Goji Berry Plants are a perennial that can be successfully grown in USDA Zones 3 to 10, they are tolerant of most temperature extremes. Goji can survive winters well into the negative temperatures. Once the first frost strikes however, they drop their leaves.
Goji Berry plants can be grown in any relatively sunny location. They need ample growing space as they can reach up to 8-10 feet high and unusually wide when fully mature. Pruning Goji plants to keep them within a more manageable size range is also an option, as is training them to a fence or trellis. Goji plants can also be grown as an ornamental hedge with the added benefit of being harvestable.
The best way to start Goji Berry Plants is in a container, a 4 to 6-inch peat pot will suffice, peat pots will reduce the risk of transplant stress, but a conventional pot is also okay. Goji plants growing in the ground will generally begin to produce berries the second season, but usually do not go into full production until the third.
Goji Berry plants have been successfully grown in containers. The plant roots grow deep, but the Goji plant above ground will cease growing when the roots hit the bottom of the container, so they won't grow nearly as large as the plants grown in the ground. They will however produce an abundance of berries so long as they are properly maintained.
Maintaining Goji Berry Plants
Goji are self fertile, however when grown inside where there are no insects, the plant may need pollination assistance. [See Pollinating Indoor Gardens - Hand Pollination] Since they are self-fertile there is no need for more than one variety, allthough it couldn't hurt as genetic diversity enhances yield and quality in most cases.
Assuming you are planting from bare root stock , set the bare root plants in a container of room-temperature water and allow them to soak for up to 1/2 hour before planting.
Water generously, excess water should be draining off whether in a peat pot, or conventional one, the plant should be kept moist - not saturated. Place additional soil around the plant as needed, watering again to force the soil to settle. In about 2 weeks you will see new sprouts, at which point you can cut back slightly on the water.A thin layer of mulch, even in a pot, in order to help retain moisture is also a good idea.
You might get some flowers and berries the first season, but this is not likely, the second is when fruiting generally commences and by the third season it should be in full swing.
Containerized plants are more susceptible to temperature extremes, primarily because their roots are in soil above ground level. Keeping an eye on climate and weather conditions is important, provide adequate moisture during hot dry spells, as plants in pots will usually dry out quicker. If the temperatures turn unusually cold you may want to provide shelter of sorts or bring them indoors.
Fertilizer is not essential, Goji however will benefit from a modest amount of regular feeding. Do not add manure or excess fertilizer as it can do more harm than good. Soil pH should be 6.8 to 8.0 for optimal results.[See Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH ]
Once the daytime temperature drops to around 50 degrees, the plant will go dormant. Come spring when the temperatures climb above 50 degrees it will come out of hibernation and begin a new season.
Pruning Goji Berry Plants
If you live in an area that doesn't get winter extremes, keep your goji plant pruned back to new growth only, this will keep the berries coming.
Some seasonal weather conditions promote new growth that will flower toward the tip and produce berries that generally never ripen properly and frequently becomes infested with a grayish mold which, if not controlled, will often carry over to the next season's fruit crop. I suggest that these late season berries be removed as they develop, by picking or pruning the fruits or flowers as they appear.
Pruning is generally done when the plant is dormant, in the winter, but they can also be gently trimmed during the growing season to shape for aesthetic value, management purposes and of course to improve berry production.
The first year you should only need to prune weak or damaged growth if the need arises. Come the second year identify the largest, healthiest shoot, which is 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 about 24-inches , remove the growing tip in order to stimulate the growth of additional side branches.
To prune mature plants, remove the branches above the height that you wish to maintain your plant at. Near the bottom of the plant, clearance from the ground should be about 12- 15-inches.
You should also remove any any damaged, dried or no productive branches. These usually grow very fast, straight and smooth and will not be very productive, so if they aren't essential to the overall appearance and production, they can be removed. The Goji Berry plants when permitted to grow wild will leave you with an unsightly and unproductive mess. You should always prune the plant after growing season as berries are produced on new growth only.
Once you've harvested your first Goji Berry Crop, you'll probably have more than you can possibly use - consider drying some, they make an excellent snack.