Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) grows as a woody perennial plant that produces dark, red, oblong berries. The berries, also known as goji berries, are often used in the production of wine, tea, for cooking, as a dehydrated fruit and as an additive in numerous health food bars. Widely grown and cultivated in China for its reputed health benefits, the plant has flourished for over a 1,000 years as a natural Chinese medicine used to treat disorders of the kidney and liver. The state of Utah produces an abundance of commercial wolfberry crops for the health food industry. The state of Washington also produces commercial wolfberry crops successfully.
Planting and Soil Conditions
The wolfberry plant prefers to be planted in well-drained soil with an abundant amount of organic matter. Mixing a ratio of 50 percent peat moss into the garden soil prior to planting is ideal. The plant can tolerate less then ideal soil conditions and will even thrive in sandy soils, but for the adequate productions of berries it is important to add adequate organic material to enrich the soil. Only one wolfberry plant needs to be planted because the shrub is self-fertile.
Plant the wolfberry shrub in full sunlight for the maximum berry crop. The shrub can live in partial shade but it will not thrive and berry production will be severely limited. The shrub can easily grow 8 feet tall, so even a small shrub that starts out in partial shade will quickly grow in search of full sunlight.
In the spring new shoots should be pinched back around the wolfberry to encourage a bushier plant. A tall, leggy plant tends to produce fewer berries then a short, bushy shrub. The wolfberry will benefit from having the new growth pinched off--just use your thumb and forefinger.
The wolfberry produces long, arching stems that often bend towards the ground. A stem that is allowed to touch the ground will easily take root and produce another wolfberry plant. The plant can be extremely invasive. It is recommended that the stems be tied up or back to prevent them from reaching the ground and spreading.
Suckers grow readily around the base of the shrub. Wolfberry is a common hedge in many parts of the world because of its prolific sucker growth and spread. If you need to keep the shrub contained to a small area, dig the suckers of the shrub and dispose of them, or plant them in another location.
In the mid-summer to late fall harvest the berries of the wolfberry. Handpicking or shaking of the branches of the shrub is the ideal way to harvest the delicate berries. A full crop of fruit is produced in the shrub's second and third year.
In the early spring the wolfberry will benefit from having the old growth shoots pruned back to the ground. Pruning the old wood back will allow the new shoots to grow stronger. Berries are produced on new growth each year.