Goldenseal is a very popular herb today. More than 50 million goldenseal plants are being collected from the wild each year.
This herb is said to have numerous benefits, and according to some recent studies, it may have the ability to clean out infections.
Goldenseal is native to North America, and it’s rarely found elsewhere. In fact, Native Americans have been using this plant for centuries, which is why it gained so much fame.
Since the demand for this herb has been steadily increasing, agricultural businesses have become interested in growing it, but many of their attempts haven’t been very successful.
Let’s jump right into it!
Growing Goldenseal is a Bit Challenging
For several reasons, cultivation of goldenseal requires stamina and patience.
Goldenseal Wants to Feel Special:
The growing conditions for this herb are somewhat unique. It needs periods of dormancy and a lot of shade.
Regulating and monitoring external factors, finding a shady location, mulching and top-dressing with organic matter, and caring for the sensitive sprouts are some of the tasks required to grow goldenseal successfully.
Goldenseal can be grown from seed, rhizomes, or a root. Propagation from seed is unreliable and unpredictable, but it is an environmentally sustainable way of growing this plant.
Broadly speaking, this process needs extra attention, and sometimes it may take 2 years for the seed to germinate.
Propagating goldenseal from rhizomes is easier because it requires less effort and attention, but it is still a delicate process.
“Take it Slow” Goldenseal:
Besides these factors, you need to wait 4 to 6 years before you can harvest the root of your goldenseal. Although that’s too bad, it’s still better than harvesting the plant from the wild.
The method of cultivation can affect that duration significantly. If you’re growing your goldenseal from seeds, it may take about 5 to 6 years for you to harvest the roots. Using rhizomes, however, can shorten the time to 3 years.
Goldenseal, a Vulnerable Plant:
Today, the population of this plant in nature has dropped by more than half, and it is considered an endangered herb.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of cultivating your own goldenseal and not picking it from the wild.
It’s also important to know from where you’re getting the rhizomes and roots. Farms that organically cultivate plants are the best source.
On the other hand, avoid digging up wild goldenseal root or buying it from someone who does so.
The Process of Growing Goldenseal:
Now, let’s move to the details of growing goldenseal and how to achieve a healthy yield.
Growing Goldenseal from Seed:
- Finding a reliable source of seeds is important because seeds that have been allowed to dry too much will have a low germination rate.
Message or call the company you suspect has the best seeds and ask them such questions as: How do you obtain your seeds? How do you store your seeds? When were the seeds harvested?
The younger the seeds, the better, and it’s ultimately necessary to store them in a cool environment.
- Once you have found a trusted source and obtained the seeds, you should directly stratify and store them in the fridge.
You can do this by mixing the seeds with moist sand and then sealing the container with plastic wrap before refrigerating them for several weeks.
- It’s preferable to grow goldenseal by depending on natural conditions and change in seasons without regulation. Simply immerse the seeds ½” (1.3 cm) deep in a light soil mix in early spring.
Otherwise, regulating the temperature when growing goldenseal in a confined space can be tricky. In case they don’t sprout their first season, the seeds need to go dormant in winter, and attempting to grow them in a strictly regulated tent or grow room would probably prevent this from happening.
That doesn’t mean you can’t grow goldenseal indoors. Find any indoor space where the temperature fluctuates and the air circulates and you’re good to go.
- Keep the soil moist and cover it with a layer of mulch (shredded bark or compost) during fall and winter. Thin that layer in early spring when the seeds are about to germinate.
It’s also important to keep your seeds in a shaded area away from direct sunlight.
- If you want to transfer the seedlings into different containers, do that when they’re 1 year old.
Growing Goldenseal from Rhizomes:
Rhizomes look something like swollen roots, and they have different fibrous root systems extending from them. To better understand what a rhizome is, think of fresh ginger as an example.
The ginger we consume is the plant’s rhizome. Of course, our goldenseal rhizome isn’t as big or swollen as ginger, but the overall form is nearly the same.
