Ailing Ginseng Plants – Identifying Common Ginseng Problems

Ailing Ginseng Plants – Identifying Common Ginseng Problems

By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Ginsengis a great plant to grow because you can enjoy a lot of potential healthbenefits from using the medicinal root and save money not buying supplements.There is evidence, albeit disputed, that ginseng can reduce inflammation,improve brain function, boost the immune system, reduce fatigue, and lowerblood sugar. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ginseng problems you mayencounter in the garden, as this is not the easiest plant to grow in quantity.

Potential Ginseng Plant Issues

Growing ginseng is not easy for beginners. There are anumber of problems you’ll face, and those experienced with cultivating thisplant suggest you throw out all your conventional knowledge about gardening;most of it won’t work with ginseng. Here are some of the issues you may face:

  • Ginseng plants need shade.
  • Depending on the conditions, ginseng can be very susceptible to damage from pests and diseases.
  • It takes years for ginseng to grow to maturity.
  • There is such a thing as ginseng poaching.
  • Weeds can easily out-compete ginseng plants.

Managing Problems with Ginseng

It is possible to grow ginseng successfully, but it isn’teasy. There are some preventative strategies and maintenance work you can do toget a healthy harvest, but sometimes it comes down to trial and error.

  • Ginseng grows best in 60 to 80 percent shade, which is why it grows naturally in forests. The best forest ecosystem is mixed hardwood and evergreen. Pure evergreen stands will not support ginseng. You can also create shade in your garden to grow this plant.
  • Some common diseases your ginseng may develop are leaf blight, damping-off, and root rot. Avoid disease by providing the best conditions and keeping ginseng plants spread out from each other. Disease is less common in a natural, wooded setting. Most diseases are fungal, so you can try a fungicide to treat your plants if they show signs of infection.
  • Pests can also be a big problem. Slugs are common and eat the leaves. A little bit of nibbling is not an issue, but an infestation can destroy plants. Use bait to kill slugs or mulch with sawdust to dry them out. Cutworms can also destroy leaves and should be managed with pesticide. Other insects may cause damage, but are not usually serious. Mice may eat the roots and deer can completely destroy ginseng crops.
  • Competition from weeds and even young trees can cause ailing ginseng plants. If growing in the forest, pick an area with mature trees. Competition most affects ginseng in the first year of growth, so weed the growing area before planting and keep weeding until the ginseng is growing well.
  • Poaching can always be an issue with growing ginseng. There is money to be made from this plant, so people will steal it. Do regular inspections of your area to deter poachers but vary the times for the element of surprise. Having a dog nearby to alert you to intruders can also help.

The problem of slow growth of ginseng is one that simplyrequires patience. If you are willing to test the bounds of gardeningconvention and be patient, growing ginseng can be very rewarding.

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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Ginseng has been grown commercially in Ontario for over 100 years. Acreage expanded rapidly in the 1980's and 1990's with many growers transitioning out of tobacco. The annual farm gate value of the ginseng industry in 2012 was estimated to be $130,000,000, making it the most valuable field grown horticultural crop in the province. There has been rising interest in growing ginseng in the past couple of years as prices have recovered somewhat from lows in 2008 and 2009. However, there are a number of things growers need to consider before putting seed in the ground.

Cost of production

Ginseng has a very high cost of production. The cost to grow an acre of ginseng was around $57,000 in 2009, and this does not include basic equipment costs such as a tractor and sprayer. Nearly half of the production costs are for establishment, particularly for purchasing and erecting the shade structure. Costs have also likely increased for several items since 2009.

Some production costs such as custom seeding and harvest can be reduced through the purchase of specialized equipment but this would increase start-up costs. The cost of production can be reduced over time as machinery is paid off and materials are re-used.

It takes 3 or 4 years for ginseng to reach maturity, after an initial year of preparation so, 4 or 5 crops need to be established before the first crop is harvested. Consequently, growers would need to invest close to $200,000 per acre before there is any income from the crop. Due to this large investment and associated risk, most growers start with an acre or two of ginseng and increase over time.

