Lycium chinense

Common Name: Chinese desert-thorn 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Light purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion


Grow in moderately fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants tolerate some light shade. Established plants tolerate some drought. May be grown from seed. Where winter hardy, this shrub will naturalize by self seeding (sometimes aggressively) and by suckering. Stems may be pruned back to 2' tall in late winter each year to keep plants at a reasonable size with less sprawling. If grown for fruit production, branches may be attached to a trellis to facilitate harvest.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lycium chinense, commonly called Chinese matrimony vine, Chinese boxthorn, Goji berry and Chinese wolfberry, is a vine-like, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with sprawling branches that typically grows to 3-6' (sometimes to 12') tall. Occasional thorns appear on the stems. It is native to slopes, roadsides, disturbed areas and wastelands in southern China. Ovate, rhombic, elliptic or lanceolate leaves (to 1-3" long) are bright green. Small, tubular, pale purple to lavender flowers bloom in spring on stalks rising from the leaf axils. Bright red berries (Goji berries) are about 7/8" long and mature in fall. Ripe berries are edible (sweet licorice flavor). Berries (fresh or dried), young shoots and leaves are used in oriental cooking. Berries are used to make an herbal tea. Berries are dried for herbal use (China reportedly produces over 5 million kilograms of dried fruit per year). This is a long time medicinal plant (leaves, roots and berries) in China.

Genus name comes from the Greek lykion, a thorny tree from Lycia, a south-west region of Asia Minor, that was used medicinally.

Specific epithet means Chinese.


No serious insect or disease problems. Powdery mildew may appear.


Interesting ornamental landscape shrub which can also be grown for harvest of leaves, berries, young shoots and roots for culinary purposes. Informal hedge. Shrub border. Dry/sandy banks or slopes. Spreads rapidly.