By Jennifer Poindexter
If you’ve strolled through the vitamin aisle at your local pharmacy lately, you may have noticed that ashwagandha is a popular ingredient.
This herb is thought to promote stress-relief and help with anxiety along with many other benefits.
Whether you’d like to grow the plant around your home for the purpose of tapping into some of the benefits it’s thought to provide or if you’re just interested in growing a different plant in your garden, I’m happy to help.
I’m going to guide you through the growing process for this unique and sought-after plant. Here’s what you should know when adding ashwagandha to your garden:
What You’ll Learn
- The optimal growing conditions for ashwagandha and how to create the perfect environment for it in your garden
- Various methods to plant ashwagandha including starting from seeds, buying an established plant, or using a container
- Essential care tips to ensure your ashwagandha plant thrives, including watering techniques and soil preferences
- How to protect your ashwagandha plant from common pests and diseases
- The process of harvesting ashwagandha roots and seeds and how to utilize them
Growing Conditions for Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a beautiful herb that grows into a mature bush in the right circumstances. This plant is native to India which is why it’s sometimes called Indian ginseng.
Expect ashwagandha to produce pale green flowers that give way to reddish, orange berries during the fall months.
This plant is versatile as it grows in both inground garden plots and containers. Ashwagandha should remain hardy in planting zones seven and higher.
Yet, it may be grown as a summer annual in planting zones four and higher. Ashwagandha prefers temperatures between 75- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit, but can survive in temperatures ranging from 70- to 95-degrees Fahrenheit.
This herb loves heat and humidity and should do well as long as it’s provided a growing location with loamy, well-draining soil that remains moderately dry.
It also enjoys a growing space with full sunlight. Ensure you provide a large enough growing space for ashwagandha as it grows to be three feet or greater in height.
These are the specifications this plant has in its growing space. Provide what ashwagandha needs, and it should do well for you.
How to Plant Ashwagandha
There are four main ways to grow ashwagandha. The first method involves purchasing an established plant.
If you’re new to gardening or don’t have the time to start your own plants, then purchasing an established plant from your local nursery can help.
When you bring the plant home, take it to its designated growing space. Dig a hole deep enough to support the plant’s root system.
Place it in the hole to where the base is sitting evenly with the soil. Backfill the hole with dirt and press firmly around the base. Water the plant deeply to help it become established in its new growing location.
The next method is to start the plant from seed. You may do this indoors approximately two months prior to the final frost.
Fill a seed starting tray with well-draining, nutrient-dense potting mix. Place two seeds per cell of the growing tray.
This serves as an insurance policy in case one seed fails to germinate. Wrap the top of the tray in plastic wrap or place a dome lid over it.
From there, find a tray with no drainage holes and place the growing tray inside of it. Fill part of the bottom of the tray with water.
This allows the soil to soak up moisture from beneath. When you see the soil is damp, pour off any excess. Then apply more water the next day and repeat the process.
The seeds should sprout in approximately two weeks. Keep the tray in a warm location with bright, indirect light.
After the seeds sprout, if both seeds germinate in a cell, cut the weaker plant off at soil level. Continue to provide adequate care to the seedlings until they’re strong enough to be transplanted into their permanent growing location.
If moving them outdoors, be sure to harden the plant off prior to transplant. Then follow the instructions provided above for transplanting your ashwagandha plants to their new growing location.
The next method for growing ashwagandha is by sowing the seeds directly into their growing location. If growing your plants outdoors, start them after all the threat of frost is over.
Till up the earth and amend it as-needed. From there, sow the seeds about a ½ inch into the soil. Lightly cover them and keep the soil evenly damp.
The plants should sprout in about two weeks. Continue to provide care for them and thin them to where there’s two feet of space between plants after they’ve sprouted.
The last method for growing ashwagandha is in a container. Select a planter with adequate drainage. It’s recommended to use terra cotta as it doesn’t hold excess moisture.
Fill the container half way with well-draining soil. Then plant your ashwagandha. Fill the rest of the container with soil. Then press firmly around the base of the plant.
Ashwagandha plants may not grow as large using this gardening method, so you may be able to plant multiple herbs in one container as long as they have four-inches of space around them.
Water the plants deeply and place them in a bright growing location, if keeping them indoors. If growing them in a container outdoors, find a location with full sunlight.
These are a few ways you can add ashwagandha to your home or garden. This plant is versatile, so it may work for you no matter what your current gardening situation looks like.
