Wolfberry Grower's Guide
Producing Plants From Seed
Wolfberries can easily be grown from seeds, but it takes at least three years to get them up to producing size. Do not plant seeds or any plants in potting soil. The pH may be too low, as they require a pH of from 7.4 to 8.4 to maintain healthy growth. If your soil is not on the alkaline side of the scale they will not do well.
To harvest seeds from dried fruit, soak the seeds in water over night. In the morning squeeze the seeds out of the pulp. The good seeds will sink and the pulp will float. Pour the pulp off and dry the seeds by placing them in a shallow dish and put a strip of paper towel in the dish to wick out the water. Seeds that touch the paper may stick and be hard to remove. The dried seeds may be stored in a cool dry place for future planting or planted immediately.
Seeds from most any source germinate well at room temperature. Plant two or three seeds in a small pot. Remove the less vigorous seedlings; while keeping the healthiest starts. In our experience, seeds started in the spring are best grown in the greenhouse the first summer, and planted out the next spring. They will not produce fruit for at least three years.
Bare Root Stock
Bare root plants are by far the most economical and easiest way to reproduce wolfberries. Shipping costs are minimal and survival rate is phenomenal. Wolfberries are very vigorous and starts from Phoenix Tears Nursery range from well rooted plants to something that looks like a stick that you would not expect to mature into a producing plant.
Bare-root stock may arrive with some ware and tare due to shipping, be patient, plants will grow. Normally growth will be noted within a few weeks, but occasionally it may take a month to see new growth. Upon arrival soak roots in water a few hours before planting. If this is not possible sprinkle the roots lightly with water and store in a cool place. If stored in a refrigerator, do not freeze. Best place to store before planting is in the vegetable crisper. For the first few weeks after planting, keep soil moist, but not saturated. As new leaves appear, cut back on the amount of water. Mature plants are very drought tolerant. Our source plants survived decades in the Utah West Desert with little water. Do not sprinkle irrigate the foliage. Water from below. Blossoms are sensitive to heavy sprinkling and do not like hail at all. The more you water, the more shoots you will get in the rows between the plants.
Plants are available in various sized pots. Due to the high shipping cost (often more than the cost of the plant itself) potted plants are normally only available for local pickup or truck delivery for large nursery orders. When transplanting potted plants, let the soil in the pot dry out a bit, run a knife around the inside of the pot and try to get the entire soil mass out without disturbing the root system. Plant slightly deeper than the plants were in the pot. Water plants well for a few weeks. Pots containing multiple plants can be treated like bare root starts. Wet the soil and separate individual plants. Plants can be maintained in number 2 pots (2 gallon) or larger and will produce fruit while grown in the pots.
Managing Established Plants
We use no insecticides and the plants are largely bug free. Wolfberries are self pollinating, and do not require bees, but bees and other pollinators do come to the blossoms. Robins are the worst pest at our Cache Valley nursery. Where robins are prevalent you may need to cover berry rows. We cover with mosquito netting. Our soil is heavy clay from ancient lake Bonneville. The clay must be nutrient loaded, as we have added no fertilizer in the past four years and production of berries remains high.
Plants may be pruned to remove all shoots over one meter in length to establish a bush-like plant. On trellised plants, cut sprawling and overcrowded shoots to open up the plants for ease in picking and better production.
A few young shoots should be left on when fall pruning to supply early summer fruit. Pruning promotes early summer growth for a heavy late summer berry crop. Plants will produce fruit even after light fall frosts. Early spring or late fall pruning seems to produce similar results. Remove any dead shoots when they appear. See below wild bush-like plant pruned by animals. Note size of trunk.
Most varieties of Wolfberries have some thorns. They usually develop on second or third year growth. Pruning cuts down on thorns. The Phoenix Tears variety is not totally thornless, but compared to varieties grown from Ningxia seed, is much less thorny.