Growing Ginseng: Start a Ginseng Farm

You can earn money by growing ginseng in your very own ginseng farm.

| July/August 1983

ginseng in hands

Dried ginseng roots are a valuable crop you can grow yourself with a little patience and care.


While it's not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme like those touted on matchbook covers, growing ginseng promises financial rewards that do sound almost too good to be true. But the fact is that, if you live where the climate is right, in five years (and with little capital investment) you can grow as much as $30,000 worth of the prized botanical on only half an acre of woodland!

But where, you may ask, do you have to reside in order to be a prime candidate for growing this green gold? Well, the hardwood forests of the eastern United States and Canada are ginseng's natural habitat, but it can be cultivated almost anywhere north of central Alabama . . . if the area receives between 20 and 40 inches of rainfall annually. No sophisticated techniques are needed to raise the precious crop, either . . . only a goodly portion of patience and a willingness to get your hands dirty. I grow ginseng quite successfully, though I've had only a few years' previous experience in vegetable gardening.

Pick a Planting Site for your Ginseng Farm

 Wild 'sang, as old-timers call the plant, flourishes best beneath a stand of mature hardwoods on a gentle northeast-facing slope that has thick, moist leaf litter and little undergrowth. Such a place is naturally ideal for cultivating ginseng, but the botanical should thrive in almost any well-tended, well drained but moist-location that doesn't receive too much direct afternoon sunlight. (Some growers even construct their own lattices—6 to 7 feet above the plants—to provide the necessary 75 to 80% shading.)

When prospecting for a suitable spot, I look for a few wildlings that are similar to ginseng, such as trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisae matriphyllum), May apples (Podophyllum peltatum), rattlesnake ferns (Botrychium virginianum), or wild ginger (Asarum canadense). The type of soil isn't critical to growing success, although a sandy loam with a pH level of 5.0 to 6.0 is preferable. During dry weather, however, you should check to see whether or not the soil under the leaves remains moist, without being overly damp . . . and water, if needed.

Prepare Your Ginseng Bed

Once you've located—or created—a promising area for cultivating your crop, you can go ahead and prepare the bed for it by first removing all undergrowth. (If there is a thick over story surrounding the plot, thin that somewhat to allow air to circulate over the bed.) Next, stake out an area 4-1/2 to 6 feet wide and as long as you like for the growing area, adding 1 foot along each side for an access trench/walkway. Keep in mind that running the bed down a gentle slope will encourage the shedding of surface water.

When you're satisfied with the situation of your plot, break up the soil 6 to 8 inches deep, removing as many tree roots as possible. To facilitate drainage, mound the dirt taken from the bordering trenches along the centerline of the bed, but don't otherwise raise its level. And, if your "ginseng garden" lies on a slope, join the border trenches at its top to form an inverted "V" (to divert rain runoff).

10/28/2017 2:39:01 PM

I found some, thanks.

10/28/2017 2:38:36 PM

Where can I go to buy seedlings/roots/seeds?

10/28/2017 2:38:34 PM

Where can I find the seedlings/roots/seeds to buy?

9/12/2017 4:34:53 PM

how do I find a licensed dealer?

11/12/2015 10:49:53 AM

Can I grow ginseng inside the barn soil is good I have plenty of mulch from leaves for cover. My concern is the heat in the summer time. And will I need some type of artificial sun light? Thanks for your help

8/23/2015 3:37:46 AM

Great article - though Appalachian Outlaws is not real - its how low History Channel will go these days -Like MTV reality shows ... read the comments here -

7/7/2015 6:01:51 PM

Once you grow it - where do you sell it?

3/16/2015 11:00:15 PM

Martin I would be glad to talk to you. Shoot me an email at Gary if you have white pine you may be able to raise ginseng. There are some people in NC that have been successful doing this. I want to say that scott8888 is correct that hardwood forests are best especially if they are mixed hardwoods. If all you have are oak trees you will need to pull back some of the leaves in the spring on new plantings so the small plants can get through the leaf litter. Oaks tend to have thick leaves that do not decompose quickly. Ginseng prefers a PH of 5.5 to 6.5 but will grow outside this range if other conditions are right.

3/16/2015 10:52:55 PM

Martin I would be glad to talk to you. Shoot me an email Gary if you have white pine then ginseng will grow there but scott8888 is right. Hardwood forest is best especially if it is a mix. If you have just Oak trees the leaves tend to be thick and heavy and do not decompose as quickly as other hardwood leaves do. You should pull back some of the leaves in the Oak only areas so the young plants can make it through the leaf litter. Ginseng prefers a PH of 5.5 to 6.5 but can still grow outside this range if other conditions are right.

