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Growing Lycium: Desert-thorn / Wolfberry

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Form: Shrub.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen, but deciduous when stressed by cold or drought.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 4-8' high and as wide.
Flowers: Tiny, funnel shaped, often clustered.
Bloom: Various times of year depending on species.
Fruit: Red, spherical, about 1/4" diameter, with several seeds, edible but tasteless.
Leaves: Green to blue-green, small, usually covered with minute hairs, often spatulate (shaped like a spatula), often somewhat succulent.
Stems: Stiff, densely branched, thorny to nearly thornless.
Roots: Fibrous, extensive.
Species of Note:
Lycium andersonii: Red Berry Desert-thorn / Water Jacket has white to pale purple flowers, blooms late winter into early summer. The stems are thorny. The leaves are linear to spatulate and deciduous. USDA Hardiness 8-10.
Lycium berlandieri: Berlandier's Wolfberry has blue to purple flowers, blooms in summer. The stems have few thorns, mostly at the ends of branches. The leaves are linear to spatulate and evergreen. USDA Hardiness 7-10.
Lycium brevipes: Baja Desert-thorn has white to purple flowers, blooms most of the year. The stems are very thorny. The leaves are oval to spatulate and evergreen. USDA Hardiness 9-10.
Lycium fremontii: Fremont's Desert-thorn has purple flowers, blooms late winter and spring. The stems are thornless or sparsely thorned. The leaves are spatulate and deciduous. USDA Hardiness 9-10.
Wildlife: The fruit attracts birds. The flowers attract pollinating insects, and possibly butterflies and hummingbirds. These plants are larval host plants for several species of moths.
Toxic / Danger: Thorns.
Origin: North America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 7-10, depending on species.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Water after becoming established: Monthly. More frequent water produces more leaves, flowers and fruit.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low in organic content, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline).
Mulch: No. The soil should dry quickly.
First Year Care: Water every 3-10 days at the drip line as needed to establish an extensive root system.
Prune: Prune to shape in winter before blooming begins.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed or cuttings.
Uses: Barrier plant, hedge, bird garden, ornamental.

Lycium is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). The common name Wolfberry is a misnomer because Lycium refers to a province of ancient Greece named Lycia (now modern Turkey), not to the Greek word for wolf. This plant is considered easy to grow when first year water needs are met.

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Latest update: December, 2019.

Lycium brevipes: Baja Desert-thorn
Lycium brevipes: Baja Desert-thorn