Lycium barbarum

Common Name: matrimony vine 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: Europe to China
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Drought


Best grown in evenly moist, neutral to slightly alkaline, well-draining, sandy loams in full sun. Overly rich soil will reduce flowering and fruit yield. Tolerant of drought once established, poor soils, and some light shade. Can be pruned into a single trunk form, or the cane-like stems can be tied to a stake or trellis for easier access to the fruits. Pruning is recommended after the first growing season for best fruit yields. This creates a more dense, bushy habit with increased lateral branching, allows light to access the interior parts of the plant, and improves air circulation. Suckers can be removed as needed. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lycium barbarum, commonly called matrimony vine, Chinese wolfberry, or goji berry, is a deciduous, suckering shrub native to northwestern and north-central China. It is widely grown for its edible berries and has escaped cultivation in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. Mature plants will reach up to 8' tall with a 12' spread. The densely branched, spiny stems arch and sprawl, forming thickets where naturalized. The foliage can reach 1" long and 0.25", varying in shape from narrowly oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic with rounded or pointed tips. Purple flowers bloom singly or in groups of up to three from the leaf axils in summer. The funnel-shaped blooms reach around 0.5" long and have five, reflexed or spreading lobes. The flowers are followed by fleshy, oblong to ovoid, 0.25-0.75" long, red to orange-red berries.

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

The specific epithet barbarum means "foreign", applied by Linnaeus possibly to differentiate this species (which he thought was either from Asia or Africa) from Lycium europaeum (which he knew to be from Europe).

The origin of the common name matrimony vine has been lost to time. The common name wolfberry may have originated from a misinterpretation of the genus name as being from the Greek lycos, meaning "wolf". The name goji berry roughly matches the Chinese name for the fruit, gouqi.


Powdery mildew, blossom end rot, and root rot can be problematic. Watch for aphids, Japanese beetles, and goji berry gall mites. Birds and squirrels will eat the ripe berries.


Accent specimen for vegetable, herb, or fruit gardens. Can be used as an informal hedge.

This species is one of two marketed and sold as goji berry (the other being Lycium chinense). The fresh, ripe fruits are sweet with a mild licorice flavor. They are also eaten dried and used to make liquor. The young shoots are edible. The berries have been used in traditional medicine practices in China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, and other East Asian cultures for at least 4,500 years for the treatment of liver, kidney, and eye ailments.