How to Grow Goji Berry Plants
The Lycium barbarum variety of Gogi Berry Plants are a perennial in zones 3 to 10, they are actually quite remarkably heat and cold tolerant. Goji plants are also deciduous, which just means that they drop their leaves every year, usually once the first frost hits.
Goji Berry plants are very adaptable, but for the very best results, test your soil, and then adjust the pH to between 6.8 – 8.1. You can add lime to raise the pH if necessary or aluminum sulfate to lower it.
GROW GOJI BERRY PLANTS IN CONTAINERS
Gogi Berry plants can easily be grown in containers on your deck or patio. Goji plant roots like to grow deep, but the plant itself will stop growing once the roots touch the bottom of the container, so they won’t grow as large as the plants grow in the ground. One advantage is that you may very well see goji berries in the first or second season, rather than the third, which is normally the case when they are grown in the ground.
So you’ve received your bare root plants. They will survive for awhile without being planted, but we recommend that you plant them as soon as possible. We also suggest that you get them established inside, in a sunny location, before moving them outside, also to a sunny location. Your Goji plant will appreciate some afternoon shade if you live in a very hot climate (Temps above 100°F).
- Place the bare root plants in a jar or container with room-temperature water and allow them to soak for about 15-minutes.
- Prepare your container. We recommend a container at least as deep as a five-gallon bucket, but it does not have to be wide. Your container or pot should have drainage holes in the bottom (if it doesn’t—make some), so you may also want to provide a drain pan for the container to sit in.
- Mix about 1/3 sand to 2/3 soil in order to provide the best growing medium and drainage, though any good potting soil will work. In hot, dry areas, we recommend Premier Pro-Mix Ultimate Container Mix. Fill the container, leaving 2 to 3-inches at the top.
- Dig a hole in the middle of the container a couple of inches deeper than to the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem), pushing loose soil back in until with the roots lightly resting on the soil in the hole, the crown is level with the top of the soil.
- Push the soil back in, filling around the roots and up to the crown, gently tamping as you go.
- Water well and push more soil around the plant if necessary, watering again to let the soil settle.
- You should continue to keep your Goji plant moist, but not overly wet, until you see new growth sprouting, usually in about 2-weeks.
- Apply an inch or two of mulch in order to help with moisture retention (and because it looks nice). If you mulch, you will depend upon touch to check soil moisture, or water into a large reservoir under the planter so it is wicked from the bottom up.
You may see flowers, after which fruit will follow, the first season, depending upon when you plant; but more than likely it will be the second season. Remember that containerized plants will feel the heat and cold more because their roots are in soil above the ground. Be weather-aware, providing adequate moisture when it is extremely hot and dry, as containerized plants will usually dry out quicker and in order to provide protection for your plant if the temperatures become really cold.
GROW GOJI BERRY PLANTS IN THE GROUND
You can grow Goji Berry plants in the ground in any relatively sunny location, as long as you have room for expansion. Adult Goji plants can grow up to 8-feet high and wide, though some gardeners prune their Goji plants to keep them within a desired size range. You can even grow Gogi bushes as a hedge or you can train them to a trellis, in which case, they can get as tall as 10-feet.
To make this really simple and to give your Goji Berry Plant the best start, we recommend that you start it in a container, though you don’t need a 5-gallon size. In fact, you can buy a 4 to 6-inch peat pot and not even have to worry about taking it back out of the pot to transplant it. This will greatly reduce the stress involved with transplanting, further ensuring your Goji plant will thrive. If you are starting it in a container, you just follow steps 1 through 7 above, at which point you can transplant your Goji plant into the ground. Goji plants growing in the ground will sometimes start to produce fruit the second season, but will not go into full production until the third year.
If you are putting it directly into the ground:
- Choose a sunny site if you live anywhere but in the desert southwest, where you will either want to have shade or be able to put up a shade cloth during the hottest part of the day.
- Follow step 1 above, and then prepare your soil, testing and amending it if needed.
- Skip to step 4, and continue through step 8 above, applying mulch immediately, rather than waiting, and carefully monitoring soil moisture. It is critical that it not be allowed to dry out until you see new growth start to sprout, usually in about two weeks.
PRUNING YOUR GOJI BERRY PLANTS
Pruning is normally done in the winter, but they can also be gently trimmed throughout the season to shape the canopy and to improve berry yield.
You will not want to prune them heavily the first year. Identify the largest, healthy shoot, which will be the main trunk. Gradually remove the lower lateral shoots, with the goal in mind of keeping the trunk clear for the first 15-inches, and then when your Goji plant reaches 24-inches , remove the growing tip in order to stimulate the growth of additional side branches.
To prune adult plants, you just remove the branches above the height that you wish to keep. You should maintain clearance from the ground up of about 15-inches. You can also identify any ineffective branches. These usually grow very fast, straight and smooth and will not be very productive, so if they aren’t essential to the overall look, they can simply be removed. Remember that Goji Berry plants grow similar to a weeping willow. If allowed to grow un-pruned you can end up with a mighty ugly plant, though “ugly” is only in the eye of the beholder, and you may thoroughly enjoy this natural look. You should always prune the plant after a heavy berry season as berries are produced on new growth only.
We hope that this has helped you to understand the needs of the Goji Berry Plant. To help your prepare this amazingly healthy superfood, we have discovered a cookbook, written by Dr. Donald R. Daugs, Goji and Wolfberry, Superfood Cook Book for Health, Flavor and Fun, filled with illustrations and 93 recipes for everything from breakfast to main dishes and including a chapter on appetizers!
We have not mentioned fertilizer, because it is not absolutely necessary, but every plant will benefit from some type of regular feeding. We recommend Jobe’s continuous-release drip feeders or spikes.
Once the average daytime temperature drops below 50 degrees, your goji plant will start going into dormancy. It will stay dormant until the spring time temps are up above 50 degrees. If you live in an area that does not get that cold, keeping your plant pruned back to new growth is the key to keeping the berries coming.
We wish you great success and good health! Happy Gardening!