You may be acquainted with matrimony vine, a sprawling plant with spiny stems, leathery leaves, bell-shaped purple or lavender blooms and red berries that fade to purple. If this doesn’t sound familiar, you may know the plant by one of its many alternate names – Barbary matrimony vine, boxthorn, false jessamine or wolfberry.
The berries, also known as goji berries, have a tart, tomato-like flavor. They are good to eat raw, dried or cooked. However, the leaves are toxic when eaten in large quantities.
About Matrimony Vine Plants
Native to the Mediterranean, matrimony vine has escaped cultivation and is naturalized in the warm climates of Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida. It is a member of the plant family that includes nightshade, potatoes and tomatoes.
Matrimony vine (Lycium barbarum) is a fast-growing plant that tolerates wet, sandy soil and standing water. However, it is tough enough to withstand periods of drought. It is a good choice for erosion control, although it can become weedy.
The easiest way to grow a matrimony vine is to purchase a small plant from a greenhouse or nursery. Dig a little compost or manure into the soil, then plant the vine after the last frost in spring or shortly before the first frost in autumn.
Alternatively, start a new plant by taking cuttings from an existing plant. Cut a 4- to 5-inch stem. Strip off the bottom leaves; dip the end of the cuttings in rooting hormone, then plant them in potting mix.
Cover the cuttings with plastic and keep them in a warm, semi-dark location until you notice new growth. At that time, remove the plastic and move the young plants to bright light. Water as needed to keep the potting mix lightly moist, but never soggy.
Once they are growing, matrimony vine requires little care. Fertilize the plant occasionally, but don’t overfeed or you’ll have lush growth and no blooms or berries. Prune in early spring, then trim lightly to keep the plant neat and tidy throughout the growing season.