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All About Lifeberry® Goji berries (Lycium Barbarum)

Goji is a sprawling shrub with long, flexible canes and clusters of small, grey-green leaves. The flowers are a brilliant royal purple and they appear in late spring/early summer along the length of the canes. They give way to juicy, bright red fruits that resemble small peppers. They grow sweeter as they mature on the plant. Goji plants continue to flower and produce fruit through the first heavy frost.

Though they sound exotic and are most often found with a high price tag in health food stores, Goji berries are actually easy to grow hardy plants. If they weren’t, well, we wouldn’t have added them to the line of Proven Winners® ColorChoice flowering shrubs. We’ve got two varieties of tasty, beautiful goji berries: Sweet Lifeberry® and Big Lifeberry®. These exceptional strains were specially selected in China, where goji has been grown for centuries for its purported health-giving properties and brilliant fruit color (red symbolizes joy in Chinese culture). Sweet Lifeberry and Big Lifeberry goji have been a hit in Europe and we are pleased to finally offer them to North American gardeners.

Description: Goji is a sprawling shrub with long, flexible canes and clusters of small, grey-green leaves. The flowers are a brilliant royal purple and they appear in late spring/early summer along the length of the canes. They give way to juicy, bright red fruits that resemble small peppers. They grow sweeter as they mature on the plant. Goji plants continue to flower and produce fruit through the first heavy frost.

How to grow

Zone: hardy to USDA zone 5; heat tolerant to AHS zone 9

Exposure: Full sun is best, but tolerates a bit of shade.

Height: 5-7’ (1.5-2.1 m)

Water: The plants tolerate some drought once established, but for best fruit set and quality, water regularly.

Soil: Any well-drained soil will do.

Staking: Goji naturally wants to sprawl and creep along the ground. To save space and to make harvesting the berries easier, you can bundle the strongest 3-5 canes around a 6-8’/1.8-2.4m tall stake (choose something sturdy, like 1”x1” wood).

Pests: Goji berry plants will not be bothered by insects or diseases, but birds, deer, and raccoons may all find the fruit as appealing as you do. If you notice damage to the fruit or plant, or have a problem with these visitors damaging other plants in your garden, use a netting or repellent, particularly once the plant begins flowering and fruiting.

Pruning: Goji does not require pruning to grow well and produce fruit. However, you may find the plant is more manageable and easier to harvest when its lateral (horizontal) branches are lightly pruned to encourage branching and the production of vigorous new growth.

Harvesting: Goji berries begin to ripen in early summer. They should be plucked off by hand when they are brilliant red and taste sweet. They come off the plant easily, without the need for pruners or a knife.

Fertilizing: For an abundant crop, apply a fertilizer formulated for flowering woody plants in early spring, just as new growth begins. Rose fertilizer is an excellent, readily available choice.


Can I grow goji berry in a container?

Yes! Goji will do great in a container. Just be sure to choose one large enough – it should be at least 18” in diameter and have a drainage hole. The container should also be weatherproof so that it can remain outside, planted with your goji, all year long. Use any regular potting soil to plant in and be sure to keep a close eye on watering, particularly during the hottest part of the summer.

When are my goji berries ready to harvest?

Goji berries turn red very quickly but will taste slightly bitter until they are fully ripe. Taste is your best indicator, but in general, the berries should spend several weeks on the vine before being harvested. It is best to harvest before the first frost, however, because cold can diminish the flavor of the fruit.

Where can I grow goji berries?

Goji berries will thrive in the majority of the US and Canada. They are hardy to USDA zone 5, with maximum low temperature around -18 degrees F/-27 degrees C; if you live in a colder climate and would like to try goji, you will get berries that summer but the plant may not come back next year. Goji is very tolerant of hot and dry climates –in fact, many of its relatives grow wild in the deserts of Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.

Do I need two gojis for pollination?

No – gojis are self-fruitful. They do not require another plant to bear fruit. 

How do I use my goji berries?

You can use your goji berries in the same way that you use those that you purchase in the store. They can be used fresh if you wish, or they can be frozen or dried. To dry gojis, harvest them and simply spread the fresh berries in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper. Keep in a cool, dry spot, out of bright light, until the berries are dry. They keep their color well and can be used as is or rehydrated with liquid, as your recipe and preferences dictate. To freeze, place in a freezer bag and lay flat until frozen. This keeps them from sticking together in large clumps. Well-sealed frozen goji berries should keep for several months and can be used straight from the freezer in your recipe.

