Richters InfoSheet D2864
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
These seeds are dormant and do not germinate readily. Seed domancy is a survival mechanism common to many hardy trees, shrubs and wildflowers. It ensures that germination occurs only when conditions are favourable. Dormancy is caused by impermeable seed coats or underdeveloped embryos and a period of "afterripening" is required to overcome it. The horticultural technique used to break seed dormancy is called stratification.
To stratify seeds, store seeds mixed with moist sand or peat in the refrigerator. Inspect seeds monthly for signs of sprouting. This may take anywhere from one to 24 months. When they begin to sprout they are ready to be seeded in pots or flats. Sow in a lightweight sterilized soil mix. Cover three times their thickness with soil. Be sure seedlings do not dry out. When large enough to handle transplant to their permanent place in the garden.
One customer reported good results with storing seeds under moist conditions in the fridge for ten months, and then placing the seeds on top refrigerator where they received some bottom heat. After 3 weeks 4 seeds sprouted.
If you do not want to bother with stratification, and you reside where the ground freezes over winter, you can leave the seed flats outdoors and let nature take its course. We have had good results by sowing in 18"x 24" seed flats as described above. We place the flats in a shady spot outside and protect them from rodents with a metal screen. We water carefully and mulch with straw especially over winter. Germination may start after the first winter, but more likely it will take two winters before germination begins.
There is little specific cultural information available. Siberian ginseng is hardy in Southern Ontario, and it requires partial shade though not as much as regular ginseng species (Panax spp.) do. We suggest planting seedlings in rich, deeply worked garden soil spaced at least 15cm/6" apart.
It is the rhizomes (underground runners), not the roots, that are used and we would guess that at least 4-5 years of growth are required prior to harvest.
Please let us know of your experiences with Siberian ginseng. Your successes and failures will be valuable in the formulation of a more accurate methodology for growing this species of ginseng.
We welcome your feedback on your experiences. The information you provide will help us refine our recommendations to other herb enthusiasts. Please email your comments to Infosheet Feedback.
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