How & When To Prune Raspberry & Blackberry Bushes

How & When To Prune Raspberry & Blackberry Bushes

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Whether it is to make jams and jelly, syrup, pies, and muffins, or just a handful on a bowl of breakfast cereal or in your smoothie, these delectable jewels right off the cane are a healthy fresh fruit that embodies summer itself! 

The entire family of Caneberries, including Red and Gold Raspberries, Blackberries, and their cousins, like Black Raspberries, Dewberries, Salmonberries, Loganberry, Boysenberry and Thimbleberry, Marionberry, Blackcaps, Thimbleberries, Youngberry, plus a slew of other new hybrids - all produce delightful, healthy fruit! 

Healthy Garden Jewels

songbird on a blackberry plant

High in Vitamin C, and folate, high in dietary fiber, and low calorie, these are high in bio-flavinoids and kid-friendly gems! Technically identified as aggregate fruits, these juicy, sweet-tart fruits form on woody, thorny branches called canes. There are erect, semi-erect, and trailing varieties, and some that are even thornless!

All have the Rose family’s well-known drifts of glorious white blossoms that are mildly sweetly fragrant, but some can have pink. They look like a cross between a strawberry bloom and an apple blossom and have a light sweet scent.

Plus these deciduous canes fill out in richly textured, deeply veined, pleated, and toothy lush green leaves to create lovely, if not prickly and heavily-armed, ornamental! They are both beautiful property division and privacy that feeds you! Not only is the fruit good for you, but the leaves of some varieties have been as tea.

The foliage is a vital caterpillar Host Plant for many butterfly and moth species. Plus you’ll have a love/hate relationship with local songbirds. Not only will you be providing them shelter and food, but you’ll be fighting them for the juicy berries. Luckily you can just plant one for them and a covered one for yourself!

But to keep your shrubs in check so they don’t outgrow your garden spaces, and more importantly, to keep those juicy treats appearing in the biggest, juiciest clusters, there are a few very important things to know about their care and pruning!

The Three Main Types of Canes blackberry bush

The type of berry bush you have will determine when you can prune. Cane fruit plants can be broken down into three main types. Most brambles are perennial and each individual cane will bear fruit only once. Usually growing on a two-year cycle, the new shoots are called Primocanes, which are fall-bearing and last year's shoots are Floricanes.

Some members of the Rubus family bloom and fruit on those Primocanes, while others bloom and fruit on Floricanes. Others produce fruit on the tips of the Primocanes in the fall, then the bottom portion of the same Primocane will produce fruit in the 2nd season when it becomes the Floricane in summer - and these are called Everbearing.

Primocanes september raspberry bush

A cane that comes from the roots in the spring is considered a first-year cane, Primocanes are the first or primary canes that appear in spring and fruits in autumn, also called fall-bearing. Sometimes only producing vegetative (non-fruiting) growth, sometimes these canes also produce fruit in the fall, on the branch tips.

Primocane varieties include:

  • Autumn Bliss
  • Polka
  • Royalty
  • September
  • Marion (Marionberries)


cascade gold raspberry

After winter, when new growth has begun, last year's canes that overwintered, are now called Floricanes. These bloom on last year's growth and are harvested in summer, hence their other name - summer-bearing.

Great Floricane varieties are:

  • Boyne
  • Cascade Gold
  • Triple Crown Thornless
  • Arapaho Thornless
  • Williamette

Everbearing baby cakes blackberry bush

Everbearing cane shrubs have both Floricane and Primocanes on the same plant, allowing you to enjoy your first crop of berries in the summer (on last year’s Floricane) and then a second crop later that fall (on the Primocane branch tips)! Boysenberry bushes are one variety that has two great crops each year!

Some great Everbearing varieties include:

  • Prime-Ark® Freedom Thornless 
  • Bristol Black
  • Fall Gold
  • Joan J
  • Bushel and Berry® Baby Cakes®

How to Prune Caneberry Plants

Pruning yearly means maintaining a vigorous, healthy plant that produces loads of big juicy berries! Take the ouch out of pruning your shrubs by having the right equipment. pruning raspberry bush

  • Heavy Gloves
  • Long Pruning Shears
  • Hand Pruners
  • Long-Sleeved Shirt
  • Alcohol to Sanitize Your Shears
  • A few bandaids - just in case the thorns get you

Use clean and sharp garden shears to cut the two-year-old canes back to the ground. Removing the old canes keeps your plants clean, healthy, and easier to harvest. This way you are in a constant state of renewing new canes from the ground and removing the old wood that finished doing its job of making fruit.

Floricane Pruning

Berry plants that fruit on last year's canes (Floricane) can be pruned right after fully harvested. Those canes should be cut to the ground, leaving the new green shoots in place (Primocanes) that are already growing.

Fall trimming of the second-year Floricanes is useful for cleaning up the garden and promoting new shoots to grow the following spring. Removing these canes as soon as you are done harvesting will reduce the chance of disease overwintering with the plants.

Primocane - Spring Pruning blackberry pruning

Often spring pruning just involves pruning off anything that died back over the winter nipped off, winter or early spring, thin the first-year canes to four to six per plant, being sure to remove any that are damaged or diseased. Cut off the tips of the Primocanes once they have grown a few feet tall. Do this during the spring, before they start growing for 3 purposes:

  • To only remove the tips that fruited last fall on the everbearing varieties
  • To even up and encourage side shoots and larger fruit bringing uniformity to your plants
  • Improve fruiting and plant health

Pruning Everbearing Canes

Tipping or tip pruning is highly recommended. These produce a smaller amount of fruit on the tips of the Primocanes in the fall. For this type of berry, you should prune back the dead tips of the Primocanes after they produce in the fall, in addition to the trimming described above. Prune the tips back a couple of nodes below the dead portion of each Primocane.

How to Train Your Bramble summer blackberry bush

Different than pruning, there is also a bit of training needed, especially for young plants. Training involves positioning canes to make harvest easier, keep them from becoming tangled and allow sunlight penetration, and air movement. It also minimizes disease, removes dead branching, and helps prevent fungal issues.

Trellising is good for supporting new Primocanes and semi-erect varieties, especially with trailing varieties. Various trellising methods focus on separating Primocanes from Floricanes. Trailing varieties that are not trained or trellised can be allowed to ramble and spill over hillsides, retaining walls, and as a groundcover.

Branching that looks dead, or you suspect is diseased, remove it down to just past the living/healthy tissue. If you are unsure whether a branch is dead or not, perform a scratch test to see if the branch is still green beneath the bark. Snip the dead portion above it cleanly at a 45-degree angle. If the entire cane looks suspicious, simply cut that cane right to the ground and dispose of it.

Any time is also a good time to remove crossing branches or any cluttering/shading of the interior. Cutting out anything extra while securing new canes to a trellis or support.

Special Summer Treats! summer raspberries

We all love the big fat juicy summer gems that appear among thorny canes each year! Finding one of these delectable fruit bushes in the wild or while on a hike is a special treat. Having one or more growing in your own backyard only makes it better! Your pollinators and wildlife will agree!

Pick out your own backyard you-pick-it berry farm with one or more of the many fantastic fruiting cane bushes at, or one of the many newer cultivars that are thornless and take the ‘ouch’ out of harvesting these incredibly healthy and delicious garden treats!

Let and our #ProPlantTips for care help you keep your fruiting bushes looking, and producing, their berry-best!

Happy Planting!

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