The Goji berry plant (also known as the Wolfberry) is a self-pollinating shrub with long, flexible canes and clusters of small, grey/green leaves. The flowers are a brilliant shade of royal purple and they appear in late spring to early summer. They give way to juicy, bright red fruits that resemble small grape tomatoes. They get sweeter as they mature on the plant. Goji plants continue to flower and produce fruit through the first heavy frost.
Choosing a location:
Gojis do best in full sun but can tolerate a bit of shade and perform best in well draining soils with an acidity pH ranging from 6.8 to 8.1 they also do wonderfully when planted in pots.
Planting Directions (potted):
1.) Prepare your container, which should be at least 18 inches in diameter. Your container or pot should have proper drainage holes in the bottom, so you may also want to provide a drain pan for the container to sit in. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, you can easily add them with a drill.
2.) To provide the best growing medium and drainage, mix about 1/3 sand with 2/3rds of your soil. Although any good potting soil will work. Fill the container and leave 2 to 3 inches at the top.
3.) Dig a hole in the middle of the container and make sure that it’s a couple of inches deeper than the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem). Push loose soil back in with the roots until they lightly rest on the soil in the hole, and make sure the crown is level with the top of the soil.
4.) Push the soil back in, filling around the roots and up to the crown, gently tamping as you go. Water well and add more soil around the plant if necessary and watering again to let the soil settle. Keep the soil around your Goji plant moist, but not overly wet, until you see new growth sprouting, usually in about 2-3 weeks.
5.) Apply an inch or two of mulch in order to help with moisture retention (and because it looks nice). If you mulch, you will need to depend on touch to check soil moisture.
*Remember that plants in containers will feel the heat and cold more because their roots are in soil above the ground. Stay aware of your weather patterns. Provide adequate moisture when it is extremely hot and dry, as potted plants will usually dry out quicker.
Planting Directions (in ground): If you live in growing Zone 5 or warmer (where it will usually not get colder than -15 F) you can grow the Goji outdoors. When planting in the ground you can follow the exact same directions above, just be sure to choose an area that has access to a lot of sun, free of pesticides from lawn care and away from the road (dust and pollution can contaminate your plant). If planting more than one Goji it is not recommended to have them closer than 48 inches between plants. Carefully monitor your soil moisture, because it is critical for it to not dry out until you see new growth sprouting, which usually takes about two weeks.
Once the average daytime temperature drops below 50 degrees, your Goji plant will start going into its dormant state. It will stay dormant until springtime temperatures are 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.
Watering: Water the plants every day if it doesn’t rain for at least the first 30 days outdoors and then only water during sustained droughts afterward. The soil should absorb water, but also have good drainage. If your potted plants are outside during the warm season in colder climates, make sure they do not get saturated with too much rain and that the excess water is able to drain away. The plants will drown if they are soaked in water too long. It is important that you water the plants at the base, try to avoid getting water on the leaves since this will promote fungus. The best time to water as to avoid fungal disease is in the early morning.
Pruning: Gojis do not require pruning to grow well and produce fruit. However, you may find the plant is more manageable and easier to harvest when its lateral (horizontal) branches are lightly pruned to encourage branching and the production of vigorous new growth. Prune lightly in early spring, removing dead and badly placed shoots. If necessary, cut overlong stems back to a well-placed branch and remove some of the oldest wood. To restrict growth on plants in containers, cut new growth back by up to half in summer (however, this might reduce the yield).
Fertilizing: If you can get a hold of some compost, vermiculite, rotted manure, or other organic matter, this would be very beneficial. Do not use chemical fertilizers such as Miracle Grow to grow goji berries as this disrupts the soil and will only create more work for yourself. If you supply them with enough healthy, organic matter such as manure, they will not need chemical fertilizers.
Harvesting: Taste is your best indicator as to when your berries are ready. Goji berries should be plucked off by hand once they turn a brilliant shade of red and they taste sweet. It is best to harvest before the first frost because cold can diminish the flavor of the fruit. The berries can easily be dried, simply them in a single layer on some newspaper.
For centuries the Chinese have used parts of the goji plant for food or medicine. Use of stems and leaves is little known in the United States, but the highest concentrations of healthful antioxidants can be found in the leaves. Fruit in the health food market in the form of dried berries and juice is more familiar in the US.