There are certain plants to look for (companion plants) that can give you a clue that you’ve found a good spot
It’s not necessary to have all of the below mentioned shrubs. These plants are known as ginseng companion plants, or indicator plants, because they grow in the same environment that ginseng grows. In northwestern Arkansas, a very strong indicator is maidenhair fern.
- black cohosh
- maidenhair fern (my best indicator)
- Christmas fern
- doll’s eyes
- rattlesnake or grape fern (also called sang pointers)
It likes a certain mix of trees
The identity of your trees is important. It’s okay to have a lot of hickory and oak, but that can’t be the only kind there because if it is, the ground-covering leaves will be too heavy for the ginseng plants to push up through in spring. Pine and cedar indicate the area might be too dry, but I’ve had some luck growing under cedars so it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The trees you really want to see include:
- oak (but not too many)
- hickory (but not too many)
It’s already present
The very best indicator that ginseng will grow well in a certain area is that it’s already there! If you’ve found many of the companion plants listed above, take a closer look to see if ginseng is growing as well. If you find something you think might be ginseng, get positive i.d. on it by asking someone who knows. Take a photo of it and send it to me if you don’t have anyone nearby who can come see it. I’ll be happy to take a look at up to three photos to anyone who’s read this article. My email address is listed below.
The ideal location will have all the right conditions, but it’s not a lost cause if you can’t meet them all. I’ve planted in various places to test the suitability and found some surprises. The ones I planted under a cedar tree are doing pretty good and I’d always heard they don’t like cedars.