Soil and Diseases

Ginseng is highly prone to a number of devastating diseases, including Phytophthora blight, Cylindrocarpon root rot, Alternaria leaf blight, Botrytis blight and Rhizoctonia root rot. Any one of these diseases can wipe out an entire garden in a matter of weeks if not intensively managed. Several additional diseases can also cause considerable damage. In periods of heavy rainfall, diseases can cause major reductions in yield even with intensive management. It is not uncommon for entire acreages to be wiped out by disease in heavy rainfall years. New growers face a higher risk of disease due to inexperience managing these diseases.

Weather risks

In addition to risks associated with disease, wind and hail storms can also destroy the cloth shade, and the flooding is also possible. The greatest weather-related risk to ginseng is likely frost, which has caused considerable damage to ginseng in 3 out of the last 4 years. Ginseng typically emerges in early-May, and mid-May frosts can kill seedlings or stunt older plants. Frosted plants are also more vulnerable to disease throughout the season.

Crop Insurance

At present, there is no established crop insurance program for ginseng. Agricorp currently has a pilot program in place with a limited number of growers to insure the first year of ginseng production, aimed at covering the cost of replacing a damaged seedling garden. There is no way to recover losses to older gardens. Consequently, ginseng is a very high risk crop and there is no guarantee of a return on the initial investment.

Many of the soil-borne diseases of ginseng are favoured by high soil moisture. Drainage is the most important factor in preventing disease. As a result, ginseng production has only been successful on sandy to sandy loam soils, with high yields restricted to truly sandy soils. This is the reason that ginseng production is mainly located in Norfolk, Brant and Oxford counties, and small pockets of sandy soil elsewhere. Growers accustomed to clay or clay loam soil often refer to sandier areas of their farms as sandy soil, but true sands are rare outside of the traditional ginseng or tobacco growing areas. Truly sandy soils are similar to beach sand with very low organic matter. A quick test to confirm a sandy soil would be to saturate a small amount of soil and try to form a ball with it. A ball of sandy soil should fall apart easily and none of the particles should stick together.

Furthermore, ginseng cannot be grown on the same land twice due to replant disease. Replant disease is a poorly understood issue that prevents ginseng cultivation on the same land even 40 or 50 years later because of significant soil-borne diseases in the second crop. This has resulted in a shortage of suitable land for ginseng production and increased land lease prices for ginseng. In addition, many growers have to travel long distances from their home farms to their fields, resulting in higher fuel and labour costs.


Ginseng prices fluctuate wildly from year to year. The 15-yr average price for a dried pound of ginseng is $17. Prices have been as low as $10-12/lb within the past five years. An average ginseng yield on sandy soils would be around 2500 lb/ac for an inexperienced grower and slightly higher for an experienced grower. However, as mentioned previously, yields can be as low as 0 lb/ac when disease destroys a garden. Yields would be lower on sandy loam soils and much lower on heavier soil types. At average prices, this results in gross sales for roots of $42,500, which is well below the cost of production for a new grower. Collection and sale of seed could also supplement gross sales somewhat, but it is unlikely that a new grower would make a significant profit at average prices.

This is largely why 45% of ginseng growers have left the industry within the past five years. Existing growers compete by planting large acreages, thereby reducing the cost of production, and achieving higher than average yields with their decades of experience growing the crop. Current prices for ginseng have increased, but prices are likely to drop by the time a new crop is harvested in 4 or 5 years. When prices are high, the industry tends to plant more acres, but the increased production always results in a drop in price shortly after. A general rule of thumb is that it takes at least 10 years for a grower to break even in the industry. This usually requires starting small with 1 or 2 acres and increasing acreage slowly over time, because of the high start-up costs.

Growers interested in producing ginseng are encouraged to do considerable research ahead of time. OMAFRA has a number of resources to assist potential growers:

Stratified Ginseng Seed for 2020

Price Break! check the Seed Page or Shopping Page for even lower prices on our high quality stratified ginseng seed for fall 2020 planting! This is the very same seed which brought glowing reviews from growers the past few years. But, as the market price lowered, I'm passing the savings on to you!