Caring for Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It needs adequate water and protection over the winter.
When watering ashwagandha, it’s best to practice the deep watering method. The main reason is this helps avoid over watering the plant.
Water the herb for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week. This drenches the roots at the time of watering while saturating the ground around the plant as well.
As the plant needs more water, it’ll dig its roots deeper into the soil to retrieve it. This should equate to a healthier plant as deeper root systems seem to encourage better overall health.
You’ll know to apply more water by testing the soil. Insert your finger into the dirt. When it’s dry to your second knuckle, it’s time to water the plant deeply again.
You may need to water container grown plants more frequently than those grown in the ground as there’s less soil to retrieve moisture.
It’s also good practice to keep the weeds down around your plant as this provides competition for both moisture and nutrients. Plus, it provides a space for diseases and pests to reside.
In most cases, you won’t need to fertilize ashwagandha plants since they’re mainly harvested for their roots. If your soil is really poor quality, you may side-dress the plant with compost.
Lastly, you may choose to overwinter this plant indoors. If so, select a location with temperatures around 55-degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’d rather not move the plant indoors, you may choose to grow it as a summer annual only. These are the few things ashwagandha needs to remain productive in your garden.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Might Impact Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha does have a few threats you must deal with when growing this plant. The main pest impacting this plant is the spider mite.
You may spray your plant forcefully with soapy water to dislodge the pests or treat it with an insecticide.
The most common diseases impacting ashwagandha are leaf spot and root rot. Leaf spot is a fungal disease which occurs when spores in the soil splash on the plant.
You may treat the issue by removing impacted foliage and spraying the plant with a fungicide. You can also avoid overhead watering or watering early enough in the day that the foliage has ample time to dry before the cool night air sets in.
Applying mulch around the base of your plant may also help to deter water from splashing on the plant during a hard rain or watering session.
Root rot mainly occurs when plants are grown in oversaturated conditions. Avoid this disease by growing ashwagandha in a location with well-draining soil. You don’t want this plant left in waterlogged growing conditions.
These are the few things to be aware of when growing ashwagandha in your garden or as a houseplant. Take care to protect it, so it has every chance to remain healthy and productive throughout the growing season.
How to Harvest Ashwagandha
The last thing to discuss about growing ashwagandha is how to harvest it. Between 150-180 days, the plant reaches maturity.
You’ll know it’s time to harvest because you’ll see the berries forming a paper-like husk on them and the plant is losing its coloring.
If you’re harvesting ashwagandha for the roots, use a spade to gently dig up the entire plant. It’s wise to water the plant a few hours prior to harvest as it makes the task a little easier.
Separate the roots from the berries. Clean the roots with water and place them in a protected location to air dry.
Once fully dried, store the roots in a dry, cool location until you’re ready to use. Many people grind the root into a powder for different purposes.
You may also dry the berries and crush them to remove their seeds. The seeds can be dried for later use such as planting more ashwagandha plants or when making plant-based cheese.
Ashwagandha seeds are what’s used to separate plant-based milk for the purpose of making vegetarian cheeses.
Pick the portions of the plant that are most useful to you and harvest them. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor.
You now know how to plant, grow, care for, protect, and harvest the ashwagandha herb. This plant doesn’t require a lot of extra work on your part.
Yet, it’s useful and could help save some money if you purchase this root for various purposes around your home. Take these tips into consideration if you’re ready to add ashwagandha to your home or herb garden.
- Growing Conditions:
- Prefers temperatures between 75-85°F but can survive in 70-95°F
- Loves full sunlight and moderately dry, loamy, well-draining soil
- Capable of growing in both inground plots and containers
- Planting Methods:
- Can start from an established plant or seeds
- Seeds can be sowed directly outdoors post the last frost or started indoors two months before the last frost
- Container growing is suitable with at least 4 inches of space around each plant
- Caring for Ashwagandha:
- Requires deep watering method to encourage root growth and avoid over-watering
- Ideal to keep the area weed-free to avoid competition for nutrients and prevent diseases
- Pest and Disease Management:
- Watch out for spider mites and treat them with soapy water or insecticide
- Protect against fungal diseases like leaf spot with proper watering habits and fungicide treatment
- Ready for harvest between 150-180 days when it starts to lose color and develops paper-like husk on the berries
- Roots are typically dried and ground into powder for various uses
- Seeds can be used for replanting or in making plant-based cheese