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How to Grow Goji Berries in Home Garden | Almanac.com

Goji Berries

Goji Berries
Photo Credit
LianeM
Botanical Name
Lycium barbarum
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Soil pH
Hardiness Zone

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Learn how to plant, grow, and care for goji berries

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Goji berries are all the rage, and for good reason. These bright red berries are superfruits packed with nutrients and health benefits—as well as being sweet and tasty! Learn how to plant, grow, and care for goji berries.

About Goji Berries

Although they sound exotic and are often found in health food stores, goji berries (Lycium barbarum L.) are hardy in Zones 3 to 9, depending on the cultivar.

They can be eaten fresh, juiced, or dried. Considered a “superfruit,” the berries are high in protein and antioxidants, including carotene and vitamins A and C.

The goji berry plants most grown for fruit are Lycium barbarum. The berries grow on long vines that can be staked or pruned into sprawling shrubs about 4 to 6 feet tall. They also grow well in pots up to 18+ inches in diameter.

In late spring, brilliant royal purple blossoms form along the length of long, flexible canes, followed by small orange to red  ½ to 1-inch-long fruit about 4 to 6 weeks later.

Goji berries are expensive to buy, so growing your own is a great option if you enjoy these tasty superfruits. They are self-fertile, meaning that you’ll get fruit with only one plant. However, the harvest will be heavier, with two varieties acting as pollinator buddies. 

Purple goji flowers in springtime. Credit: Anna Gratys
Planting

Plant in neutral to slightly alkaline soil in a sunny spot. These fruiting shrubs need at least partial sun but will do better with 6 to 8 hours per day of bright sunshine. Choose a site with good drainage. While goji berries will tolerate many soil types, they won’t do well in wet clay soils.

Some varieties are more upright, and others sprawling, but they can be staked or trellised to keep them neat and tidy. 

When To Plant Goji Berries

Like many perennial shrubs, goji berries can be planted in spring or fall. Containerized stock can be planted anytime after your last frost, up to about six weeks before your ground freezes. 

Bare root stock is planted in spring before the plants break dormancy; the plants are typically only available from vendors for spring shipping and can be planted as soon as possible after receiving them. If your site isn’t ready for planting, store the plants in a cool, dark location and check the roots. Keep them moist but not soaking wet. 

Bright red goji berries. Credit: Dionisvera

How To Plant Goji Berries

Goji berries are available as containerized stock or bare root. Planting methods are similar. For bare root plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water for 12 hours before planting to ensure they are hydrated. 

For potted nursery stock, water thoroughly an hour beforehand. The plants will release from their pots more easily, and it minimizes transplant shock. 

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and the same depth. The hole should look like a shallow bowl with sloping sides.
     
  • Use your shovel or a garden fork to break up the soil at the edge and bottom of the hole. Compact soil can act like an impermeable wall, preventing root growth and holding excess water. 
     
  • Cut any circling or girdling roots. Use a trowel or soil knife to loosen up rootbound plants by scoring the edges of the rootball. 
     
  • Test fit the shrub in the hole and adjust the depth as necessary. If planting bare root shrubs, you’ll likely be able to see the old soil line on the trunk.  
     
  • For bare root plants, spread the roots out and prevent them from circling around the base of the hole. Don’t leave them clumped.
     
  • Backfill the hole with the soil you removed. Water when the hole is half-filled, then continue adding soil. Lightly firm the soil around the roots as you go to avoid air pockets. 
     
  • Make a raised ridge around the plant to keep water from running away when you irrigate. Water the plant in well once finished.
     
  • Apply a thick layer of mulch to keep the soil moist. Don’t allow the mulch to contact the trunk(s). Keep it an inch away.
Growing

Although goji berries are drought-tolerant, they need to be watered at least once a week in dry weather, particularly in the first year. 

Much in spring with compost or other organic matter.

Too much fertilizer can be problematic for goji berries, promoting excessive vegetative growth at the cost of decreased fruit quantity and quality. A once-per-year application of organic fertilizer or top dressing with finished compost is sufficient.

Goji berries on new wood and most fruits will grow on lateral branches. Pruning in the dormant season (mid to late winter) encourages new growth and, therefore, more fruit. 

  • Remove any dead or broken branches. 
     
  • Suckers coming from the base can also be pruned or dug up later and transplanted.
     
  • Cut lateral branches back by about 12 inches.
     
  • In late spring or early summer, pinch off the top 2-3 inches of terminal growth to encourage branching, similar to pinching snapdragons or dahlias.
Harvesting
  • Goji berries are indeterminate, meaning they will ripen at varying times, not all at once.
     
  • Hand-pick goji berries when fully orange-red, about a month after blooming. Pull to the side instead of straight away to help them disconnect from the stems. You may have to tug.
     
  • Berries can be eaten dried (most common), fresh, or frozen for preservation.

Breakfast berry smoothie bowl topped with goji berries. Credit: K. Svetlana

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Wit and Wisdom
  • While not necessarily health-conscious, goji berries dipped in chocolate are delicious!
     
  • The legend of Li Ching Yuen, the Chinese herbalist, holds that he ate goji berries daily and lived to be 252 years old. 
Pests/Diseases

About The Author

Andy Wilcox

Andy Wilcox is a flower farmer and master gardener with a passion for soil health, small producers, forestry, and horticulture. Read More from Andy Wilcox

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