Yes, ginseng can grow under pine trees. The soil must be loamy and the trees should be spread enough for light to get to the ground. American ginseng plants do best. They prefer partial shade, rich and moist soils, and a low pH.
According to what I’ve found from some of the biology experts I follow, the roots of ginseng plants prefer a soil pH that’s slightly acidic. In general, it should be somewhere around 5.6-5.8 or maybe slightly higher.
At the same time, ginseng plants tend to prefer loamy soil. People used to believe that pine trees made the soil itself acidic.
That seems to be something of a myth, though it is true that the soil near pine trees has a tendency to be acidic. That’s one of the reasons that pine trees have developed something of a reputation for killing lawns.
Unlike short field grasses, however, ginseng likes these conditions so you might find that ginseng can indeed grow under pine trees as long as it has the right growing conditions and gets enough sun.
Reasons Why Ginseng can Do Well Under Pine Trees
Other than the fact that the soil pH around pine trees tends to be low enough to encourage ginseng roots to grow, ginseng shouldn’t have that much of a relationship with pine trees either way. In some cases, though, broader needle pine trees can help to protect vulnerable ginseng plants.
A majority of gardeners I’ve had a chance to talk with consider ginseng to be one of the most difficult crops to cultivate on an individual basis. The plants can be quite weak and could easily get hurt in a storm.
Some have suggested that balsam and fir trees are particularly good for this, since they tend to thrive in an acidic environment and they have more coverage as far as their branches go. On the other hand, this can cause them to block out sunlight.
Reasons Why Ginseng Doesn’t Like Pines
That seems to be the biggest problem – if a ginseng plant gets robbed of sunlight or water its growth will slow down. You could even end up with a plant that has yellowed leaves and won’t ever be ready for harvesting.
Rainwater has a tendency to collect on whatever surface it hits first, so there’s a chance that larger pine trees might take a good portion of rain away from your ginseng plants. All you’d need to correct this problem is a watering can, however.
A well-manicured tree might not have this issue, especially if you make sure to rake up fallen pine needles so that they don’t collect on your ginseng plants and block out the sun in the process.
What Conditions Does Ginseng Like in the Wild?
Various domestic ginseng plants come with different care instructions. If you’re lucky enough to live near a nursery that has them, then you’l probably see a ton of different care tags.
Most wild ginseng plants, however, seem to want the same sort of conditions. The plants usually live in deciduous forests, so they’re actually used to being around trees albeit not evergreens.
According to most care tags I’ve seen, American ginseng plants prefer partial shade so they might be your best bet under trees. In the wild, these expect rich and moist soil as well as a low pH.
Hardiness zones 3-7 are home to American ginseng plants in the wild, which live from the Midwest through Maine. They normally expect good drainage, which isn’t a problem in loamy forests in the wild.
Can You Farm Ginseng Under Pine Trees?
Depending on where you are, there’s a chance that you’ll find wild plants under a pine tree. If that’s the case, then you might have to be extra cautious before picking any roots or berries because ginseng is a protected species in many states.
Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any more difficulty farming ginseng under pine trees than anywhere else. Keep in mind that ginseng plants are notoriously picky, so that’s not meant to sound like it would be at all easy to do.
However, there are certainly many worse places that you could pick to grow ginseng. If you have deciduous trees, then you might prefer to plant your ginseng bushes under them.
Barring that, your pine trees shouldn’t be an issue for your ginseng plants. More than likely, they’re going to have more of a problem with soil conditions.
There’s also a good chance that they might come into contact with too much or too little sun, which is always an issue when growing ginseng.
How to Farm Ginseng if You Live in a Pine Forest
First off, you’ll want to check to ensure that planting ginseng in your forested home isn’t going to come into conflict with any native species. There are countless types of plants that wouldn’t welcome the introduction of an outside interloper, and you need to be cautious that you don’t do anything that would make these plants feel threatened.
Assuming that the areas near pine trees are clear, you’ll probably want to test the soil if at all possible. American ginseng bushes are acid-loving enough that they can thrive in soil that has a 6.0-6.5 pH level.
Soil pH test kits are available at most hardware stores, and the process shouldn’t take long. Should everything check out you’ll be able to at least put in your ginseng plants, but you’ll want to keep a very close eye on them.
Gardening experts seem to be of the opinion that ginseng plants aren’t truly mature until they’re around 8-16 inches tall, which means you might not be able to harvest your little domestic farm for quite some time. Consider planting a number of different ginseng bushes to try and increase yields.
Even mature plants won’t bloom and produce berries until late June or early July. Don’t try to rush things and remember that these aren’t the hardiest of plants, so you won’t want to come into contact with them unnecessarily.