The Second Challenge to Grow Rare Ginseng in California Has Begun- 
This Time Indoors and Under Lights

Join us on this informative web page as we start our second attempt to domesticate this ancient, endangered and valuable medicinal herb indoors and under lights. We're hoping to become one of the first experimental growers in the world to master a new method of replicating the ideal outdoor soil, filtered sunlight and temperature range required to care for this prized herb.

Our first outdoor growing tests started over five years ago in Southern California using hydroponic and aeroponic food growing systems.

Unfortunately, because of Southern California weather, moisture levels, and temperature extremes, the ginseng seeds and plantlets did not live past the first year. Ginseng is one of the most difficult plants to grow, and it requires a very specific type of soil, weather conditions, temperature, moisture and light levels. The most successful growing occurs in their natural habitat.

The second round of tests, shown at left, began in the fall of 2019 when thirty, three year old dormant plantlets purchased from a grower in Wisconsin were carefully placed in two types of planting containers filled with a special mix of loose soil, then left outdoors in the cool shade during the cold winter months in Southern California where our night time temperatures averaged about 40-50 degrees F.

As spring approached and the temperatures began to rise, the test containers were brought indoors in early March, where comfortable room temperatures stay constant and are ideal for this type of plant. They are sitting under timed, full spectrum lights and a fan that blows a light breeze over the containers.

In the first week of Spring the first set of roots came to life (left photo) and popped out of the soil looking very green and healthy. Yea! A week later, the leaves fully formed on the first plant (center photo). A month after the plants broke the soil, seeds have formed in the right photo and the plants now measure 8-9" tall. The second test grow has begun with an encouraging start. So far, this is better than any of the previous tests.

Check back often for updated information on our progress as the second challenge continues.  A log of our first year of testing is below. 

In over 5,000 years of growing ginseng many have attempted and very few have succeeded at growing it away from its natural habitat. As natural wild grown crops of valuable ginseng are reduced by illegal and over-harvesting, more growers are planting seeds and rootlets in select forest locations to increase the supply for a very high demand.

But it is a long term process that requires proper skills and some luck as weather patterns change and become more unpredictable due to climate change. For example, much of the crop of cultivated American ginseng growing in Wisconsin was destroyed by an unseasonable snow and hail storm in 2010. Over 90% of American ginseng comes from that state. Ginseng harvesting in natural old growth forests is now highly regulated in the USA and requires that each plant must be at least 5-7 years old before it can be sold. The price of mature harvested roots continues rise, with a range of $200 to over $1,000 per pound, depending on size and appearance.

The biggest problems of meeting the high demand are the slow growing time, and having enough favorable growing locations with ideal weather, soil and rain where it can found in the wild or propagated by commercial growers. Most growing is in the eastern and northern states of the USA, Canada, Korea and parts of Asia, but not in California.

We welcome the growing challenge

This is why we have chosen to take on that challenge of duplicating nature's way by choosing a choice location in San Diego, California that has a micro climate with similar summer growing temperatures and lighting requirements, but without the lower winter temperatures. Our warm growing season is months longer than the native growing forests, so we're hoping it is an advantage that increases root size faster. Some plants will be transferred in winter to a colder location, while others won't, to compare growth rates.

Another advantage is the use of our unique passive solar thermal fabrics that can increase or decrease lighting and temperature needs of the plants. Ginseng growing is not easy, even in areas where it naturally grows, so we'll be integrating years of innovative hydroponic and aeroponic growing experience along with the best plant nutrients and non-soil growing systems available.

We are using naturally derived, non-toxic sea and earth mineral nutrients to feed the plants, under more controlled conditions outdoors in sanitized planting medium with the advanced hydroponic Veggie Garden2go solar growing system and in the air, using the aeroponic Tower Garden.Both growing systems encourage food plants to grow up to 50% faster, bigger, healthier, and make it easier to absorb all the nutrients they can consume.

The first American ginseng seeds and three-year-old rootlets have already been planted here in San Diego California, but not in the ground. Our testing location is far away from the wild old growth forests where the sunlight and soil is ideal, temperatures get much colder and there is much more rain and snow. That's the challenge.

Three of the larger three-year old rootlets out of nearly 50 that were planted are shown on the left. They have been measured and weighed and will be checked later to see how much they grew. And over 100 stratified seeds have been planted in a variety of growing configurations.

Some say we might not succeed, but we think we will. You are invited to watch the growing process over the next few years since it will be documented along the way in photos and text on this page below, so don't forget to add a bookmark for future updates. Any comments, questions or suggestions are welcome by email or by phone.

Questions about the American ginseng California challenge? Would you like to learn more about the amazing aeroponic Tower Garden growing system? Please contact product designer Deris Jeannette by sending an email to: deris@towergardener.com. or calling 619/990-7977.


First Ginseng Growing Challenge update, October 15, 2014:

It's now been over two weeks since over 150 wild grown and cultivated stratified American Ginseng seeds and 50 dormant three-year-old rootlets from Wisconsin have been either planted or placed in a refrigerator. A variety of outdoor naturally shaded locations have been chosen for growing with differing light and temperature levels, all similar to the normal cool forest environment where they first started growing.

Based on lots of previous research, we were not expecting to see signs of growth until spring, but to our surprise, most of the rootlet buds have already popped out and are starting to show green on the tips, as shown in the left photo.

It could be because of our warm fall San Diego daytime temperatures in the high 60's and low 70's. Or it could be because they are now planted and kept moist in either the sanitized planting medium in the Veggie Garden2go or in rock wool planted in the Tower Garden growing system.

