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Growing Goji Berries in the Garden

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Earlier this year, I got a birthday surprise from my mom — a Goji Berry plant. It arrived in early March in a box marked “live plants: open immediately”. Now that’s my kind of shipment! Let’s start growing goji berries in the garden!

Goji Berries Finally Blooming - Will We Get Fruit?!

Goji Berries Finally Blooming – Will We Get Fruit?!

The plant went immediately into the greenhouse where it passed the remaining cool weeks of early spring. Once it began showing signs of aphids, I moved it out in the garden, in a large container. These plants are reported to get quite large, and I just wasn’t sure where it belonged, so into a pot it went. The aphids disappeared shortly after I changed the plant’s environment, and the plant continued to plug along doing little to impress me until August when I found it blooming near a water feature and ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia, which both attract the hummingbirds and the honeybees. I hoped these sparse, adorable flowers might catch a pollinator.

Today, as I headed into the house after a day working with design and coaching clients, a glimpse of red caught my eye. At first, I thought it was the ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia actually showing painted lips. I love this plant, but often the red tips on otherwise white flowers go unpainted much of the year. The white flowers are lovely, but nothing compared to those with a dash of lipstick to liven up the shrub. But, as I approached the cluster of containers, I realized what I saw was a Goji Berry, and a ripe one at that!

Ripe Lycium - aka Goji Berry

Ripe Lycium – aka Goji Berry

Sure enough, a pollinator got to those sweet flowers, and the fruit that spent much of September green is now turning yellow then orange then red. There aren’t many, which isn’t terribly discouraging. My passionfruit experiment of 2009 didn’t yield many fruit last year, but this year its output has at least doubled. So, I hope the Goji Berry will do the same in years ahead. In all likelihood, I’ll find a spot in the garden where it will live permanently. Supposedly, they’re hardy to zone 5, which means here in my zone 7-ish, I should be good-to go.

Did I taste the fruit? Of course I did!

Botanically known as Lycium – a nightshade family cousin to the tomato -the fresh Goji berry is tender, mildly sweet, and slightly juicy. Its internal structure is more like a paste tomato than a slicer – aka less juicy, seedy stuff. They’re high in antioxidants and various nutrients. And, they dry well – into chewy, sweet-tart, currant-textured morsels.

This year I’ll probably get about 20 fruits, which isn’t enough to dry or make jam from, but once I have an eight-foot shrub in the garden, all bets are off. If I do land a bumper crop, maybe I’ll be able to convince Master Preserver and good friend Theresa Loe of Growing a Greener World and Garden Fresh Living to join me for a jam session with these cool new foods in my garden!

Have cool uses for Goji berries or experience growing them in your garden? Please share!

And, anyone want to suggest next year’s wierdo addition to my garden? Please chime in. I’m always on the lookout!

And, hey Mom, thanks for the health food. You were the one who got me started down this crazy foods road years ago, and I appreciate your on-going contributions to my garden and my plate.

22 comments on “Growing Goji Berries in the Garden

  1. Theresa Loe on

    Girl – you just name the date and time and I am there. Ya know, Southwest Airlines is a cheap flight to see you. I would LOVE, LOVE to can with you. Let’s synchronize our iPhones and make a date!

    But while I am there, we must ALSO do a honey canning recipe. I promise Ballard Bee Company that I would do more honey canning in the future!

  2. Jill on

    I have just taken on a new allotment that has a massive goji berry bush growing on it. I am a passionate grower of all things edible and also love to experiment with jam making so I hope I will get a worthwhile crop. Does anyone have any experience of growing goji here in the SE of the UK? And what about a recipe for a preserve?

  3. Layne on

    I’ve got a couple Goji plants that are growing like crazy. They just refuse to bloom. I’m in MN Zone 4 and even have a few Zone 5 things that grow.
    However, after 8 years not one blossom on my Goji.
    Any suggestions?

  4. Garden Mentors on

    Layne, I found that mine stopped blooming when it’s part-sun location changed to mostly a shaded location. Could be that. Could also be how you’re pruning them. If they’re putting on loads of green growth but no flowers, it could also be a fertility issue. Sounds like they’re getting plenty of nitrogen, but maybe the potassium (or something else) is out of balance. Bummer, right? I’m moving my plant into a sunnier spot this spring in hopes it begins blooming again. This last summer was a bust. 🙁

  5. joyce meek on

    If anyone has found a recipe for goji berry jam or jelly that can be preserved, I sure would love it if they share Thanks so much

  6. jessica m on

    This may sound dumb so sorry ahead of time. I just got my first flower! and then it dies off. is this normal, will the berry now grow? how does this work.

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Jessica, once a flower is finished blooming, it will fall off the plant. If it was pollinated, you may see a small pod form where the flower once was. That’s how it works. Good luck!

  8. Natalie on

    If you like the goji you should really try the schisandra chinesis or eternal youth berry a beautiful part shade part sun vine that grows lovely flowers that become edible medicinal berries. Definitely not an everyday garden plant. 🙂

  9. Bob on

    My wife and I planted Goji berries here in Evans,GA and they are growing like crazy! I had to build a trellis to support it and we’re getting quite a few berries every day! A great addition to our lower garden area (our property is on a hill) and it is surrounded by Blackberries and Raspberries and seems to be thriving!
    It’s not a fruit but if you are really into nutrition,growing your own foods,and healthy eating try growing Malunggay (Also known as Moringa). My wife was born in the Philippines and it was a regular part of her diet growing up. It is a nutritional powerhouse and grows excellently in the south.

  10. Joy Bull on

    I have 2, 1st year gogi. Didn’t know they would grow so much in 1 year. Currently about 6 ft tall, very spindly. I’ve picked a few berries, testing to see if they were ripe. Lots of blossoms still. I like the trellis idea…will work on that. Mine are more orange than red, maybe need to leave a bit longer. Thanks for the ideas of new growth. I love trying new edible plants here in Idaho.

  11. Barbara Fegely on

    Just finished a 4th harvest of gojis with lots of flowers and buds remaining to ensure at least 2 more. Mother plant is 4 years old and has been very prolific. I did not cut it back last Fall and it outgrew its boundaries so I transplanted several offshoots into a hedge in sunny location. Half of the new plants gave an abundance of berries, the other half none. All are trellised but they do their own thing! I dry them in the sun. It takes 7 to 10 days but they are so much tastier than those dries in a food dehydrator. ( I tried both) I then packed them in a food saver and use them for baking, like raisins.

  12. Conrad Blevins on

    I planted both honey berries and Goji plants last year, however, only one survived. If I sent a picture, would you please help me identify which it is? Thanks

  13. Garden Mentors on

    Conrad, you might want to just take a cutting or leaf sample to your local nursery for id. Too, if you only have one honey berry, you may need to pick up another one for cross pollination/to get fruit!

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