I just yesterday ordered two ounces of seed from Ohio Rural Action and two ounces from Scott Persons. I just want to have a wide variety of strains. This will put me up to eight different seed sources/locations in my little four acres of woods (to include my wild Ohio seng that is native).
As for best viability, I still swear by wildgrown.com, and I am not just saying that because this is their site. They came up like wildfire! All the others came up good (even if a year late), but the wildgrown seeds came up very very good.
That is a million dollar question. So much varies. Some seed comes up great but does not have the genetics to survive in a woodland environment. If I were you I would buy a pound from different sources to see what works for you over a period of time.
I have had good luck with stratified seed from 3 sources... Wildgrown, HardwoodGinseng and Ozark Mountain...
I tried some seed from another very reputable dealer... and it turned out to be a big flop, only like 1-2% germinated. But when I tried that seed it was after I had done my initial plantings that fall and I was still wanting to plant more and I ordered (late season, like in January) from this other dealer, and it flopped big time. Others had reported very good success with seeds from this dealer, but I bought a pound of seed an very few of it ever came up.
I think you can get viable seed from several sources, but your best chance is to get it early (say September or early October) when they have it fresh up from stratification...
The longer they have to store it, the longer it has to go bad, or be shocked into doing dormant for another year.
I would advise you against late season seed purchases... get those orders in early and plant it in the early fall for best results.
The large majority of what I have growing on my place now, the seed came from Wildgrown and Hardwood Ginseng.
Excellent germination... but the source is artificial shade grown cultivated stuff... and they are also much more North of my location...
The first year or two, survival rates were good... but as time goes on, a lot of them just do not make it. They don't seem to have what it takes to thrive in my wild conditions and weather extremes (southern middle TN).
Because of this low long term survival rate... I tried some seed from dealer more in line with me north/south wise (Ozark Mountain)... and I just looked at some of thsoe patches yesterday and they were looking good... But still they are only a year or two old now and it will take a few more years to determine if that seed will do any better at long term survival rates. Seed from this Vendor was much more expensive too.. which adds to the question of it being worth the extra price.
It makes sense to me that if you could get seed from a supplier nearest your location that it would do better at your location. And I do find it more appealing if that seed source is from Wild Simulated, or Woods Grown (rather than shade grown cultivated).
Good Luck on finding a source like that.
But now here is another way to look at it... On my home place here (30 acres)... there is a small percent that looked like it might grow ginseng. A very small part of that I knew would, because there were 8-10 wild ginseng plants already growing in that area.
After purchasing seed from these sources and planting it over the years... Now I have some that are 6 years old, and nice 3 prongs and producing berries. I have a bunch of 2 prongs that are 4-5-6 years old that are producing a berry or two this year. (Yesterday I planted 60+ berries here on my place from my own wild sim plants). I only picked the red ones, and several have ripened a little early this year I think because of all the good rain we have got here since July. IT has rained a LOT.
I can see my place being self sustaining at this point as far as ginseng population goes.
Where I had 8-10 original wild plants, I now have THOUSANDS of wild sim plants growing, making berries... my babies are making babies now
In another 2-3 years I may even start harvesting a few.
To me that is a real success story, even though there were definitely some discouraging times making it to this point.. seed failure, seedlings not being able to survive long term, disease (I had plenty of that), and deer and everything else simply eating them at times.
Once you get to that 4-5-6 year point you will start seeing where it is doing well and where it is not. You can take your own seed (berries) and focus them in the good areas.
Even though the seed that produced that plant may have been from shade grown cultivated stuff... that plant had what it took to survive and produce berries..
I think that when you start planting berries from those that did survive... they should have what it takes to survive again. In another 5-10 years I will be able to answer that question for sure.
I will get 400-500 berries from my Seed Bed too.. and those are all wild roots, and I have the most faith in them surviving as long as I put them in good ground.
Below is what my seed bed looked like yesterday morning... Two weekends ago I got 2 red berries off these plants, last weekend 3 red berries, this Saturday morning I got 16.
Between now and Mid September.. I expect to harvest and plant 400+ berries off this seed bad patch. Many of the berries off this patch of old root mature plants have 3 seeds per berry and the majority have 2 seeds.
Going forward I don't see me buying any more seed, I will just plant the berries from my seed bed and from all of my babies that are now making berries. Each year they are going to make more and more berries and I think I will have plenty to keep me busy growing my population her on my Place, and harvesting what I want to for years to come.