Bright, colorful and full of flavor, planting raspberries is a great way to enjoy fresh fruit in your garden. Happy to grow in a small space, raspberries can be harvested from midsummer until the first frost hits and, with a little care, the plants return year after year.
If you want to add this most pleasing of fruiting canes to your garden, here is everything you need to know.
Packed full of flavor, planting raspberries is one of the simplest garden tasks. A versatile fruit you can grow them in beds, planters or containers.
Different Varieties of Raspberries
Raspberries are self-fertile. This means that the flowers are complete, both the pistil and stamen are present in each flower. Consequently you only need one plant to produce fruit. You also don’t need to pollinate the plants yourself. Visiting bees and pollinators do the work for you.
Originally raspberries were best suited to cultivation in colder climates. However many varieties are now suitable for warmer planting zones.
One of the most commonly grown fruiting canes, raspberry plants are usually split into two distinct categories.
Summer fruiting raspberries are the most commonly seen and grown. These produce fruit on the previous year’s growth. They also produce only one crop per season, usually during June or July.
Ever-bearing raspberries produce fruit on fresh canes. These plants are also known as fall-bearing raspberry plants. Ever-bearing plants typically produce a fall crop, followed by a second crop of fruit the following summer.
To maximise the harvest period many gardeners like to grow a combination of summer fruiting and ever bearing raspberry plants.
Canby is a reliable summer bearing variety. Almost completely thornless the plant produces pleasing red berries. The summer bearing purple fruiting Royalty is ideal for warmer areas as is Jewel. Like Royalty, Jewel is a summer bearing variety that produces black fruit and is pleasingly disease resistant. The fruit is great fresh or can be used to make your own jam.
Heritage is a red fruiting, ever bearing variety that does well in Mid-Atlantic areas. Another reliable cultivar is Double Gold. An ever bearing that thrives in warmer areas, Double Gold is prized for its eye-catching yellow fruit.
Boyne is a hardy, summer variety. Boyne’s red fruit is ideal for james and freezing. Similarly Killarney is another red fruiting, summer bearing plant. Producing larger, and sweeter fruit than Boyne, this is a popular choice if you want to enjoy fresh fruit.
Varieties for Container Gardens
A number of bush varieties of raspberries have, in recent years, been developed for container gardens. Raspberry Shortcake is one example. A compact, thornless plant its fruit ripens at the height of summer.
Red Latham is a self-pollinating variety that fruits from late June into July. Capable of reaching 6 ft in height, this plant requires staking.
Anne is an everbearing example that produces sweet, yellow fruit. It is also pleasingly cold hardy.
Finally, Glencoe Purple Thornless Floricane Raspberry is a red and black fruit cross. This means that the plant produces flavor filled purple fruit. A non-spreading bush variety it reaches a height of about 3 ft. It also tolerates heat well meaning it is a good choice for gardeners in warmer climates.
Raspberries come in a range of colors, shapes and flavors. Planting a mixture of summer fruiting and everbearing varieties allows you to extend the harvest period.
Raspberries are sold as either live potted plants or as bare roots. Bare roots are usually dormant when you purchase them. They can also look scraggly. Whichever option you choose, planting and care is pleasingly straightforward.
The easiest way to begin growing raspberry plants is to purchase one year old canes from a specialist nursery. The canes can be planted in early spring, once the last frost has passed. In milder climates, where the ground doesn’t freeze, you can continue planting canes throughout the fall.
Potted plants or transplants are best planted in the spring after the last frost has passed.
Where to Plant
Planting raspberries in sunny positions allows you the greatest chance of a heavy crop of fruit. Ideally the plants should receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. Unlike other fruiting canes raspberry plants also grow in partial shade positions. This makes them ideal for forest planting schemes.
The soil should be rich and well draining. There should also be some protection from the wind. Don’t plant in wet or windy positions.
Ideally the soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5. If you are unsure of the condition of your soil, why not invest in a soil test kit? This is a great way to gauge the health of your garden. Planting raspberries in a slightly acidic soil helps to prevent manganese and iron deficiencies. If your soil is alkaline, there are a number of ways to make it more acidic.
Plant as far from any wild berries as possible. This helps to keep your plants healthy.
While they are self-fertile, bees love to visit raspberry plants. If you are a beekeeper try planting raspberries near your hives. Both the plants and the bees will benefit from this.
How to Plant Raspberries
To enrich your soil dig in a couple of inches of compost or aged manure. This is best done a few weeks before planting so that the organic matter has time to break down. It also allows the soil time to settle.
Soak the roots for a couple of hours before planting. This is particularly useful for bare root plants where the root system may have dried out and become brittle. If you are able to water the soil well after planting raspberries there is no need to soak the roots before planting.
With a shovel, dig a hole large enough for the roots to spread out. If you are planting more than one raspberry bush, it may be easier to dig a long trench.
Position each plant so that the crown is 1 to 2 inches above the ground.
Spacing depends on the variety you are growing. Yellow and red varieties can be planted 2 to 3 ft apart. Black fruiting varieties require a spacing of about 4 ft. Aim to leave a space of 4 to 6 ft between each row or trench.