Most gardeners agree that growing goldenseal from rhizomes is the most effective way of cultivating the plant.
Here are the steps to be successful:
- Much like the process of obtaining seeds, finding a reliable source for goldenseal rhizomes is very important.
First, make sure that the party supplying you with the rhizomes didn’t dig them up in the wild.
Second, try to obtain a whole rhizome and not a precut one. It’s better that you cut the rhizome yourself to make sure each piece is viable for germination.
Finally, the rhizome should have all its root systems attached to it.
- Cut the rhizome into several pieces that are at least ½” (1.3 cm) long.
VERY IMPORTANT! Each piece of rhizome should have most of its fibrous roots intact and at least one growth bud attached to it.
When you receive your goldenseal rhizome, you’ll notice that it has several conspicuous growth buds on it. These are the most important part of the rhizome.
- Plant the rhizome pieces in your container or growing bed so that their buds are facing up, and then cover them with a little bit of soil so that you don’t leave them exposed.
If you’re growing many of your rhizomes together in a big container, make sure that they’re at least 7 inches (approximately 18 cm) apart from each other.
- Top-dress your soil with at least 1 or 2 inches of organic matter in fall and winter but with a much thinner layer in spring. Also, try to keep the soil a little moist all the time.
The plants will mostly sprout in the spring.
Growing Goldenseal from Fibrous Roots is a Very Bad Idea!
There’s also a third way to propagate goldenseal, which is from the fibrous roots of the herb.
The buds that grow on the rhizome also grow on some of the strong fibrous roots of the plant. These bud-growing roots can also be immersed in the soil in an attempt to propagate new goldenseal plants.
Many authors agree, however, that this way of propagation is highly unreliable. Most goldenseal gardeners have reported they had very bad luck growing the plant from fibrous roots.
So, I will skip this method because in case you fail to grow goldenseal from fibrous roots, it would be a significant loss of resources, especially since goldenseal is very rare these days.
Caring for Goldenseal
After your seedlings have sprouted, here’s what you should look after:
Goldenseal prefers a soil that is rich with humus (soil decomposed organic matter).
You also want your soil to be well drained because goldenseal can’t tolerate any overly wet medium.
It’s also important to make sure that the soil pH is in the range of 6 to 6.5. Otherwise, your herbs may grow too slow or too fast, which makes them highly susceptible to diseases.
Goldenseal needs a shady area to grow big and healthy. Indirect sunlight indoors is good, but it’s better to use a 75%–80% shade cloth, which you can place against direct sunlight and put your goldenseal plants under it.
Fertilization and Top-dressing:
To keep the soil rich with food for your goldenseal, you should focus on fertilizing it with the proper material.
Goldenseal prefers substances high in nitrogen, so using vermicompost (worm castings) would be ideal.
Top-dress the soil in dormant seasons with 1 to 2 inches of vermicompost and thin that layer in growing seasons.
In its natural habitat, goldenseal isn’t susceptible to many diseases, but this plant becomes more prone to fatal diseases when cultivated.
As with humans, the best way to deal with such an issue is prevention.
Choosing the right site to grow your goldenseal is a very decisive factor—not too much humidity, not too much heat or coldness, and enough shade are all crucial for protecting goldenseal from illness.
It’s important not to push your goldenseal into growing very slow or very fast, which makes things easier for pathogenic microorganisms.
Harvesting Your Goldenseal Root:
After nearly 4 to 5 years of growth from seedlings or rhizomes, your goldenseal would be ready for harvest.
Dig up the whole plant’s root system and rinse it with water. Then leave it to dry before storing. If you attempt to put your goldenseal in a container while it’s still slightly wet, it will have mold.
That’s basically what you need to know about growing goldenseal!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts, questions, and experience with growing goldenseal in the comments below!
I'm Jad, a biologist, blogger, and experienced indoor gardener. I am knowledgeable in plant biology, particularly in plant cultivation and propagation. I founded HerbsWithin.com in 2019 to share my knowledge in indoor gardening with passionate home growers.