As the days and nights get colder and winter begins, we are anxious to see if the rootlets keep getting larger and start showing leaves, and if the leaves continue to grow in colder months will they survive occasional frost in our area. We're hoping that growing through our comfortable winter without snow might increase the root size because the normal growing season is only during summer. Or it could slow down the growth.

The seeds and rootlets that are staying cool in the 38-40 degree refridge will remain there until early next year, then they will be planted outdoors to see if they germinate before or after then ones already planted outside. This should simulate their normal dormant winter period.

 Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, December 1, 2014:

After a quick check of a sampling of the various seeds and rootlets that have been planted for over two months, more green was obvious on the enlarged rootlet buds like the one shown in the previous update that were growing the Veggie Garden2go hydroponic system. They have continued to grow very slightly in the non-soil plant medium and all looked healthy.

However, most of the small rootlets planted in the aeroponic Tower Garden didn't do so well, as shown in the photo on the left. Notice the golden brown color and gooey center that fell apart while being checked. It began to rot because it was in too wet of environment, surrounded by rock wool. This confirms that ginseng roots do not do well when they stay too moist. The healthy color of the roots is a light tan color like the three shown at the top of this web page. Fortunately, a few of the other rootlets in the Tower Garden have survived.

Modifications have been made and we're hoping for better results in future progress checks. As expected, none of the seeds has started to germinate yet. Check back in coming weeks for the next update and progress photos.

Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, January 15, 2015:

The beginning of the new year brings a new inspection of the many ginseng seeds and rootlets to see how many have survived and remained healthy. It's now been three months since the tests started. All remain unchanged since the previous inspection and none have died, even after numerous rain storms and most night temps in the 40-50 degree F range and days in the 60's and 70's.

We did have a few nights in the mid 30's. After making some minor changes to the replacement Tower Garden test rootlets, they seem to be holding up fine. New signs of the plants and seeds waking up are not expected until spring, but if there are any changes, new photos and more details will be posted here.

Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, February 11, 2015:

Good news! The first sign of life has appeared on three of the Ginseng rootlets growing in the Veggie Garden2go hydroponic system. The photo shows how one of the tiny 1/2" buds has begun to pop open. We're hoping this will be the first of many new plants to emerge from their three month sleep.

If so, this will be the first recorded cultivation of American Ginseng outside of it's native growing area east of the Mississippi. However, after checking a small sampling of the ginseng seeds, none have yet germinated, but they still look healthy. That indicates that our loose non-earth planting medium and watering cycles are correct thus far.

It's doubtful that any of the natural wild or field cultivated plants back east have popped open because they are still in the middle of a cold, snowy and rainy winter. Our San Diego weather has been mild with daytime temps in the 60's and 70's and nights in the 40's and 50's so the plants must think it is spring and time to come to life. The hope is that our growing season will be months longer than native plants in the eastern US, which should yield larger plants. Updates with progress photos will now be more frequent now that the plants have come to life.

Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, March 5, 2015:

More ginseng progress! Another check of the rootlets shows a small amount of growing progress with more green showing, but even better is the first sign of germination appearing on a sampling of a few of over 150 ginseng seeds, shown in the photo on the left. The seeds appear to open like a clam shell and in the middle you can see the new growth starting to squeeze out.

Compared to over 50 types of organic edible seeds we have sprouted and sold as seedlings on our edibleseedlings.com web page, ginseng seeds take much longer to germinate, especially since they have to first go through an 18 month "stratification" process before they actually begin to start growing as a plant. These stratified seeds were planted over four months ago in early November. Temperature and moisture have been checked often in our Veggie Garden2go and other test growing methods being used.

Most edible seedlings only take a few days to a few weeks to germinate so ginseng growers must be very patient. Ginseng seeds require growing medium or dirt that is not too wet but stays moist enough to keep the seed alive. If the seeds stay too wet, they drown and turn gooey, then die. So far it appears nearly all the seeds have survived, based on random sampling.

The sample seeds were carefully extracted from the planting medium, checked and re-planted about 1" deep. As the weather begins to warm in the next few months, we are hoping to see many small sprouts appear above the ground, as with the rootlets. The rootlets should also be more visible, which would be worth celebrating. Check back soon for another update.

Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, March 26, 2015:

It's now the first week of spring and the plants seem to know it. Slow and steady growth is easy to see in these new photos. A more complete sampling of the rootlets has shown that about 1/4 of the hydroponically grown rootlets have failed, while the rest appear healthy. The testing has stopped in aeroponic Tower Garden because none of the rootlets has survived, clearly because of too much moisture. They all looked too wet and turned to goo.

The first sign of visible leaves opening on a few of the the rootlets is now obvious in the Veggie Garden2go, along with small branches--shown in the left photo. Look below the new growth and the rootlet base is slightly visible through the planting medium that's been cleared away.

Nearly all the seeds are still slowly beginning to germinate but none have popped through the surface of the planting medium yet. The daytime temps has begun to warm and should reach the 70's-80's in coming days, which will likely speed the plant growth. Check back for more updates.

Ginseng California Growing Challenge update, May 20, 2015:

Ginseng growing progress has slowed and almost stopped the last month, and has been a disappointment since many of the rootlets have stopped growing and many had died. Most of seeds have also stopped growing and have not germinated. If growth above the ground has not started in the next month, this year's challenge could be over.


Ginseng and Wasabi California Growing Challenge update, July 6, 2015:

The ginseng growing challenge for this year is over, since the rootlets and seeds did not seem to like the weather here in San Diego. The seeds did not fully sprout and nearly all the 2-3 year old rootlets died. Maybe better luck in future years. We already have plans started for a different type of growing technique.


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