Panax quinquefolius, commonly called American ginseng, is native to but now rare in Eastern North America. It is an erect perennial growing to 10-15" tall. Each plant has three long-stalked, horse-chestnut-like, compound leaves. Each leaf has 5 (infrequently 3) toothed, pointed, elliptic-obovate leaflets to 5" long. A solitary umbel of small yellowish-green to greenish-white flowers arises on a long stalk from the central leaf axil in late spring to early summer. Flowers are mildly fragrant but not particularly showy. Each flower umbel gives way to a cluster of red berries. Roots are thick, aromatic and swollen in the middle. Roots of the native Chinese species (Panax ginseng) have been used medicinally in China for centuries. American ginseng is now sometimes commercially grown in the U.S. for export. Garden Uses. An interesting and increasingly rare native plant for shade areas. Best in herb gardens, native plant gardens, woodland gardens or shade gardens. Best grown in moist, fertile, organically rich, medium moisture soils in part shade to full shade. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Zones 4-8.
Growing Instructions for the American Ginseng
The seeds have a period of dormancy and need to be cold stratified to break their dormancy. The seeds are stored in a refrigerator so they have already been stratified. The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. 1. Ginseng grows in loamy, clay or sandy soil. Put some potting soil in a container. 2. Sow the seeds ¼-1/2 inch deep. 3. Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet, until the ginseng seeds germinate. The seeds will not germinate if the soil dries out. 4. Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet. 5. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.