3/1/2015 3:32:32 PM

CHRISB I would really like to you talk in more detail. You seem to really know your stuff. If I could get your email address or, I can post mine if you want. I recently inherited my Grandfathers 80 in Mich. that is about 60 % wooded that I believe fits the growing conditions for Ginseng perfectly. Thanks , Marty

2/9/2015 11:19:51 PM

My family is from the Appalachian mountains in Eastern Kentucky. My dad use to hunt for Ginseng from the time he was a little boy. He was born in 1923 if that gives you any idea how long ago that was. We moved to Western Kentucky in 1965 and he also hunted in the Western part of the state as well. He would go out and hunt for ginseng find some that was still small and bring it home and plant it in a small garden spot at home. He would let it grow for a few years and after it got big enough he'd dig it up allow it to dry and after he had collected enough he'd mail it to someone and in a few weeks receive a check. It gave him something to do after he retired and give him a little extra spending money. I wish I had listened more closely to him when he tried to teach me about ginseng. When he died in 2005 he died with a wealth of knowledge of how to hunt for it take care of it, who to sell it to and I'm more than positive he could have answered any question anyone might have thrown at him. He thoroughly loved hunting for ginseng.

4/9/2014 11:09:32 AM

I read that a pine forest areas are not good environments for growing ginseng. They require hardwood areas that have adequate shade and leaf mold. I found that it ferns are nearby the environment is pretty good for growing. From what I've read it has to do with ph and the type of soil hardwoods grow in. A good book I found was called "How To Find,Grow and Use American Ginseng" by Kim Pritts.

4/7/2014 8:53:12 AM

i have property at 3000 ft., there are large pines with ample growing areas, good water and moderate sunlight.the land is traversed by deer and bear. is this type of land suitable? thanks!

2/24/2014 3:33:03 PM

Kevin1, if you look on page 5 of the article, the author does talk about poachers.

2/20/2014 1:47:44 PM

Hi.. I am guessing that since this artical was written 20 yrs ago the value of roots today is higher , therefore the poaching is more a problem now... ???

2/17/2014 7:43:58 PM

This article is explaining how to raise what would be called woods grown ginseng. There are 3 basic ways to grow ginseng. First there is field grown, then woods grown, then wild simulated. The show Appalachian Outlaws is centered around wild ginseng which is considered the best there is although there are several different classifications within each growing style. I have been growing wild simulated ginseng for 17 years and have had no problems with poaching whatsoever. While poaching is a problem in some areas it is not everywhere. As far as the value of sang goes the field grown will generally bring the least amount of money per dried pound. Woods grown will bring a little higher then wild simulated is better than that then there is wild. If you are planning to get into growing ginseng for profit then growing wild simulated is the way to go. We have been getting wild prices for our ginseng for the past several years. Wild simulated is just what it implies. It is a planting style that most resembles the way wild ginseng grows. You do not want to go in and dig everything up and mound the beds you want to be the least invasive as possible. This style is the simplest most profitable per dried pound of ginseng there is except digging wild which sooner or later will most likely be shut off by the Fish and Wildlife Agency. As far as selling ginseng goes most states with ginseng programs can provide you with a list of licensed dealers.

2/14/2014 5:00:28 PM

Kevin1, you are right. Poachers are brutal when comes to quick profit. My husband and I were watching "Apallachian Outlaws" and, my God!, what people would do for these roots. They fight, they shoot each other tires, they trespass on someone else's property to steal. What I was thinking, if trespassing on private property would be a crime and the owner would catch the criminals (trail cameral) and report them to the local authorities, would the profit for gensing sale go to the owner of the stollen crop? Please, advice.

2/13/2014 9:05:54 AM

This article never touched on the most important aspect of ginseng farming, which would be poachers. With the prices of even cultivated ginseng high poaching is rampant, and poachers know when you aren't home. You risk having your entire investment gone overnight, which should have at least been mentioned.

2/13/2014 9:04:47 AM

This article never touched on the most important aspect of ginseng farming, which would be poachers. With the prices of even cultivated ginseng high poaching is rampant, and poachers know when you aren't home. You risk having your entire investment gone overnight, which should have at least been mentioned.

6/16/2009 8:25:53 PM

hi my question is: once you have invested on it how do you sell it and make a profit from it>>? thank you!

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