil. To lower the pH, add organic sulfur.
- Because Korean red ginseng is heated during processing, older roots are used. Many people believe this makes red ginseng stronger and more potent than unprocessed "white" ginseng roots.
- Wild ginseng is said to be better than cultivated ginseng, so if you simulate the conditions under which this plant lives in nature, your eventual harvest will be better. This means you don't need to fertilize or pamper your plants. You might lose a few to the elements, but your crop will produce a better end product.
- Always consult with your doctor before you begin to use any herbal medicine.
- One of the threats to ginseng is humans who are on the lookout for wild ginseng. If you grow ginseng in a forest area, consider fencing it and posting signs stating, "trespassers will be prosecuted."