How to Plant and Grow Goji Berry

Easy tips for planting, pruning, and harvesting goji berries. Grow your own superfruit

close up of goji berries
Photo:

VladimirFLoyd / Getty Images

Antioxidant-rich and easy to grow in most of North America, goji berry is a tiny fruit that packs a powerful health punch. This medium shrub has small purple or white flowers in early summer and 1- to 2-inch-long scarlet fruits begin to appear in mid-summer. Plants bloom through summer and harvest continues through frost. One goji berry plant can produce several pounds of fruit in a season. Native to Asia, goji berries are tolerant of a variety of soils, even growing in lean soils where other berry plants languish.

Goji Berry Overview

Genus Name Lycium barbarum
Common Name Goji Berry
Plant Type Shrub
Light Sun
Height 3 to 6 Feet
Width 4 to 6 Feet
Flower Color Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Spring Bloom
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Goji Berry

Goji berries are at home in a berry patch or orchard. Plant alongside raspberries, blueberries, and other small fruit crops. Goji berries also can work in a mixed shrub border. Give them plenty of space to expand and leave ample open ground for moving around the plant during harvest. Goji berry fruit quality is best during hot, dry growing conditions. Cool and humid environments produce limited crops of goji berries. 

How and When to Plant Goji Berry

Goji berry plants are becoming more accessible at nurseries, garden centers, and online sources. When shopping for goji berry plants, look for young plants that are labeled “from cutting.” Goji berries can be produced from seed, but the form of the plant and the fruit varies greatly among seed-produced plants. Young plants produced from cutting have the same known characteristics of their parents. Reputable plant sellers will know the origin of their goji berry plants.

Like raspberries and blueberries, goji berries can be planted in containers. Choose a deep container to accommodate goji berry’s long taproot. Goji berries thrive when planted in the ground as well. Space goji berries 3 to 5 feet apart in the garden to allow for branching. 

When planted in spring, goji berry plants will produce a small crop of fruit in summer. Expect plants to produce a full crop of fruit about 3 years after planting. Water newly planted goji berries well—they dry out quickly—during the first growing season. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of organic mulch over the root zone to help maintain soil moisture. 

Care Tips

Light

Goji berry grows best in full sun, or at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Plants will tolerate shade, but don't expect as much flowering and fruiting. 

Soil

Goji berries tolerate a wide range of soils. They thrive in well-drained soil that is sandy or loamy, but will grow in clay soil too. Low fertility soils don’t stop goji berry from thriving.

Water

Goji berry plants need at least weekly watering during the first growing season. Aim to deliver at least one inch of water per week. Drip irrigation is especially helpful in sandy, fast-draining soil. Plants rarely require watering after the first year of growth and their root system is established. 

Temperature and Humidity

Growing well from cool Zone 3 to hot Zone 9, goji berry thrives in a range of climates. Warm, dry conditions produce the most and best fruit. Humidity and cool conditions slow growth and fruiting. Expect goji berry to continue fruiting into fall in most areas. The first frost in fall will halt fruit production. 

Fertilizer

No fertilizer is required to grow goji berries. Researchers have found that berries growing in infertile, sandy soil do benefit from incorporating organic fertilizers and compost into the soil at planting time and annually in spring to improve both the nutrient availability and the soil structure. 

Pruning

No pruning is needed the first year after planting. Beginning in year two, plan to prune goji berries annually in winter. The main purpose of pruning is to encourage new, vigorous growth. Goji berries fruit on new growth. Start by removing any weak, damaged, or crossing branches. Shorten lateral branches by cutting them back by 6 to 18 inches. Reduce overall plant height to keep harvesting manageable. 

After about 3 years, plants often begin to send up suckers from the root system. If left alone, the plant can spread quickly. Dig up the shoots and discard them or transplant them if you want to expand your fruit production. 

Pests and Problems

Squirrels and birds will forage ripe berries. Place netting over the shrub to preserve fruit. Deer and rabbits will eat young stems and leaves. Uses fencing to protect plants as necessary. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that produces patches of white powder on leaves and stems during humid conditions. Prevent it by pruning plants annually to remove excess growth and improve air circulation. 

Harvesting Goji Berries

Typically eaten after they are processed, goji berries are frequently dehydrated to form raisin-like dried fruit or juiced. Goji berries are labor-intensive to harvest. Each small berry must be carefully plucked from arching, thorny stems and gently placed in a container. Bruised berries turn black, making careful harvest essential. 

How to Propagate Goji Berries

Goji berries are most reliably propagated from cuttings or by digging up and transplanting suckers. Plants can also be started from seed harvested from the fruit, but the resulting plants will likely have varied characteristics. For example, seed propagated plants might have an exceptionally vigorous growth habit or limited fruiting or produce inferior fruit.

Types of Goji Berries

‘Crimson Star’ is a popular variety thanks to its vigor. It begins producing fruit the year after planting and quicky matures into a 6-foot tall and wide shrub, It produces good crops of bright red fruit. 

‘Phoenix Tears’ produces deep orange fruit on arching stems. Support the fruit-packed stems with a simple wire trellis to ease harvest and keep the fruit off the ground. Plants grow 5 to 6 feet tall and wide. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When are goji berries ready for harvest?

    Goji berries are ripe and ready to harvest when they are fully colored. The color of a ripe berry differs by cultivar. Most berries are deep red or deep orange when they are fully ripe. Plan to harvest goji berries every 10 to 15 days from midsummer through fall. 

  • What is the best way to store harvested goji berries?

    Goji berries store well in the refrigerator for two to three weeks after harvest. They also freeze well. Thawed berries retain their color and flavor.

  • Do you need to plant more than one goji berry to get fruit?

    No. Goji berries are self-pollinating which means they do not require a nearby plant to set fruit. One plant is all that is needed to produce berries.


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