Here are two of our favorite recipes for using your goji harvest:

Uncle Buck’s Goji Salsa

  • 8 c. Big Lifeberry gojis
  • 8 c. tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T. black pepper
  • ¼ c. salt
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 4 green peppers, chopped
  • 15 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 12 oz. can tomato paste

Bring all ingredients (except tomato paste) to boil. Simmer 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, stir in tomato paste.  Yields 8 quarts.

Sweet Lifeberry® Breakfast Bars

  • ¾ c. brown sugar firmly packed
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 8 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2  egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. nonfat milk
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • ½ t. salt (optional)
  • 3 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. dried Sweet Lifeberry goji berries

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl combine sugars, yogurt, egg whites, oil, milk and vanilla; mix well. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add dry ingredients to wet mix; mix well. Stir in oats and goji berries. Spread dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake 28-32 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

Do I need to do anything to my gojis for winter?

If you live in zone 5 or warmer, you’ve got nothing to worry about! A 2-3” thick layer of shredded bark mulch over the entire root zone of the plant is a welcome blanket to insulate against fluctuating temperatures and conserve moisture. Other than that, however, goji require no special treatment for the winter.

Do I need to prune my goji berries every year?

Your goji will grow and thrive, even if you never prune it once. However, it will be easier to harvest with some selective pruning. Simply shorten the horizontal branches by about half to two-thirds in early spring, just as the buds begin to break. Plants can withstand severe pruning, but fruiting may be minimal in the following season.

Got more goji questions? We’re here to help! Contact us anytime.

349 Readers Rated This: 12345 (3.2)
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/16/2018 - 8:48am

Can you transplant a 3 year old goji plant?

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Thu, 06/21/2018 - 5:52pm

You can move your Goji. We would recommend moving it in the early spring.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:10pm

We have 6 plants, approx 5 years old. This past season, the berries had a much more bitter taste and we ended up not harvesting any. The squirrels and birds them. I was thinking of using rose fertilizer on them in hopes of better tasting berries this year. I prune them in March and they grow great and produce lots of berries. I just hate to let them sit on the vine. Any thoughts?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 02/22/2018 - 1:04pm
Goji berries are sweetest when they are dried. You don't need to do anything special to dry them - just harvest them and spread them in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper in a cool, airy, dry spot. They should turn dry and leathery in about a week or so, and you won't believe the difference in the flavor. That said, you will get a milder flavor if they do get plenty of water - any kind of drought stress will cause the plant to create bitter flavors as a defense. Fertilizer shouldn't really impact the flavor much.
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 01/04/2018 - 5:48pm

Hello, I was just wondering, based on the trademark names of your Goji Berry plants, if these particular types of plants that you are selling are GMO (genetically modified)? Or are they just hybrids (bred naturally to produce a plant that has certain dominant characteristics)?

Looking forward to your response! Thank you so much.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Fri, 01/05/2018 - 1:17pm

All of our edible varieties were developed using traditional breeding techniques (i.e., hybridization) and not genetic engineering. 

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 10/09/2017 - 3:04am

I live in northwest Indiana and I bought and planted 3 goji berry plants that were 1 and 2 year plants. I sunk 5 gallon bucket in the ground with the bottom cut off to help contain them. they been growing good all spring and summer but now end of September and beginning of October there are brown spots all over the leaves on 2 of the plants. I thought that is was a fungus and sprayed neem oil and natural soap mix in a gallon. It did not seem to help any, is there anything I can do to save the plant?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 09/12/2017 - 5:34pm

some of my berries are starting to turn brown when they are ripe and green. why is that happening?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Wed, 09/13/2017 - 12:00pm

This sounds like a nutrient deficiency. Goji berries have quite a high nutrient need, so unlike other shrubs, should get regular fertilizer. It could also indicate water stress, either too much or too little.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 09/01/2017 - 9:50am

I have had Gogi plants for two years now and they flower profusely. I have yet to see a berry. the flowers bloom beautifully then drop off. Any suggestions?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Wed, 09/13/2017 - 12:01pm

Hmmm...this is strange. Where are you located? How much sun do your plants get? Too much shade would be my first suspicion.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 07/11/2017 - 7:27am

Thanks for all the information. I have 3 plants, planted this year. One is already fruiting & one is beginning to flower (Zone 5b-Missouri). Should I remove all the flowers & fruit this first year as I do with strawberries or is it ok to get such an early crop? Will the roots suffer from the first year flowering & fruiting?


Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Tue, 07/18/2017 - 7:20am

No need to do that - go ahead and let it flower and harvest this year. Just be sure you give it a good hard pruning next spring to ensure a good crop next year, too.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/15/2017 - 9:35am

My goji plant is turning yellow and the leaves are falling (This is early June). I have three other gojis planted in the same row at the same time that are doing fine. What should I be checking for?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:49am

That's strange - is it getting more or less water than the others, perhaps?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/05/2017 - 8:14pm

Besides the additional cost, what is the difference between PW Big Lifeberry and PW Sweet Lifeberry? Are these the exact same plant? Are they both really just Lycium chinense aka Chinese Boxthorn, Chinese desert-thorn?

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:35am

While they are very similar, there is a few differences between the two. The Big Lifeberry® has extra large fruit that makes for easy harvesting. The Sweet Lifeberry® fruit is, you guessed it, more sweet than that of the Big Lifeberry®. They are both Lycium Barbarum and grow similarly.
Hope this helps!
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 10/18/2016 - 12:14am

I purchased 4 Big Lifeberry Goji this summer. Two of them have had fruit this season (October) in zone 6. I am very disappointed with the size of the berries. They are about 1/8 inch in diameter and maybe close to 1/2 inch long. They are tapered similar to a football. Can I expect the berries to be bigger next year or is this their normal size? They also have a bitter taste similar to the meaty part of a tomato that has been cut and left out in the warm weather for a while. I have been reading your comments and am disappointed to learn that the plants do not trellis similar to grapes.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 05/25/2017 - 7:50am

Pages 3 and 4 of this document offer the information you're looking for:

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/30/2017 - 6:30am

Please explain to me what are the scourge of Goji Berry

Also explain which organic fertilizers and pesticides is appropriate to deal with these pests

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 10/20/2016 - 7:36am

Gojis do have a bitter taste, but they get sweeter when they are dried, so you can try drying any remaining fruits by spreading them out in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper and leaving them to dry for a week or so. The flavor improves considerably. It's not entirely surprising that the fruit isn't reaching its fullest potential size its first year, as the plant is devoting its energies primarily to root growth and not flowering and fruiting. Big Lifeberry gojis are larger than typical gojis, but their size nowhere near approaches that of a grape. Finally, you can trellis them as you would grapes if you wish - they will not climb on their own, but if you prefer to grow their long, flexible canes that way, you can. You'll still want to cut back the tops by about one-third their total height to encourage lateral branching, which bears more abundantly than vertical growth.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 10/11/2016 - 9:20am

Hello. I purchased a LifeBerry goji plant this summer and planted according to instructions here and on the card that came with it, to the best of my ability. It is staked on an 8-foot stake, and I understood that I should not prune in the first year, so now the main shoot has reached the top of the stake (so about 7 feet tall), and has continued to grow and bend over for another four or five feet (now hanging down). I have lots of green little berries, and only about four red ones. It's just starting to get colder (I'm in Massachusetts, so on the line of zone 6a and b), but I haven't seen much change in the berries for the past month or so (even when it was a bit warmer). Should I do anything with the overly long main branch that is "weeping" over (it has a lot of green berries on it), or leave it until spring? Also, what pruning would you recommend and when to keep it healthy, but also so we an reach the berries? Will this plant ever stand on it's own, because it sure doesn't look like it. Thanks so much for your help..

