EUREKA! Siberian Ginseng Germinated!
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Steven Williams
Posted on: February 9, 1999

After at least three years of trying, I have finally succeeded in getting Siberian Ginseng to germinate. In hindsight, it really wasn’t that difficult but does require a great deal of patience.

How was this accomplished? I planted the seed in a six inch plastic pot using a clean perlite-peat moss medium. The seed was covered with a few mm of the same soil mix, the pots were soaked in water and then placed in a fridge for six months. The stratified seeds were then placed on a greenhouse bench in a cool, shaded location (i.e. out of direct sunlight). The soil was never allowed to dry out completely but still, nothing germinated the first summer so the pots were again placed back in the fridge at the end of the summer (Oct 15/98). I checked the pots every couple of weeks to water them so the media never became to dry, and on Feb 4/99 I found there was a uniform flush of seeds germinating.

The only question I have about this process was one mistake made during the second stratification period. The pots were sitting in a basin to prevent water from dripping onto the plants below. During at least two months of this second stratification treatment, the pots were standing in at least an inch of water that had dripped into the basin from the plants on the shelf above. These plants above the pots of ginseng were watered about every two weeks and dripped onto the ginseng pots below. When I discovered this, I was mortified and immediately removed the ginseng pots and set them on the shelf beside the basin. I had visions of rotten/mouldy seed running through my mind as I cursed the situation. But within two weeks there was a flush of germinated ginseng growing in the fridge at 2-4 degrees C. I was thrilled.

I do not know if this prolonged leaching and soaking of the pots in any way aided the germination process, but at this point I can safely say it sure didn’t harm anything. I just thought you would be interested in knowing that somebody out there buying your Siberian Ginseng seed did actually get it to germinate. Now maybe I can learn to grow it.

We are delighted to hear about the good results. Siberian ginseng seeds are dormant when they arrive and need the kind of alternating cold and warm treatment that you have given them. We have had pretty much the same results with dried seeds taking two winters to break dormancy, and fresh seeds taking at least one.

From this point on Siberian ginseng is easy to grow – easier than American and Asiatic ginsengs. It does need shade, but not as much as the Panax ginsengs. It is what is called an "understory" shrub and so requires the light shade of taller trees.

It will take 3-5 years to reach fruit-bearing size.

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