Withania somnifera | Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng and Winter Cherry is native to India, northern Africa, and the Middle East, but can be cultivated in temperate climates around the world. Though not related to the ginseng family, it’s likely called Indian Ginseng in reference to its energy promoting qualities. In its natural environment, Ashwagandha is a woody evergreen perennial. However in most places it is grown as an annual.
A member of the Nightshade family, this perennial shrub grows up to 4 feet tall. The leaves are light-green and oval in shape and its tiny, yellow-green, bell-shaped flowers are insignificant and hard to see because they are the same color as the leaves. The flowers are followed by small berries about ½ inch that are initially green, but ripen to a reddish-orange. Berries are enclosed in a papery husk that lightly protects the fruit, but usually sloughs off or cracks open revealing the berries.
Ashwagandha requires well drained soil and full sun to flourish. Will grow well in most soil types as long as they do not retain water, however does best in sandy, well-drained soils. Surprisingly, plants can tolerate cold temperatures down to 15 degrees, so can often survive for many years as an evergreen perennial shrub in USDA Zone 8b or above. The above ground portion may die back due to frost, but will regenerate via roots once spring comes around again. In zones 8a or cooler, Ashwagandha will grow as an annual. Drought tolerant.
Ashwagandha is grown mostly for its powerful herbal roots, which can grow large in one years time. While harvesting the roots can be a little time consuming the leaves have similar properties, but much milder.
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicne for many thousands of years and is one of the most revered and prized rejuvenative herbs in the Ayurveda pharmacopoeia. One of the most magnificent benefits of Ashwagandha is that it’s an adaptogen, which means that if it’s taken over time it can slowly bring the body back to a healthy balance and restore good health while increasing energy and vitality. It enables the body to reserve and sustain vital energy throughout the day while promoting sound, restful sleep at night. It’s ability to help the body adapt to stress is reflected in the fact that the plant itself thrives in dry, arid conditions and in poor quality soils. While many plant species may suffer from severe stress in similar environments, Ashwagandha flourishes.
Seeds germinate easily with heat, humidty, and light around the 2 week mark. Do not cover seeds with too much soil.
Type: Annual or perennial.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 4 ft
Mature width: 3 ft
Hardiness zones: 9-11