The goji berry or Chinese wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) is a deciduous perennial shrub that is related to potato and tomato plants. It grows up to 10 feet tall and will grow outdoors all over Great Britain in areas that do not drop below -26.1 degrees Celsius. Goji berries have become very popular as a health food and are now sold dried in many health food shops and supermarkets. They are high in antioxidants and minerals such as iron and selenium.
Separate goji berry seeds from dried berries by splitting them open and scraping out the seeds. Each berry contains about 30 seeds. Leave the seeds to soak for two hours in warm water or on wet tissue paper. Plant them in a seed tray in peat-free compost with 30 per cent sand at a depth of 1 inch. Keep the tray in a warm place and the soil damp but not waterlogged. The seeds will germinate in about 10 days.
Plant goji seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. They are tender for the first year and need to be kept indoors or in a greenhouse in frost-free conditions. Repot plants into larger pots as soon as roots appear through the drainage holes or your plants will stop growing. Goji berries make good container plants and can be grown indoors in a bright spot such as by a south-facing window.
Transplant year-old goji berry plants to the garden in the spring after the last frost. They will grow in any rich and well drained soil and appreciate a sunny spot. Do not add fertiliser when you plant your goji berry plant as it will burn the new roots. Water the plants when the surface of the soil gets dry and fertilise once a month with an all-purpose fertiliser during the summer.
Prune the plants to the desired height in spring. Once established, goji berry bushes are low maintenance and require little care. Plants will not flower for the first two years but will flower and fruit in their third year. The berries ripen in the late summer.
Propagate bushes from woody or semi-woody cuttings about 6 inches long planted 2 inches deep in the soil. Plants grown from cuttings are vigorous and fast growing. Bushes sometimes produce suckers which can be separated and either potted up or planted elsewhere.
Use shade-dried berries from a health food shop as a source of seed as sun-dried berry seeds do not always germinate. Goji berry plants can be pruned into a hedge. Protect bushes with ripening berries with bird-proof netting from a gardening centre.
Only eat fresh goji berries that are fully ripe as unripe fruit is mildly toxic.