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How to Grow Ginseng – GIY Plants

How to grow ginseng. Ginseng plants growing in the woods.

Ginseng, scientifically known as Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) or Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), is a perennial plant known for its medicinal value. Its name, derived from the Chinese term “Ren Shen,” symbolizes the human-like shape of the ginseng root, adding to its intrigue.

Ginseng Origin

Originally, American ginseng was found in deciduous woodlands of North America. In contrast, Asian ginseng originated from the hardwood forests of Korea and China. In traditional medicine, it’s considered an adaptogen, helping the body resist various stressors.

Size and Appearance

Close up of ginseng red berries with white background.

The ginseng plant stands about 1 to 2 feet tall, with leaves sprouting in a circular pattern, creating an umbrella-like shape. Each mature ginseng plant produces red berries carrying two to three seeds. Its distinct root, resembling the human form, has earned it cultural and medicinal significance.

How Long Does It Take To Grow Ginseng?

Ginseng is a slow-growing plant with four to five years of growth cycles. From the initial planting of stratified seeds, the germination process can take up to 18 months, with visible sprouting occurring in the second spring. 

Following this, the ginseng plant continues to develop over the years, reaching maturity and being ready for harvest when it is at least three years old. During this period, the plant produces distinct red berries and a mature root system that is sought after for its medicinal properties.

Ginseng Plant Care

Ginseng plant care when growing outdoors.


Ginseng thrives in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a slightly acidic pH level. Opt for a site with good air circulation and plenty of leaf litter to mimic its natural habitat.


The watering frequency for ginseng is similar to its woodland environment – consistent but not saturated. The plant prefers moist soil conditions, so monitor the soil moisture level to avoid overwatering.


Ginseng grows best in partial to full shade, protected from direct sunlight. Locations under a hardwood canopy are ideal for growing ginseng in the woods, mimicking its wild environment.

Humidity & Temperature

Ginseng requires a cool, temperate climate similar to its natural woodland habitat. It can tolerate winter temperatures and appreciates the higher humidity levels of a forest environment.


Being a slow-growing plant, ginseng doesn’t require heavy fertilization. Initial preparation of the planting area with compost or organic matter should suffice for nourishment throughout its growth period.


Ginseng propagation can be achieved through stratified seed planting. Stratify your seeds by soaking them in water for about 12 hours. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart in a woodland or shade cloth setting.

Diseases and Pests

Ginseng is susceptible to various diseases like root rot and leaf blight. Maintain good air circulation, avoid overwatering, and regularly check for signs of disease. Common pests include slugs and rodents.

Harvesting Ginseng

How to harvest ginseng. Multiple ginseng roots lined up after harvesting.

When it comes to ginseng harvesting, patience is key. Ginseng roots are ready to harvest once the plant is at least three years old, with mature plants showcasing a forked root and multiple leaflets. Post-harvest, washing off the dirt and drying your ginseng thoroughly to prevent mold growth is essential.

American vs. Asian Ginseng

American and Asian ginseng are two popular varieties used in traditional medicine. While both offer similar health benefits, American ginseng has a milder effect compared to Asian ginseng, which is known for its warming and stimulating properties.

How do I plant ginseng?

To plant ginseng:

1. Start by preparing a well-drained area with good drainage.

2. Add mulch to the soil and stratify the ginseng seeds or rootlets before planting.

3. Plant the seeds or rootlets about 1 inch deep, cover them with soil, and water them regularly.


By learning how to grow and care for your ginseng, you can cultivate this rewarding plant for personal use or as a potential source of income. Whether you’re a seasoned or a beginner, ginseng’s unique growth and care process will offer an enriching gardening experience.

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