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 10/13/2016 - 12:42pm

I would recommend you go ahead and bundle the canes around the stake using some heavy twine or something similar. Do not cut the plant back now - the longer growth should cascade over, like a fountain. Come spring, cut the portions of the plant that are spilling over above the tie back by about half their length. Gojis fruit best on the lateral growth that will come from these cuts. Gojis may eventually develop enough strength to stand on their own, but yearly pruning is imperative.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 09/26/2016 - 7:37am

I purchased my Goji bush last spring. I had some beautiful flowers and berries last year. I mulched it with straw from my chicken coop (which was rich with manure) over winter. This year my bush is about 6 ft tall and produced a good crop in August. I was so sad when I picked my last berry but it started to bloom again in early September and is bearing a heavier crop of fruit now at the end of September. I am so surprised and happy becuse I was not aware that they produced 2 crops in one year. I was just wondering if this is normafor the plant to do this.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Fri, 09/30/2016 - 7:25am

Gojis are very vigorous, so it's not entirely surprising that it is continuing to bloom and set fruit, especially if you live in a mild climate. Enjoy!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 09/02/2016 - 8:55am

Hello !
I am confused with various types of goji berries, could you please inform for what reason are they used (JB1, JB2,JB3, JB4.....NQ1,NQ2......)
thank you

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 09/12/2016 - 7:03am

Hi there - I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean. I'm not familiar with these terms and how they apply to goji berries.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 08/29/2016 - 12:29pm

Mine is 4 years old and is 10 ft. tall. So far, no berries, Lots of blooms and plenty of bees. What's wrong?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 09/01/2016 - 7:59am

So your plant is flowering but fruit is not developing? That's really strange. If the plant is growing vigorously and producing flowers, the fruit should be forming. Gojis are heavy feeders, so it might be a good idea to fertilize it monthly with a tomato fertilizer from May-July. They also like a more alkaline soil pH. I would recommend cutting the plant back quite hard next spring - by about half its total height - to encourage lateral branching. Gojis fruit heaviest on these lateral branches, so between that and the fertilizer, you should get a good crop.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 08/27/2016 - 9:44am

I have a good number of berries on my first year plants. There are a lot of red ones on the vines, but have only had one that tasted sweet. The others have an unpleasant medicinal taste. I have some dried ones on the vine, so don't think I am testing too soon. What am I doing wrong? Nell in Georgia

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 08/29/2016 - 7:26am

Fresh goji berries do have a very odd taste - kind of like a cross between a green pepper and an unripe cherry tomato. However, they become much sweeter when you dry them, so harvest your berries, spread them out in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper, and leave them to dry for a week or so. They will shrivel up a bit and become kind of leathery. At this point, you can store them and use them as you wish.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 08/16/2016 - 5:57pm

I've been reading the comments on this site & am very appreciative of all the information available here. I was one of those purchasing these very expensive berries from the health food store so was delighted to find I could grow them! My question is does this plant like b the same b environment as strawberries? W have a very large raised cement bed with extra room & I want to put them there. Thanks!

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 08/29/2016 - 7:21am

In terms of light and moisture, goji can grow in the same places as strawberries. However, goji prefer neutral to alkaline soils and strawberries prefer slightly acidic. Goji can still do well in slightly acidic soils, but you may find that you need to apply more fertilizer in spring and early summer to make up for pH difference.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 07/06/2016 - 9:29am

My Goji Bush patch is out of is about 4 years old and the bushes are large and keep spreading.
this spring I cut them back a lot but now I have many suckers this year and do have a lot of blooms, but I seem to have more foliage than berries. what I cannot figure out is which stocks to save and which ones to cut down. I have them staked and roped off the ground. Should I cut the suckers now in the spring or wait until fall?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 07/31/2016 - 2:27pm

I picked up a goji plant and noticed a lot of suckers growing to, so each time I went to the base of the sucker and snipped them out and started new plants 4 to be exact. Then a few weeks later I noticed more. I decided to leave them thinking maybe I was sending the plant into a shock each time. Now the new ones grew about 3.5+ ft since June 28th to now. They are covered in berries just as much as the rest of the plant if not more, and less time (I think I may have been shocking it before) plus I've been giving it miracle gro-rose plant food and Epsom salt 2x a week rotating every other time. Long story short- I'd leave the suckers for now. In Ohio my blooms started 7-13. Blooms last @2days and have over 300 unripe green berries as of now and about 2-3 dozen flowers.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Wed, 07/06/2016 - 2:19pm

Cut out all but one-third of the strongest, most vigorous shoots. You can do this now. Bundle the remaining canes around a stake and leave them to grow this season. In spring, cut these branches back by about one-third their total height. This encourages the lateral growth which bears the most flowers and fruit. When new shoots appear from the ground, cut them off as you see them to direct the energy to just the established portion of the plant.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 06/19/2016 - 11:00am

