Ginkgo biloba, belonging to the division Ginkgophyta, is the only living species with no other plant relatives. Hence, it is often considered as a living fossil. In addition to its evolutionary importance, it is extensively studied because of its therapeutic applications. According to evidences, Ginkgo tree is also used for the treatment of various diseases since ancient times. Commercially, concentrated and refined products of Ginkgo biloba are preferred rather than crude plant parts like leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots. It is used to promote mental health and to treat certain ailments such as premenstrual syndrome and circulatory problems.
Ginkgo biloba is a huge tree that attains a height of about 120 feet in its natural condition. The male and female parts of Ginkgo biloba are developed in different trees (dioecious). The male plant possesses drooping catkin (cat tail like inflorescence), whereas female plant bears flowers. As Ginkgo biloba is resistant to adverse environmental conditions and soil pollution, growing it is comparatively easier. The growing habits of a Ginkgo plant can also be modified to create bonsai for decorative purposes.
First, choose a proper location that receives partial to full sunlight. It can be grown in any type of garden soil provided that there is proper drainage. Though it is best suited for acidic soils (pH 5-6), it can tolerate soil pH within a wide range. You can use Ginkgo as a shade tree or to create privacy.
Prepare the soil by deep plowing it during the spring season. The soil can be supplemented with organic manures and farmyard compost. Once you complete soil preparation, purchase the Ginkgo plantlets. In order to avoid smelly fragrances of fruits, you can opt for male Ginkgo plant. Male Ginkgo plantlets are commercially available as cultivars, which are propagated by grafting from a matured male tree.
If you are using Ginkgo seeds instead of plantlets, you can grow them in late fall. Protect the young seedlings from frost and harsh environmental conditions. You can transplant the seedlings in garden soil during spring. In both cases (growing by seed or cultivars), adequate and appropriate watering is necessary as Ginkgo plants cannot tolerate excessive soil moisture and/or waterlogged soil.
Allow the plants to establish properly for the first two years. From the third year onwards, you can harvest the leaves during the fall and use them for medicinal purposes. You can prune the spreading leaves during the spring season to create a pyramidal shape. While doing so, make sure that you don't disturb the plant physiology by excessive pruning.
Speaking about the flowering of Ginkgo biloba tree, it may take as long as 20 years to bloom. In order to avoid fruit formation, it should be planted in isolation. As Ginkgo plant is deep rooted, resistant to wind, snow, diseases and pests, it can survive for about 1000 years. The presence of aerial roots enhances the nutrient and water absorption by the Ginkgo plant, thus contributing to its longevity. One of the oldest known living Ginkgo plant is that of Shandong province, which is recorded to be about 3,000 years old.