(Customers who have already ordered seed will have the amount of seed they receive adjusted to reflect the lower price)

Once again another growing season is just around the corner! The reports I've heard this spring are as encouraging as ever! Here is what a couple of the emails I've received:

"I just wanted to relay good news on last years planting. I’ve not yet seen anything like what I’m seeing this year! I have large patches of nearly 100% germination. About a third of the total area is like carpet, and the remainder is decent! I did choose a more sloped terrain than previous right above my creek, but, same results in my test beds -vigorous & plentiful. Very pleased! "

"Hi Brad, when will you have seeds available for this year's fall planting? I purchased seeds last fall and got about a 70-80% germination rate. Without a doubt the best I've ever had."

Now, it is time to prepare for this fall's planting. Good news is in the air as we have good availability of high quality stratified seed at a price notably lower than last fall. Cut off date for advanced orders and large orders is August 23, 2020.

As always, first come -first served, and we anticipate early September delivery.

Don't wait until the last minute and get caught short without high quality stratified ginseng seed. Order now!

ECF Seeder

I designed the ECF Seeder for my own use around 2000 -I've been making them available to other growers ever since. As we move forward, we learn more about this wonderful plant -we also continue to grow older ourselves. Getting down on the ground or raking a hillside isn't as easy as it used to be. With this tool, neither is necessary. If you have problems with turkeys eating the seed from your rake and scatter patches. this indispensable tool will help. We've also learned that excessively disturbing the soil (rake and scatter planting or excessive harvesting) may contribute to disease issues and ultimately replant failure (meaning you can't plant ginseng in that same ground again). We have finally produced a video of the ECF Seeder in action with the results from the following spring! You can see the video at the bottom of the ECF Seeder page on this site. Just click the button below to head over to the seeder page. Remember, I make these by hand so you need to get your orders in early if you want to use them for this fall's planting.

Pick for the Best Seeds

There are two options for you to grow ginseng with good results. Either you want to pick for the roots or seeds which have different advantages. However, the roots can be easy to reach maturity rather than the seed.

Make sure if you are having the root on your hand to plant make sure if it is not cut into sections. It should remain whole to planted during springtime.

The springtime can make sure if the root does not bud already which is during March or April as the fall of winters. An original seed can always be grown even if it is not certified.

Once you order seed, make sure if the seed can be healthy and nothing happens before the planting. However, you cannot get a direct benefit from seed, it would not sprout for the next year. You need to wait longer. It must be different from the root because the seed will start to sprout for the next year.

The seed would need to lose the flesh of the berries and it will take a year for the process. As they would need a lot of energy to do this process which called stratification.

You can order two different seed which has been stratified or the green seed which has not been stratified. You should accept if the stratified seed would have a higher price. Since you do not need to wait a year until it gets the process done.

Of course, you do not want to waste a year to make sure if the seed can be ready to sprout. After this, you can get your ginseng for profit not much longer. It depends on the method that you applied.

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for the Ficus Bonsai

Placement : The ficus Bonsai tree is an indoor tree that does not endure frosty conditions. It can be kept outside in the summer as long as temperatures are above 60°F (15°C). It requires a lot of light, preferably full sunlight, so be sure not to place it in a shady location. The temperature should be kept relatively constant. Figs can endure low humidity due to their thick, waxy leaves, but they prefer higher humidity and need extremely high humidity to develop aerial roots.

Watering : The Ficus should be watered normally, which means it should be given water generously whenever the soil gets slightly dry. The Bonsai Ficus prefers room temperature soft water and it can tolerate occasional over, or underwatering. We advise daily misting to maintain humidity, but too much misting can create fungal problems. The warmer the placement of the fig during winter the more water it needs. If it’s kept in a cooler place it only needs to be kept slightly moist. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.

Fertilizing : Fertilize every two weeks during summer, and every four weeks during winter if the growth doesn't stop. Liquid fertilizer can be used as well as organic fertilizer pellets.

Pruning: Regular pruning is necessary to retain the tree’s shape. Prune back to 2 leaves after 6-8 leaves have grown. Leaf pruning (defoliation) can be used to reduce leaf size, as some Ficus Bonsai species normally grow large leaves. If a considerable thickening of the trunk is desired, the Ficus can be left to grow freely for one or two years. The strong cuts that are necessary afterward don't affect the Ficus' health and new shoots will grow from old wood. Larger wounds should be covered with cut paste. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.

