Adaptogens have a reputation for being exotic and difficult to procure, but there are actually several that are super simple to grow at home. Let’s take a look at the needs of 3 adaptogens that are very forgiving to new and home gardeners: jiaogulan, tulsi (aka holy basil), and eleuthero.
I love, love, love, my little jiaogulan plant. My garden struggled last year because we had a very bad drought, so I potted up some jiaogulan and brought it indoors because it actually makes a really good houseplant. All it needs is a deep pot with rich potting soil, a sunny windowsill, and regular food and water. Mine usually needs water about once a week and I’ve been feeding every other week during the winter with a basic houseplant fertilizer. In the garden it prefers a shady location with damp, fertile soil. It’s not frost hardy, so if you grow it out of doors in areas colder than zone seven or eight you will need to sow from seed every year or bring it indoors for the winter. You can read more about my experiences growing jiaogulan as a houseplant here.
Tulsi is part of the mint family, and distantly related to the garden basil of Italian pesto fame. Like garden basil, it’s very easy to start from seed and can be grown as an annual in your herb garden. In tropical climates it’s a perennial. I was growing mine in the garden but moved it to a container on the patio (again, that drought!) and it had no trouble with being moved around outside. However, when I tried to bring mine indoors to over-winter as an experiment, I couldn’t find a spot that made it happy and finally lost it, even though I have heard of it being grown as a houseplant. Permaculture News has an article and video about growing tulsi that you can check out if you’d like more info!
Unlike jiaogulan and tulsi, eleuthero grows very large so you will need more space to grow it than the other two. It’s an understory shrub native to Siberia, so it also needs a colder climate and will need to be protected from late frosts if you have warm weather that causes it to leaf out early. Pollinators love it, though, and it has fragrant, globe shaped flowers that are just as appealing to people! Avena Botanicals has a nice video about eleuthero that touches on some of the propagation needs, as does Mountain Gardens.
These aren’t the only adaptogens that can be grown at home, of course, but they make an interesting place to start!
All the best,