Last season was my first attempt to grow ginseng, goldenseal, and a few other forest herbs (planted October 2019). I planted seeds of ginseng, seeds and rootlets of goldenseal, and seeds of false and true unicorn, and virginia snakeroot. Some I sowed in containers, some in a small forested area next to my house. I thought I had my bases covered, but not a single seed or rootlet germinated, as far as i can tell. Yes, I have a lot of oak leaves to contend with, but I pulled back all leaf cover and saw no signs of life. I do see evidence of a mole or vole in the wooded area, but even if it ate everything I put out there, it doesnt explain the lack of activity from the seeds planted in containers. All were left outdoors, but inaccessible to animals.
If anyone has any suggestions that might help me out, Id be extremely grateful. I know I need to check out some youtube videos. It is frustrating that not a single seed did anything, I figured at least some must germinate if only out of pure coincidence. It can be a someone costly venture, so I'd like to know that I can improve my odds of success *significantly* before reinvesting.
Secondly, I'm now interested in buying live plants of all of the above species, and I'm willing to travel to pick them up.
You will need to find ginseng habitat to plant seeds in. Even then it is not a sure thing.
Many native plants are very picky about where they grow. Less than a third of my various plantings actually resulted in new plants.
Just out of curiosity I planted about a hundred blue cohosh seeds in actual ginseng habitat a few years ago. Had MHF, sweet cicely, ginseng, baneberry. Not a single seed germinated. Also planted ginseng in that location with very poor results.
Be sure that you are buying stratified seed from a reputable dealer.... like wildgrown here...
When you get your seed in check it for proper embryo development, to make sure it is good (before planting). See image below...
Plant good stratified ginseng seed only in locations where you know ginseng to grow (in your area)... for example for me that is a North or slightly North East facing hillside (in the 700-750 ft elevation levels) where I see best sign (wild seng already growing)... or at least very good indicator plants like maiden hair fern growing...
Depending on where you are (north ? south ?) exactly where wild seng grows well may differ some. The more south you are (I am in TN)... you will have best luck on North to North East facing hillsides only... but if you are up in Main, or NY... it may grow well on other facing hillsides too.
These seeds have proper embryo development... if you buy a pound of seed (approx 7000) seeds, split open 20-30 and make sure you have proper embryo development... that is the only way to know for sure you have properly stratified seed... that should sprout if you plant it in the fall, it or most of it will come up the next spring.
Also you will have the best luck with seed, if you order it from someone like wildgrown, and order early in the new seed stock shipping time (right after they pull the seed up from stratification)... and it is fresh and ready for planting... they ship it to you, you get it, and you plant it ASAP.
The longer you try to store it (like in the refrigerator, for a week or two or more) before planting... the more likely it is to be messed up, ruined... and not sprout for you. Get it and plant it asap for best results.
I have had "some seed" from various purchases of stratified seed from various vendors... not come up until the 2nd or even 3rd spring.
Most did germinate the next spring... but then the next (2nd) spring and even the following (3rd) spring, there were more (obviously brand new 3 leafers up). Ginseng seed is quite resilient and I expect it can do that... well because GOD designed it that way to ensure success.
I have not experienced planting a whole batch of seed... and none (or very little) of it came up the next spring... but lots of it did come up the 2nd spring. that never happened to me.
But I always felt extremely pressed to get those seed in the ground ASAP after they arrived. That is just me.. got to get it done. And I was a bit worried about the results if I did not plant them asap.
I think the most I ever kept any seed in the fridge was about a week. And the norm for me was to plant it all ASAP (in just a few days). I never ordered any more than I could plant quickly either. Just a pound or two at a time.
I think your absolute best bet for bought seed... would be to get it asap after they pull it up from stratification, and plant it asap after you get it.
The longer they have to store it... or you store it yourself... the more likely you are to have germination issues.
TN, I agree the sooner you plant the better...however, I always seem to have so much else going on that planting has taken a couple of months at best for me.
The first year I planted I was very disappointed in the number of three leafers I found the following spring. That year, I had very little rhyme or reason as to how I planted. I couldn't even find all the places that I had planted. I cleared an area of leaves, placed some seeds then recovered the area, no idea how many seeds I planted in any given area. I did plant in areas that should be suitable for seng.
The following spring was a huge disappointment but I did find some three leafers in several of those plantings. Come year two I found several three leafers, four or five leafers and some small two prongs. While it was exciting to find more young plants I wondered why it took an extra year. Then I stumbled upon the fridge thing I mentioned. With your info that you've observed seeds germinating after three years heightens my excitement for spring. I'll see what I find there then.
The second year I planted I followed your advice, 32 seeds per 4x4 foot plot. I planted 113 plots on my property. The following spring (May) I went to each plot and recorded the number of plants I found growing in each plot.
Four plots had 0 plants, one plot had 34 plants (I must have dropped a couple of seeds), and the rest were somewhere in between. But apparently because I had nothing better to do, I documented the findings at each plot which is staked and numbered. This coming spring I'll return to each plot and document what I find in year two.
I guess this is what I meant when I said seng has become a hobby for me.
I just wanted to add to my previous post that with a couple of my initial plantings, I could not locate them the following spring. In year two I stumbled upon young plants ranging from 3-5 leafs and was like oh yea, I did plant here.
I hope some of this helps Massgrow but really, TN is the expert, listen to him but I'm happy to share my experiences.