How to Grow False Unicorn?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jack Hauskins
Posted on: February 20, 2004

I would be interested in purchasing a book that described the growing of False Unicorn. I am interested in raising it but have no idea how to do it?

None of our books cover the growing of this plant in any detail. Our information comes from our seed grower.

False unicorn (Chamaelirium luteum) is a slow growing woodland perennial with underground rhizomes. It grows in hardwood forests throughout the eastern United States, but it is most frequently found in the Appalachians. It prefers conditions similar to those goldenseal and ginseng will grow in except that it prefers more acidic soil, around pH 5-6. It is rated hardy in zones 5-8.

It takes 5-7 years for the plant to reach maturity from seeds. The seeds can be germinated in outdoor beds or in flats. Germination occurs in spring when sown outdoors, after exposure to a winter of freezing and thawing temperatures. The effects of winter can be simulated using a refrigerator by putting the seedflat through a warm-cool-warm cycle. The length of time required at each stage in the cycle is unknown but probably at least 30 days warm, followed by 60-90 days cool, and then warm again will work. If no germination occurs after 90 days in the second warm period, then a second cool-warm cycle can be tried.

Once the seedlings appear it is best to leave the seedlings undisturbed for a year, and then move them directly to the garden bed. Or move them first in pots and then a year or so later to the garden. They need a spacing of 20-40cm (8-15 inches) apart. Fifty to seventy percent shade is essential, especially in the early years.

Is false unicorn a viable commercial crop? The economics of growing this plant commercially are not proven yet. Historically all of the market has been supplied from wild stands, but wildcrafters are noticing that this plant is becoming scarce, and prices can only escalate.


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