Panax Ginseng is slow growing and can be long lived.
In 1981 a 100 year Panax ginseng root was discovered in the Jangbaeck Mountain range in China.
Ginseng Growing Cycle
During summer, a small bud forms on the root next to the current years plant.
Each year this bud appears at the top of the scar left by the previous plant and will into the next years plant.
The scars formed by each successive years die off and regrowth, form the neck of the ginseng root. If the neck is broken or rots, a new bud will form immediately. The scars can be counted to determine the roots minimum age.
It’s rhizome does not spread. It usually sprouts a single plant from the top of the neck each year. Strong roots will sometimes have two or more necks and support more plants. The older plants sprout first.
It is ‘thought’ at the ginseng root contracts in Autumn of each year and ‘wriggles’ deeper into the ground to accommodate the upward growth of the neck. The yearly shrinking of the root helps to keep the bud stem underground and helps produce wrinkles around the root.
When the leaves have died off in autumn, the stem of the ginseng plant remains. The stem may stick out of the ground for a whole year.
During cold winters, ginseng will die back and go dormant. It will start to grow again in the spring. Each year more leaves will appear. (One in the first, two in the second, etc.)
When ginseng seeds
The ginseng plant is self pollinating. Seed production occurs during summer. Small flowers appear on a flower stem from the centre of the leaf prongs. The ginseng flowers swell into kidney shaped berries which ripen independently to a bright red colour until the plant dies down due to the cold autumn temperatures.
You may start to have berries develop in the second year.
Some produce yellow berries. The berries contain one to three seeds.
After the seeds have been produced, the ginseng plant prepares for winter, when it will become dormant. The root exhibits a spurt of rapid growth and the bud on top of the neck swells to store sugars and saponins. It needs this to cope with the stressful period when stems once again shoot up in spring.
Panax ginseng seed will germinate in the following season after seed production if stratified well.
Northern Hemisphere: North facing slopes.
Southern Hemisphere: South facing slopes.
Panax ginseng seeds should be sown after a warm and cold stratification process which takes approximately 7 months.
Sometimes the seed will go dormant and not germinate until the following year.
If possible, plant in early spring but protect the seedlings from frost in the first year. Sow after the last frost – About September ( Australia).
The seeds should be planted about 5mm to 20mm deep in the soil.
Plant approximately 5cm apart if you intend to transplant the rootlets. When the rootlets are two years old they can be replanted (minimum 20cm apart), this reduces the risk of fungal infections from spreading to the other rootlets. Conversely, the seeds can be planted with a spacing of 20 to 30 cm.
It is important to care for sown seed by ensuring that the soil is moist but not wet. Mulching is important.
The seeds should also be protected from bugs, slugs, vermin, possums, scratching birds, rabbits, etc.
If the stratified ginseng seeds have been through a constant 4°C cool stratification for three months prior to planting, synchronous germination rates are greatly improved.
- The soil needs to be a well draining loam, which holds moisture. Ginseng definitely does not like wet feet!
- Loose friable, light forest loam preferred.
- Soil quality affects the taste of ginseng.
- Organic matter 4 to 10% in the upper layer.
- Modest water holding capacity in the top eight to twelve inches.
- Soil acidity should be between 5.5 to 6.5 Ph.
- Ginseng is found in naturally forested areas with soil pH 5.5 to 6.5.
- Ginseng likes a high organic and calcium rich soil.
- Raised beds 25cm to 30cm high.
- The most common point made by established ginseng growers, about successful ginseng cultivation, is to make sure that soil preparation is spot on!
pH means potential hydrogen. It is. Measured in a linear scale . 7 is neutral, less than 7 is acidic, great than 7 is alkaline.
The pH of the soil affects the way in which plants absorb nutrients. Ginseng likes slightly acid soil between 5.5 to 6.5 . Outside of these parameters, root growth is curtailed. A pH of 5.6 to 5.8 is considered ideal.
If the soil is in this range the ginseng plant can absorb phosphate easier.
Soil which is to high in alkalinity reduces the plants ability to fight disease.
Root knot nematode can be a problem, specially if ginseng is planted in an area that has had a crop of potatoes.
Ginseng requires shade – 75-80%
- Annual rainfall between 20 and 60 inches.
- Ginseng needs distinct seasonal changes.
- Cold winter : 4ºC and below
- Temperate summer: 21ºC to 25ºC
- Low humidity.
- If apples grow well in your area, ginseng probably will also.
- Roots grow best in cool soil, long hot summers inhibit root growth.
- Ginseng is tolerant to a range of conditions. It likes moisture but can tolerate drought ( to a point).
- Too much water may cause root rot.
If the temperature drops below 10ºC just after the seedlings have emerged, they can go dormant reducing their ability to survive.
Established Panax ginseng grows best between 18 to 21ºC during the warm season growing period.
Although the dormant root can survive cold of -40ºC, temperature extremes of can be detrimental to the plant depending on the plants growth cycle.
In the wild, leaves from the deciduous trees fall onto the forest floor and cover the exposed ginseng seeds protecting them from moisture loss. Seeds which fall and do not get covered by mulch / soil will dry out and will not be viable.
- The ginseng bed should be covered with mulch to prevent moisture loss and to cover the seeds from light.
- Straw mulch may cause fungal problems.
- Leaf litter from deciduous trees is good.
- Pea straw also makes good mulch.
When established, organic fertiliser can be used – Seaweed, fish, compost tea.
This should be done in the growing season. Don’t over do it.
These basic growing conditions for Panax ginseng are essential.