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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Lycium barbarum, Training plants, Invasive plants

I am growing goji berry plants in my garden. I was hoping their growth habit would be more upright but they are sprawling wildly. Do you have suggestions for training them? Should I be concerned that they might become invasive?

Answer:

Susanna Lyle's book Fruit & Nuts (Timber Press, 2006) says these shrubby vines are short-lived, peaking in berry production at about 5 years of age and typically living for 8 years or so. She advises planting them near a fence or trellis so that they can be trained up it; some sprawling is to be expected. Utah State University Extension's October 2015 article, "Goji in the Garden," offers general cultural information (while mentioning that the plant is a weed in some areas).

Lycium barbarum (goji, also called wolfberry and boxthorn) can be invasive (or at least aggressive) in some areas. An article by Vern Nelson in The Oregonian (August 17, 2008) mentions this tendency, and suggests containing them in a 4 by 5-foot square support structure. Be aware that "wolfberries take root wherever they touch the ground." This is worth bearing in mind, as is the fact that Lyle's book says "the extensive root system can help stabilize banks," which one could interpret to mean that removing unwanted plants might be a fair bit of work!

Suckering roots are only one way the plant spreads; seeds are another. Goji berry (boxthorn) is the "Plant of the Month" in the Whatcom County Master Gardeners Weeder's Digest from August 2006. Author Cheryll Greenwood Kinsley notes that when the plant was first introduced in Europe, people weren't enamored of the fruit but birds were, and now "the shrub has naturalized in Britain and is listed as a noxious weed on two continents and in at least some parts of several states, including Montana and Wyoming." She recommends keeping the birds away from it to discourage its spread.

Date 2016-12-23
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August 01 2017 12:36:01