Growing your own ginseng takes years but can yield valuable results. You may have read a few years ago that dried ginseng sold for $1,000 per pound, so you may also wonder if you can grow your own in your backyard. Ginseng is in high demand, not only in the Unites States, but also in China. In fact, most of the ginseng grown in the United States is exported to China where it is prized as an aphrodisiac and a cure all. Ginseng is grown for its fleshy, rooted herb. You can find it growing naturally in well-drained, shaded, cool forests floors. Ginseng is a perennial, but it can lie dormant for years at a time. As a result, the plant grows very slowly. This is why the root is so expensive; it takes from five to ten years of growth for the root to be harvested.
Since ginseng grows so slowly, you may be tempted to invest in a ton of seed your first year so that you can start reaping rewards as quickly as possible. Do not do this. Start small so that you learn what works best for ginseng in your yard. This way, you can learn how to get the most from your plants before you start spending a ton of money on them. Ginseng can grow in any shady spot in United States Department of Agriculture zones two through eight. Zones two and eight are less than ideal, however. The plant needs about 80% shade and a rotten leaf covering to grow.
You can plant your ginseng seeds from September 1st through February 1st for spring growth. Rake up a patch of rotten leaves, cast your seed lightly and then cover the seeds with the rotten leaves. You can also cover the seeds with light mulch, if you do not have many rotten leaves. Make sure that you do not ever allow your ginseng seeds to become dry. They will die if they dry out. Water the seeds well so that the seeds germinate in spring.
You can also plant ginseng seeds in pots and grow it indoors. If you are going to plant indoors, though, you need to buy stratified seed. Stratified seed is seed that has already undergone a period of cold dormancy. Always plant and keep ginseng in plastic pots. Ceramic pots dry out and will wick moisture out of the soil and away from your seeds. You can grow your ginseng inside by a window that faces north.
Your ginseng will not be ready for harvest until it has been growing for five to ten years. Once your ginseng is ready to harvest, you face the most difficult step. Harvest the root in the autumn of the year, after the plants have lost their seeds for the season. Be very careful not to damage the precious roots while you are digging your ginseng up. Dig each plant individually by hand, being careful not to break any part of the root and keeping the side roots intact.
Wash your fresh ginseng root very gently with a soft brush and water. Just remove the excess soil from the root; do not scrub it clean. Dry the roots in a cool, dark place with good airflow and consistent temperature.