Goji berries gained notoriety because of the health properties of its fruit. But even those who leave its tart, sweet fruit to local wildlife enjoy it as a cheerful ornamental bush. Once established, Goji berry is quite easy-going. It is drought-tolerant and can be grown in any type of soil, even nutritionally poor ones. And this showy ornamental has interest during the latter part of the season when many plants have finished their display for the year. In June to August, goji berry bushes explode in small white and purple flowers. After the flowers drop, goji berry bushes produce copious amounts of the fruit that will be around until October.
Sow seeds harvested this year (ask your supplier to be sure) in fall. Fill a seed flat with 3 inches of soil. Do not firm it down. Sprinkle the goji berry seed evenly over the flat (leave roughly 1/2 inch between each seed if possible. The placement does not have to be exact). Shake the seed flat from side to side until all of the goji berry seeds have sifted just below the surface.
Water the seed flat with a gentle stream of water from a watering can until the soil is moist. Cover the seed flat until the seeds germinate in a few weeks.
Remove the cover. Water to keep the soil moist until the seedlings reach roughly 2 inches in height.
Transplant the seedlings. If you need fewer seedlings than you have planted, pick only the strongest ones for transplanting. Fill each pot with moistened seed-starting soil to within 3/4 inch of its lip. Carefully dig out each seedling (take care not to damage its roots) and plant it at the same depth that it was growing in the seed tray. Store the potted plants in a greenhouse. Water them whenever the top inch of the soil dries out.
Plant the transplants into their permanent position in the late spring/early summer after their first year of growth. Choose a spot with full sun--they will tolerate light shade but will not fruit to their potential--and well-drained soil. Goji berry bushes will not tolerate water-logged soil. Dig a hole that is twice the circumference of and just as deep as the container they were growing in. Plant roughly 1 inch higher than the goji berry was growing in its original container.
Water the transplant until the surrounding soil is moist to the depth of the plant's roots. Continue to keep the soil moist at this depth until the goji berry establishes itself and produces new growth. Once it is established, only provide supplemental watering during times of drought or when the plant is wilting. When the goji berry flowers and fruits, increase watering to whenever the top few inches of the soil dry out.
Fertilize the goji berry bush with a commercial, balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring before the season's growth begins and in summer when the first flowers emerge. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application rates and amounts based on your goji berry bush's size.
Prune your goji berry bush in spring to keep it to a desirable size. Use bypass pruning shears and cut overgrown branches down to size.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch over the soil in fall to protect the plant from low temperatures.
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Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.