Goji berry plants grow easily, but getting them to bear fruit, well, that’s going to need you to learn how to prune a goji berry plant.
Ideally, this is done in two stages.
The first stage of pruning takes advantage of the plant’s dormancy phase. The secondary pruning stage is for maintenance pruning.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re not getting the fruits you expected to be harvesting, chances are, a little proper pruning will encourage better fruiting – and tidier growth.
How to Prune a Goji Berry Plant?
Goji berry plants only need to be pruned in their second year of growth, which is when to cut them back to 15 inches. They grow back fast in the summer. By the third year, prune twice per year at least. A hard prune in late winter, then maintenance pruning in the summer to remove deadwood.
How to Prune Goji Berry Plant: Step-by-Step
Being deciduous, goji berry plants go dormant every year.
When growing goji berries from seeds overwinter them indoors in the first year.
If you have sufficient outdoor space, use it for these. You’ll always get more fruits when you grow goji berry bushes outdoors because they are shrubs.
Outdoors, these will sprawl.
Take note though. Easy to grow and grow easily mean different things.
Goji berry plants grow very easily but they aren’t exactly easy to grow. Pruning’s needed to tame them.
If you don’t prune your plant, you’ll get wood stalks and lateral shoots sprawling in all directions.
Eventually, the plant will be putting so much energy into offshoots and foliage growth, it won’t have sufficient energy to produce fruit.
Goji berry plants should not be pruned in their first year. Only mature plants should be cut back.
In its second year is when to give it a heavy cut back, taking all the branches back to just 15 inches.
This encourages new growth, speeding up the fruiting process.
Better take all these tips to heart, as improper pruning of the goji berry plant can cause disastrous effects on it.
When to Prune a Goji Berry Plant
Do the heaviest pruning when the plant is dormant in late winter and early spring before new foliage emerges.
You won’t be able to identify deadwood at this stage, because when a goji berry plant is in its dormant phase, everything looks dead.
From a distance, it looks like nothing’s happening.
There will be signs of growth about to emerge though.
Young buds can start coming through as early as January. They only look like little bumps on lateral shoots with a tiny bit of green coming through.
Don’t remove those because that’s where fruits will emerge.
Pruning the Stalks
When cutting the second-year growth, start from the bottom and work your way up.
The stalks are the thickest part of the goji berry shrub and they can clump together causing overcrowding.
You’ll get the most fruits when each stalk has breathing room. Make your reduction cuts at the base of the plant by removing entire stalks.
Mature shrubs can shoot out dozens of stalks, each crowding around the last. Don’t let that happen. Thin them out by cutting some stalks away.
That’s how you encourage lateral growth, which is the fruit-bearing part of the plant.
Pruning the Lateral Shoots
The lateral shoots (or side shoots as they’re commonly called) are where the goji berry fruit will emerge.
On each stalk, prune them back to have just six or seven side shoots. They can shoot out over a dozen buds, but it’s unlikely you’ll get much fruit from that many.
The ones that do fruit, probably won’t be as big as they could be anyway.
If you have a lot of stalks, the ones with the least signs of life (few buds or signs of lateral shoots emerging), cut those away first.
Turn Your Attention to Height Control
Without controlling the height of a goji berry plant, they’ll continue to shoot up. These grow to over ten feet tall.
You can grow these as a sort of living hedge to surround a chicken pen or a rabbit run, in which case, you may want it to be six to eight feet high.
You can also trellis train goji berry plants. It’s the same process used to grow Bougainvillea on a wall and other trailing plants.
For a smaller garden shrub, more will need cut from the top.
When the plant is dormant is when to shape it and control its height and spread.
Most goji berry varieties fruit best at six feet in height (1.8m) when kept a three feet distance (90cm) between each plant.
This is best done when the plants are in their third year of growth as there’ll be more deadwood.
Maintenance Pruning in the Summer
When your goji berry bursts back to life after its early pruning, you’ll get an abundance of foliage, some flowering blooms, and finally some goji berry fruit.
Beneath the canopy, some of the lateral growth and even the stalks will do nothing because they’ll be dead.
Goji berries grow on mature wood that’s in its second year.
Mature plants won’t yield as much after the lateral growth has fruited. They will wilt away at some point and die.
The plant is deceiving though. When it’s dormant, you can’t tell what’s dead and what’s not at the first pruning stage.
You need to wait for the plant to wake up then inspect the branches to see which parts have no signs of life.
Young shoots will still have small green leaves growing on parts of the branch.
It may only be small but if there’s anything growing at any part of a branch, it’s still alive and should be kept.
The parts that have no signs of life when the rest of the plant has, that’s the deadwood to remove.
However, if you still have no idea as to where exactly you’ll cut, you’ll need to read up more on where to cut plants when pruning them. In this way, you’ll be more knowledgeable about the task rather than doing a blind shooting stint at it.
Frequently Asked Questions about Goji Berry Plant Pruning
Do you need to prune container-grown goji berry plants?
As mundane as it seems, container-grown goji berry plants require some pruning as well. Goji berry plants grown in containers either as a patio plant or indoors will need light pruning in the summer to control height. Sometimes by up to half its size depending on your growing conditions. Pinching the shoots back encourages branching. The more you pinch back, the more fruit it’ll produce.
How often do goji berry plants need cut back?
Goji berry plants benefit from no pruning in the first year, all stems being cut back to 15 inches in the second year, then pruning for shape in the third year. The canopy should always have one foot of ground clearance and deadwood removed each summer.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.