I planted a Goji berry last year and it grew about 2 feet last summer and this spring only has one limb with a few real small leaves down low and upper part doesn't have anything on it! What do you think happened and what should I do to get it going again? I mixed up a gallon of water and 1 tbs of Miracid and poured around it after I mixed in some lime in the soil and do you think this will fire it back up?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 06/05/2016 - 8:26am

Very suprised to read that they should be fertilized. Mine definitely look like they need something, but I have consistently read warnings not to fertiize - especially with nitrogen or you will kill them. One seller stated that if you gave them anything at all she would not replace them if they died - especially warns against Miracle Grow. I have put compost on them and mulch. As with everything else on the net the inconsistencies saying compost has nutrient value to others saying it only conditions the soil.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 07/25/2016 - 7:51pm

What I have used since I first bought my plant is what I clean out my rabbit cage, wood chips (untreated except rabbit urine) rabbit poop and the spilt rabbit food. My plant went from dying at the store to almost too much to eat very fast.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 06/06/2016 - 2:58pm

We definitely fertilize our liners (= starter plants) here with no problems. I have never heard that before but will look into it. They are quite nutrient-needy so show their unhappiness dramatically.

Jillrake's picture
Jillrake Sun, 06/05/2016 - 6:57am

I just bought a potted goji from lowes it was three gallons pw. Will that fruit this year or will it take another year or two?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 06/06/2016 - 3:00pm

It may fruit this year, but it depends on growing conditions. Give it a very sunny spot, keep it well-cared-for, and you may get some fruit. Naturally, the yield will increase significantly each year once it is established.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/04/2016 - 1:47pm

I live in southern Illinois and have to goji plants, not sure of the kind.
First year tons of blooms, didn't expect any fruit, being such young plants, but can I expect fruit this year?
The plants are growing beautifully. Have them staked with tomato stakes which seems to be doing a great job so far. They have a lot of canes growing and hanging over everywhere.
Do things sound like I'm on the right track with my caring for them?
Thank you

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 06/06/2016 - 3:01pm

It does indeed! It is definitely strange that you saw a lot of flowers and little fruit. Perhaps there was an issue with insects pollinating the flowers. If your plant is growing vigorously this year, you should expect flowers to begin to form in about a month or so, and fruit to start ripening in about mid-August.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 05/30/2016 - 11:05am

I am interested in adding some Goji berries to my landscaping, but have Black Walnut trees in the vicinity. Can someone tell me if Goji berry is tolerant of juglone?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Tue, 05/31/2016 - 1:42pm

There are no definitive accounts on goji's tolerance to juglone either way, I'm afraid. However, since it is closely related to tomatoes which are notoriously sensitive to juglone, my suspicion would be that they would not tolerate it and I would not recommend them in those conditions.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 05/26/2016 - 12:37pm

Do you have any pictures showing how high I need to stake my Goji Berry plant? Do I need 3 feet above the ground, or more like 6 feet? Thanks.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 09/14/2016 - 5:46pm

I just use Tomato Cage to help support the Goji Berry stems.

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Tue, 05/31/2016 - 1:39pm

I'm sorry, we don't have any photos or diagrams. I recommend getting a 1 x 1" wood stake, 8' tall. Drive it in the ground at least a foot if possible (this isn't always possible; just sink it as deep as you can). Then take your canes and bundle them around the stake, about 6" from the tips of the stems. These will then "weep" over and that's where most of the fruit will form. Next year, you can re-tie the main stems farther up the stake in early spring, and also in early spring, cut off 2-3" of the stem tips to encourage lateral branching, where most of the fruit forms.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 05/25/2016 - 9:26am

Hi! I am in zone 5 (NE Kansas) and I planted 3 Lifeberry Gojis last fall. I would estimate that they are about 3 feet tall. They are mulched well and also trellised. Mostly full sun but do get some shade earlier in the day.
When we purchased these plants, they had several berries on them; however they have not flowered at all so far this spring. I have not specifically looked, but I don't recall seeing new canes/growth either.
Can you offer any suggestions or recommendations? Should I feed them at all? I follow only organic practices so I would not want to use any type of chemical fertilizers.
Thanks so much for your help!

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