Adaptogen & Tonic Herbs

Below is a list of adaptogen tonic herbs that can be grown in our bioregion, with their basic cultivation information, including their: description, size, zone hardiness, flower structure, soil and pH preferences, light requirements, propagation strategies, and cultivation tips.

Adaptogens List:

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula, C. tangshen)
Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis)
Lycium, Goji (Lycium chinensis, L. barbarum)
Prince Seng (Pseudostellaria heterophylla)
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides)
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Species Cultivation Information:

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Description: Perennial
Size: 1 ft X 1 ft 8 in
Zone Hardiness: 3
Flowers: Hermaphrodite; Early summer
Soil: Deep, moist, humus
Light/Shade: Deep shade
Propagation: Seed (A. Sow in pot in shady cold frame as soon as possible to get seed; place pot in greenhouse for first winter; B. Direct sow); Root division (Spring/Fall)

Ginseng Root

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Description: Evergreen shrub
Size: ft 3 in X 1 ft 8 in
Zone Hardiness: 9; frost sensitive, grow as annual
Flowers: Hermaphrodite; flowers and fruits in 1st year
Soil: Dry, well-draining, moderately fertile; Intolerant of moist soils in winter
pH: 7.5-8, alkaline
Light:/Shade: Full sun
Propagation: Seed (Light dependent germination; Usually takes 2 weeks; Protect from frost)

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Description: Perennial; Tap-rooted
Size: 1 ft X 1 ft; flower to 4 ft tall
Zone Hardiness: 6; -15 F
Flowers: Hermaphrodite; Summer; Pollinated by bees and butterflies
Soil: Moderate fertility, good drainage
pH: Slightly alkaline
Light/Shade: Full sun
Propagation: Seed (Cold soil germinator
Cultivation Tips: Does not like root disturbance

Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula, C. tangshen)
Description: Perennial climber
Size: 5 ft, 7in
Zone Hardiness: 6; frost sensitive spring growth
Flowers: Hermaphrodite
pH: Slightly acidic
Soil: Moist, well-draining soil
Light/Shade: Full sun to part shade
Propagation: Seed (Plant in ericaceous compost; Germinate in 1-6 weeks); Division: Divide in spring and plant out in summer; Be very careful to minimize root disturbance by teasing out side roots of main clump)
Cultivation Tips: Does not like root disturbance; Plant out in permanent position a.s.a.p.; Plant can be ravaged by slugs and groundhogs

Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Description: Deciduous shrub
Size: 6 ft, 7 in (Grows slowly)
Zone Hardiness: 3;
Flowers: Summer; Hermaphrodite; Insect pollinated
pH: Variable
Soil: Can grow in nutritionally poor soil; Moist soil
Light/Shade: Full sun in cooler climates; Part shade in warmer climates
Propagation: Seed (Sow in cold frame as soon as ripe; Can be slow to germinate; Needs 6 months warm stratification, followed by 3 months cold stratification; Grow in light shade in greenhouse for first winter; Plant in late spring/early summer); Cuttings: Ripe wood of current seasons growth, 15-30 cm, placed in cold frame; Root Cuttings: Late winter; Division: Dig up suckers in dormant season
Cultivation Tips: Tolerates urban air pollution well

He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
Description: Vining herbaceous climber
Size: 14ft, 9in vine
Zone Hardiness: 7;
Flowers: Fall; Hermaphroditic; Pollinated by insects
pH: Variable
Soil: Rich, well-draining soil
Light/Shade: Prefers full sun; Can grow in part shade
Propagation: Seed (Spring in cold frame; Transplant after last frost); Division: Spring/Fall; Smaller divisions should be kept in pots in light shade and transplanted in early summer
Cultivation Tips: Prefers a moisture retentive, not too fertile soil

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Description: Perennial herbaceous plant
Size: 4ft
Zone Hardiness: Tropical; Grow as annual and save seed
Flowers: Purple
pH: Variable
Soil: Moist, fertile soil
Light/Shade: Full sun
Propagation: Seed (Standard spring sow and transplant; sow in moderate heat 65-70F)
Cultivation Tips: Give max light, heat, and keep well watered

Holy Basil

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum)
Description: Perennial vine
Size: 26ft, 3in
Zone Hardiness: 8, 20F (Grow as annual)
Flowers: Dioecious; Not self-fertile; Pollinated by insects
pH: Variable
Soil: Requires moist soil
Light/Shade: Sun to partial shade
Propagation: Seed (Pre-soak for 24 hours, plant out after last frost)
Cultivation Tips: Likes long, hot summers

Licorice, Official (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Description: Herbaceous perennial native to Europe
Size: 4ft by 3ft 3in
Zone Hardiness: 8 (Grow as annual)
Flowers: Summer; Hermaphroditic; Insect pollinated
pH: Slightly alkaline
Soil: Moist; Doesn’t like clay
Light/Shade: Sun to part shade
Propagation: Seed (Pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water; First winter in greenhouse); Division (Spring/Fall; Make sure to get growth bud; Pot up smaller divisions and put in greenhouse for 1st year)
Cultivation Tips: Prevent flowering to increase root energy; Slow to recover after transplanting; Slugs like young growth; Fixes nitrogen

Licorice, Chinese (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)
Description: Perennial
Size: 2ft by 1ft, 4in
Zone Hardiness: 6
Flowers: Summer; Hermaphroditic
pH: Slightly alkaline
Soil: Moist and sandy
Light/Shade: Sun to part shade
Propagation:  Same as Glycyrrhiza glabra (above)
Cultivation Tips: Prevent seed to concentrate energy to root; Fix nitrogen;

Lycium, Goji (Lycium chinensis)
Description: Deciduous shrub
Size: 8 ft by 6 feet
Zone Hardiness: 6; Very hardy
Flowers: Summer; Hermaphroditic; Pollinated by bees
pH: Variable
Soil: Well draining soils; Can tolerate poor nutrition
Light/Shade: Sun
Propagation: Seeds (Sow early spring; Quick germination); Cuttings (Semi-ripe wood with a heel; Hardwood of current season’s wood once go dormant); Division: Suckers in late winter; Layering
Cultivation Tips: Easy to grow; Young shoots are edible; Pinch out shoot tips of young plants to encourage bushy growth)

Goji Berry

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Description: Deciduous climber
Size: 29ft. 6in
Zone Hardiness: 4; Not frost tender
Flowers: Spring; Dioecious; Not self-fertile (Hybrid “Eastern Prince” is self-fertile)
pH: Prefers slightly acidic soil
Soil: Moist, well-draining soil
Light/Shade: Partial shade
Propagation: Seed (Best sown in autumn in cold-frame; Pre-soak seed for 12 hours in warm water; Germination can be slow; Grow in light shade greenhouse for 1st 2 years); Cuttings: Half-ripe in summer with a heel, and over-winter in greenhouse; Layering of long shoots in fall
Cultivation Tips: Young spring shoots are frost tender; Intolerant of drought