Goji berry, a very interesting fruit tree

The goji shrub is trending ever since its health benefits and antioxidant properties have been acknowledged, and its delicious berries have invaded shelves in supermarkets and drugstores alike.

General Goji berry facts

Name – Lycium barbarum
Family – Solenaceae (nightshade family)
Type – fruit shrub

Height – 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 m)
Exposure – sun
Soil – well drained, rather rich

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – 6 to 7 times a year
Harvest – August to October

Tips on growing and caring for goji berries or wolfberries and how to grow them.

Planting Lycium for its goji berries

Native to the Far East and China, lycium is a shrub that can be planted in temperate climates and that resists our weather quite well.

Of course, since it needs a lot of sunlight, goji berry production won’t be the same if you’re farther North or farther South.

Lycium thus requires full sun exposure to produce its goji berries.

  • Dig a hole 2 to 3 times larger than the soil clump is.
  • Incorporate soil mix into your garden soil.
  • Fill the hole in, then water heartily.
  • Press it down again and water more.

During the first years after the plant, Lycium needs to be watered often but not excessively, because it dislikes moisture.

Preparing Lycium cuttings

This is the most common and easiest technique to propagate lycium for its goji berries.

Preparing cuttings means to:

  • Collect a sprig that is still tender green, 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long.
  • Pinch off lower leaves to keep only the highest pair of leaves.
  • Plant the cutting in a nursery pot filled preferably with special cutting soil mix.
  • Keep moisture levels very high in the surrounding air, and the substrate itself must stay a little moist.
  • More or less 2 weeks later, the 1st roots will have appeared.
  • Transfer the cutting to a slightly larger pot, a step that will have to be repeated 2 to 3 times before the final planting to the ground.

Take note that lycium is very vulnerable when young and should only be transplanted to the ground in temperate latitudes after at least 2 or 3 years.

Potted goji

Growing lycium in a pot or container for its goji berries is perfectly possible. Goji bush is even very well suited to growing indoors in an apartment.

Choose a substrate that is adequate for growing the lycium tree, like Mediterranean plant or citrus plant soil mix.

The pot must have a hole at the bottom and a drainage layer bed of gravel or clay beads to let water drain away.

  • In summer, goji berry bushes can be left outdoors, starting in mid-May up to mid-September.
  • In winter, it can be brought inside, preferably to a spot that isn’t too warm.
  • Water regularly but in a limited manner, so as to never flood the roots.
  • It is advised to repot every 2 to 3 years.

Harvesting goji berries

Dried red goji berries in a white bowl with a dew spilled to the side.Don’t worry if your lycium isn’t yet bearing fruits, and that goji berries are long to appear.

Goji berries can only be harvested earliest 2 years after planting, and only really become abundant after the 4th or even 5th year.

Pruning goji

The goji tree is a tree that is best off pruned, otherwise it would simply grow one long stem. Pruning will make the branches grow more dense.

If the goji grows as one long stem, it will bear less fruit, which will mean less goji berries to harvest.

Consequently, the more you prune your goji, the more fruits it will bear.

There are 2 pruning seasons for the goji tree, winter and summer.

  • Remove dead wood in winter as well as the weakest branches.
  • In summer, prune the structural branches to induce branching out.
  • You can also pinch new shoots just above an eye to trigger new branches.

Lycium diseases and pests

Aphids are a common occurrence on lycium.

Recently, powdery mildew has been spreading across the world on infected seedlings. In 2017, it reached Australia.

Lastly, among the possible leaf-eaters, you might find hawk moth caterpillars.

Health benefits and properties of goji berries

Goji berries steeped in water with an elegant spoon.Many health benefits are attributed to the goji berry, its color is orange and it tastes deliciously sweet.

In the Himalayan mountain range, it has long been used for its exhaustion-alleviating and immune-defense stimulating activity.

Notably, health benefits against ageing and antioxidant properties are cited.

Goji berries seem to reinforce the immune system in an exceptional manner.

Taoists ingest it dried, or prepared goji berry juice to drink.

Goji, or goji berry, is more of a marketing name: common lycium or Chinese wolfberry are its real names.

Goji berries host many vitamins: C and E as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, beta-carotene, proteins and flavonoids.

For instance, goji berries contain more beta-carotene than carrot and more protein than wheat.

It can be ingested in the form of capsules or dried berries, but if ever you can get a hold of fresh goji berries, 1 or 2 spoonfuls a day should go a long way in keeping you in top shape.

Smart tip about goji berries

Lycium barbarum, which produces the goji berries, is quite hardy because it can grow in climates with temperatures that drop down to -4°F (-20° C).

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Lycium, the goji berry tree by Lotus Johnson under © CC BY-NC 2.0
Dried goji by Alice under © CC BY-NC 2.0
Goji berry tea by Michelle Coppiens under Pixabay license