Wiring: Wiring and bending thin to medium Ficus branches is easy due to their flexibility, but you should check the wires regularly as they can cut into the bark very quickly. Strong branches should be shaped with guy-wires because they can be left on the tree for a much longer period.

Special training techniques: Ficus trees can fuse by placing branches, roots, or trunks together and applying some pressure. This technique is known as approach-grafting and it can be used to form appealing structures. You can tie many young plants together to fuse them and build a single strong trunk. Fig tree branches and roots can also be grafted quite easily. If the growing conditions are ideal, you can even take aerial roots from one part of the tree and graft them into a different position. For faster healing, or closing of large wounds, young plants, shoots, or aerial roots can be grafted across wounds. An experienced grower can work on fig trees with a nearly unlimited range of creative freedom, which considerably increases the appeal of growing Ficus retusa as a Bonsai plant.

Repotting: Repot your Ficus tree during the spring, every other year, using a basic Bonsai soil mixture. Ficus tolerates root-pruning very well.

Propagation: Cuttings can be planted at any time of the year, but they have the highest success rate during mid-summer growth. Air-layering will work best during spring, in April through May. In most cases, springtime is the best time for planting Ficus seeds.

Acquisition of ficus ginseng Bonsai: Ficus plants are available as cheap Bonsai or pot plants in nearly every home-improvement store or nursery. Mass-produced cheap Bonsai usually come with a lot of problems, like ugly scars from rusty wire that dug into the bark, unattractive shapes, often poorly grafted branches in odd positions, bad soil, and sometimes inappropriate pots without drainage holes. When you buy from specialized Bonsai traders you’ll most often find high-quality Bonsai that have been well cared for. They offer everything from young plants, pre-Bonsai, and pre-styled Ficus trees up to high-value Bonsai trees.

Pests / diseases: Fig species are quite resistant against pests, but they are still susceptible to several issues depending on their location, and time of year, especially in the winter. Dry air and a lack of light weakens the Bonsai Ficus and often result in leaf drop. In poor conditions like these, they are sometimes infested with scale or spider mites. Placing customary insecticide sticks into the soil or spraying insecticide/miticide will get rid of the pests, but a weakened Ficus tree’s living conditions must be improved. Using plant lamps 12 to 14 hours a day, and frequently misting the leaves will help in the recovery process.

For more detailed information on these techniques, take a look at our Bonsai tree care section.

General information about the Bonsai Ficus tree (Ficus Microcarpa - Fig)

Some figs trees can grow very large with a crown circumference of more than 1000 ft (300 m). All fig Bonsai species share a milky latex sap which leaks from wounds or cuts. The tropical figs are evergreen trees, small shrubs, or even climbing plants. Some of them can produce nice flowers, while most Ficus species have hidden flowers in small receptacles from which their fruits grow. Only specialized pollinating fig wasps can pollinate those hidden flowers. The fruit can be yellow, green, red, or purple-blue and are between a few millimeters to several centimeters, as the edible fruit of Ficus carica.

Most Ficus Bonsai trees can produce aerial roots in their natural habitat, also called 'banyan tree', which are often presented in appealing Bonsai creations with many aerial root pillars or root over rock styles. To enable aerial root growth in our homes a humidity of nearly 100% must be achieved artificially. You can use a glass cover, a fish tank, or a construction with transparent sheets for this purpose. Aerial roots grow down vertically from the branches and develop into strong pillar-like trunks when they reach the soil. In tropical climates, a single tree can become a forest-like structure and cover an enormous expanse.

The leaves of most Bonsai Ficus species have special pointed tips from which the rainwater drips off. The leaves can vary in sizes of between 1–20" (2-50cm). In most cases, fig-trees have smooth gray bark on their trunk, but there are a few species or varieties with special bark patterns, like the Ficus microcarpa Tigerbark. Something to be aware of is that Ficus Ginseng Bonsai plants are poisonous for animals, especially if they eat the leaves. If you have pets, make sure to place your Ficus out of their reach.

If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Video: Ficus Bonsai trees