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As a steward or grower of ginseng, it’s important to look toward the future and know what to expect from this plant, especially as it takes multiple years to grow to maturity in the first place. Once you’ve learned how to identify the plant over the winter, you may expect to see it popping up again in the spring.

Does Ginseng Come Up Every Year?

Yes, ginseng does come up every year in ideal conditions. After it sets out berries in late summer, the foliage begins to die back in preparation for winter. This is normal activity as the plant is going dormant, and it will return in the following spring once the weather has warmed enough.

With a changing climate, however, this is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Some ginseng growers have reported ginseng patches going into dormancy for a year or longer because of unusual frost and flood cycles, as well as fluctuating temperatures outside of the average normal. As a plant, paying attention to the seasons is a life or death situation that requires precise timing.

It’s important to note that if you just planted the seeds, it could take up to two years for the leaves to sprout above ground. Ginseng is a notoriously slow grower and requires a lot of energy to begin developing leaves, and later develop flowers and berries.

How Often Can Ginseng Be Harvested?

Ginseng can only be harvested once, which is why the harvesting of wild plants is illegal or regulated across many states. The plant takes 5-8 years to reach baseline levels of maturity, but it only takes a moment to kill it and damage the population. This is part of why the wild-simulated cultivation of ginseng for profit and stewardship has taken off in recent years.

Is Ginseng an Annual or Perennial?

Ginseng is perennial because it comes back every year. Plants that are annuals finish their entire life cycle within a single year; perennials return year over year. Even though ginseng dies back and goes dormant in the winter, the root remains the same as that was in the ground the previous year.

Some ginseng plants have been discovered as 30 or 50 years old. Some are suspected to be even older than that, which is no surprise once you learn that this plant has remained largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.  

What Month Does Ginseng Sprout?

The month ginseng begins to sprout new leaves depends on the region you are in, as well as the local weather for that year. You may begin to see ginseng sprout as early as late April once the frost has melted, or into early June as the ground warms thoroughly enough. The reason for its late spring arrival is that it is a shade-loving plant in areas of the mountain that tend to warm slower. As long as you are careful about lookalikes during this early spring growth, you can give ginseng plenty of room to thrive the following year. Small plants should never be harvested.

Can Ginseng Grow in the Same Place Twice? 

No, once the plant has been harvested, it’s unlikely that ginseng can grow there again. This makes conservation and stewardship efforts extremely difficult to pursue, as the cause is poorly understood. The reason behind ginseng’s inability to grow in the same place twice? Replant disease.

In the successive generation, ginseng is not able to thrive in the same location because of various soil-borne diseases. This disease has been known to affect the soil even four or five decades after a plant has been harvested. For this reason among many others, it is better to cultivate ginseng and let it live naturally within the ecosystem than to pick it.

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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.

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