Goji Berries have become the darling of the natural health and nutrition world due to studies that indicate their possible ability to relieve depression, support the immune system, and stabilize blood sugar to name just a few potential benefits. The Goji Berry Plant comes from Southeast Asia and South Africa where it is sometimes called wolfberry or boxthorn. This erect shrub-like plant can also extend stems like a vine, and can be grown in USDA Zones 5 to 11. Goji Berry Plants can reach heights of twelve feet in ideal conditions, but they can also be kept much smaller by pruning.
Goji Berry Plants are self-fertile and will bloom their purple or sometimes cream colored flowers throughout the warm months. The Goji Berries are ready to pick about four to six weeks after the plants bloom, and the one-inch fruits ripen to bright red or orange. The berries can be eaten fresh, juiced, or (most commonly) dried and used as a dried fruit snack or cooking ingredient. Goji Berries are considered a superfood and contain protein, essential amino acids, iron, calcium, and Vitamins A and C. Add a few Goji Berry Plants to your edible landscape and begin harvesting this natural wonder berry at home.
Plant Goji Berry Plants in full sun if possible, or a spot that gets mostly sun and some shade. Goji Berry Plants perform well in rugged conditions, so they can be grown in areas where many fruit trees or other edible plants may suffer. Goji Berry Plants like slightly alkaline soil with a pH of 7 to 8, and will not do well in highly acidic soils. They can be grown in sandy soil, clay soil, or rich loam, but they must have good drainage and never be subjected to soggy ground.
Plant in early spring and space Goji Berry Plants about five feet apart. They can also be grown in rows with spaces of four feet between plants, and six feet between each row. Water new plants once per week for the first month, then only water when soil surfaces become dry to two inches deep at the plant bases. Goji Berry Plants can grow, bloom, and produce fruit with very little fertilizer. Tomato or vegetable fertilizer applied once per year in spring (and at half the suggested amount for tomato plants of the same size) will be enough to grow healthy Goji Plants and full Goji Berry crops.
Uses and Harvesting
Goji Berry Plants will begin to produce berries after two years in the ground. The plants will bloom continuously from early spring through fall, and berries will ripen in about thirty-five days. Harvest the darkest red or orange berries by hand. It is common for parts of the stems to break off with the berries when picking. Remove stem fragments from harvested berries with scissors after picking. Mature plants in good locations with proper care can be expected to grow between two to six pound of berries per year.
Harvested ripe Goji Berries can be eaten fresh and their taste ranges from that of a tart tomato to a slightly bitter cherry. When dried, Goji Berries taste like a dried cranberry. Dried Goji Berries can be eaten as a snack or used as you would use a raisin in baked goods. The dried fruit is also ground into a powder that is added to juices or teas. Fresh Goji Berries can be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated for up to two weeks. The leaves can also be harvested and used to make tea.
Goji Berry Plants bloom and set fruit on the current year’s new wood. Begin pruning in late winter once the plant has been in the ground for one year. Remove any dead or damaged stems, and cut each branch back by about one foot. Remove suckers that emerge at the plant base. If damage from severe freezing occurs to the plant, remove any dead canes and prune the plant back to a height of about two feet. New growth will arrive in spring and the plant should recover fully.
Goji Berry Plants can also grow new shoots that rise from their roots. These shoots can be dug from the main plant, and transplanted. The shoots can also be grown in pots and overwintered in very cold climates. If you are limited on garden space, Goji Berry Plants can be grown in pots with drainage holes and potting soil with added sand. Potted Goji Berry Plants should be placed in a south-facing window, or in full sun on a patio or deck.
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