Ask a Question forum: Goji Berry Plants not Growing

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Charlotte, North Carolina (Zone 7b)
May 15, 2017 10:48 PM CST
I have Goji Berry plants which live, but just refuse to grow. I have 3 that are 2 years old, and 3 which are one year old. The initial set started growing initially, but only one made it to 2-ish feet tall (others 12"-18") before they all stalled and quit growing permanently. Two of one year old plants are still 6 inches - ie, approx SAME size as when I received them.

I am including many details, because I have no idea what to do. I greatly appreciate any input or advice!
I live in NC - Zone 7b. The soil is nutritious orange clay, but I did dig deep, wide holes, and I amend the clay with topsoil and compost. These plants are on a slope where they won't get as much water as the rest of my yard, but that should not bother them (the nursery I bought them from said to treat them more like cactus). They are actually struggling from too much spring rain right now (2nd year I've had leaves turn yellow and start to fall in May). But last summer was drought here - I did give them some water during that time. But, they did not grow in either situation.
Summers do get really hot and humid in NC. The plants are also in full all day sun. I don't believe it should be an issue... (Not according to nursery I purchased them from).
My soil is slightly *acidic. When googling Goji berry, it says they prefer alkaline soil. I have not tried lime yet. I may do so, BUT IF I do give up on these plants, I would like to be able to plant something else there... so, I'm hesitating on that. Also, note - the nursery I purchased them from says Ph should not matter for these Goji Berries. If it did make a difference, I think they would have tons of unhappy customers around America(?).
The ONLY thing truly unique for me is that this is the compact area (in new subdivision). So, there are few nutrients in the soil post-construction - at least in this part of yard. I amended holes 12+" deep with similar diameter.
However, at a depth of 12-18", the clay soil literally becomes "rock". It shatters when hit with a shovel, but quickly becomes mud when water is poured on it.
I wonder if digging between the plants to create a long "trench" of amended soil would help? Or digging a wider diameter around each plant (than currently exists)??
*Or "popping" them out and amending the soil a 2nd time, and digging X"(??) deep, before replanting.
Honestly, I am just not sure if anything will work..??
*The nursery growing guide says they can be grown in 15" containers.
There are apparently several types of Goji Berry plants being sold in USA. These particular Goji Berry plants will grow 6 foot tall and spill over. Stakes are not mandatory. They do not have thorns. They do get wider at the base, but no sprawling out or rooting elsewhere. Guide says to plant 3' apart.
*One plant had fruit the first year - maybe 20 pieces. No other plant has grown enough to fruit.
I have both given plant food, and not given plant food. Given water and not. No change noticed.

*The two plants that grew 0" in one year were next to my original plants, so they were partially shaded... although, I'm just not sure that is enough reason??? And note, if a 6" starter will not grow, the problem should not be compaction 15" deep??

*Maybe there is a factor I am missing???
*I have gone through details with the nursery I bought them from re plant requirements, and clay soil (amended), full sun, heat, etc are good. They had no suggestions for me.
*My neighbor - just a few feet away over fence - has a huge oasis of drought tolerant landscaping plants filling his entire backyard... and thriving. He has the SAME plants that EVERY single neighborhood and builder, fast food place, shopping center, etc, uses in this area of NC. Those plants require no maintenance. Note - my neighbor says his success is due to planting large plants in deep, wide holes for root balls. But he did NOT amend clay. He believes the KEY for him was breaking up the deep, compacted (hard) clay, and simply adding fertilizer.

*I just bought large 15" containers to put these plants in. However, I do not really want to fill my patio with big Goji Berry plants!

If these plants can thrive in a 15" pot, i dont think i need to dig/amend the soil a LOT further?? I've considered taking them out, amending deeper and wider, and then replanting... However, this is a LOT of work! And, I'm just NOT sure IF it would change the situation??
*Possibilities: AMEND WITH *lime for Ph? AMEND FOR COMPACTION -
perlite??, topsoil, compost, alfalfa pellets??
*If NO OPTION, I MIGHT be able to dig out large trench (current location), and fill it with truckload or two of topsoil??? Just VERY challenging and time-consuming!! *But would this be guaranteed to succeed?? If not, it would be a waste of effort bc i would not use the location for ornamental plants.

Thanks for any and all advice!! I am bewildered! This is my 4th season of gardening, and I have more than 100 other plants which are absolutely thriving!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
May 16, 2017 1:04 PM CST

When you dug the original planting holes, did you fill them with water to see how fast the water drained out? Gojiberries require well draining soil that stays slightly moist but not wet. They aren't desert plants.

Have you been using fertilizer? Did you dig in any peat with your compost? They are heavy feeders. BUT never fertilize a plant that is struggling.

Are you mulching the plants in the summer time? Plants hate hot roots - mulch makes a good insulator but don't put it up against the trunk of the plant.

Can you attach some photos of your plants and the area surrounding them? Maybe it will help to see what you are seeing.

BTW, Gojiberry like slighly acidic to neutral soil. Don't add any lime.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Charlotte, North Carolina (Zone 7b)
May 17, 2017 3:03 PM CST
Thank you very much for the response!!
I will add photos asap!!
The nursery I bought the plants from told me not to water them much - but I do water them, just not as much as I would a rose or a blueberry bush, etc. I guess at least once/week minimum. It does drain well. The water table is lower because of the slope, so they do not stay wet.
I did not use peat because I was concerned about adding more acidity then. I just used regular compost and purchased topsoil (with compost already in it) - and mixed about 25-30% of those into the clay soil in each hole. If I redo the holes, I can do peat moss if that is best?
The nursery I bought them from said not to fertilize them? They said once/year. Maybe twice. Of course, not all of their master gardeners know what they are talking about... especially considering the wide range of plants they would need to know.
I did mulch them in. When I last spoke to the nursery I ordered them from, the lady (same one as above) totally jumped on me because the guide did NOT say to mulch them. (I think she was trying to disqualify me for replacements, but I was just calling for advice). But yes, definitely mulched in.
Thanks. I will post photos very soon.
Charlotte, North Carolina (Zone 7b)
May 17, 2017 3:05 PM CST
UPDATE - I placed one of my one year old 6" plants into a 5" pot with potting soil. After one month, it has one shoot (out of 4 shoots) that has grown to about 12" tall! I have given it plant food when watering. I will transfer it to a larger pot and I assume it will continue growing in potting soil.

What does that mean for my other plants?

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