Once you are happy with the position of the plants fill the hole or trench in and lightly firm down the soil.
Planted canes can be cut down to a height of about 9 inches. This encourages new growth to emerge.
Supporting Your Plants
The best time to install support canes or a trellis is when you are planting raspberries. The Minifa Bamboo Trellis is an ideal support, allowing the vines plenty of space to spread. Alternatively plant your raspberries in front of a fence. Hanging three horizontal wires or lengths of string along the fence. This gives the plants some support.
You can also make your own t-trellises or v-trellises. String guidelines evenly between the support canes. A height of 4 ft is more than tall enough for most varieties.
Many varieties require some form of support. The best time to install support is when you are planting. This enables you to grow the plants along the support, ensuring a healthy growth habit from the start.
Planting in Containers
Plant in large containers. A 16 inch pot comfortably holds one raspberry cane. If you want to plant several canes together try planting raspberries in five gallon buckets. Half barrels, such as rain barrels, can also be used.
The containers should be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom. Planting raspberries in self watering containers allows you to create a low maintenance fruit garden.
Fill containers with well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Work aged manure, peat moss or compost into general purpose potting soil to create the ideal mix. Add a dose of balanced fertilizer to the soil for an extra nutritional boost. This application lasts for 3 to 4 months depending on the growing conditions and the amount of plants growing in the soil.
Make a hole in the soil large enough to hold the plant. The roots should have plenty of room to spread. Plant as you would in the ground, so that the roots are about 1 to 3 inches below the soil.
Gently firm the soil down and water well. If the soil settles low, exposing the top of the root system, add more soil. Mulch around the plant.
Caring for Raspberry Plants
Once planting is complete there are a few further things you can do to ensure a bumper crop of raspberries.
During dry periods apply an inch of water once a week from spring onwards. Watering regularly benefits the plants far more than an infrequent deep soaking. If you have a lot of plants to water you may want to try harvesting your own rainwater. This is a great way to keep your plants hydrated without running up an expensive water bill or wasting natural resources.
Applying an organic mulch around the plants helps the soil to conserve moisture. It also suppresses weed growth. Remember, because they break down, organic mulches require replacing on a regular basis.
Raspberry plants are notoriously heavy feeders. Before planting mix half a cup of all purpose organic fertilizer into the soil. Apply two inches of compost to beds every spring. A dose of fish emulsion as the flowers appear helps to encourage a large crop of fruit.
From the second year onwards, establish a feeding routine. Apply one dose of general purpose fertilizer in the spring. Repeat this application once during the summer months.
Plants in containers often require more regular fertilizing. When the plants are actively growing apply a liquid kelp fertilizer twice a month. In the spring following the first growing season apply another dose of balanced fertilizer in March. Repeat this in May. Adding compost and mulch regularly during the growing season helps to keep plants healthy.
If you have a large bed of fruiting canes, fertilizing maybe easier if you use a pump sprayer.
How to Prune
During the growing season pruning should only be done if you need to tidy the appearance of the plants.
Prune away any suckers or canes that are well away from the main plant, or row of plants. These can drain nutrients away from the main plant, meaning that next year’s crop may be smaller. Healthy suckers can be cut away and replanted as new plants. Just remember to water well after planting.
Pruning Summer Fruiting Varieties
Use garden scissors to prune summer fruiting varieties as soon as you have finished harvesting. If the canes are thorny, wear gloves and a long sleeved top to protect your hands and arms.
Cut the canes that produced fruit down to the ground. These are older canes and are usually brown in color. Allow the younger, green canes to remain in place. These will bear fruit next year.
After pruning tie the young canes to the support wires or trellis loosely with some string. Spread the canes so that there is a gap of about 4 inches between each cane canes. This allows air to circulate, helping to keep the plants healthy. It also allows room for fruit to develop unimpeded.
Pruning Ever-bearing Varieties
Ever-bearing or fall bearing canes can be cut back to ground level in late winter. This should be done before new growth emerges in the early spring.
If you want a fall and summer crop, do not remove the green canes that have produced fruit. Instead prune them to a height of about 12 inches above the ground or down to the last visible fruit producing node. Cut away any dead tips.
Companion planting is the process of planting mutually beneficial plants together. Raspberries do well if planted alongside:
While some plants benefit from planting close to each others, other combinations should be avoided. Do not try planting raspberries close to:
Many of these plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt, which also affects raspberries.
Common Pests and Problems
If planting is done correctly and the plants are properly spaced and cared for raspberries are rarely troubled by pests and disease. Interestingly, black raspberries are more prone to problems than purple or red varieties.
Powdery mildew can often affect crowded plants. Spacing correctly, so that air can circulate, pruning away old stalks and watering only the base of the plant helps to prevent mildew.
Stunted plants are probably underwatered. Gradually increase the frequency of your watering routine.
Regularly check your plants for signs of infestation or disease. Properly planting your fruiting canes, so that air can circulate between them, helps to keep your plants healthy.
Cane blight causes cankers to appear on canes. If allowed to develop this issue can cause plants to wilt and die. To prevent blight, properly space your raspberries when planting. Watering only the base of the plants also helps to keep them healthy. Affected plants should be dug up and destroyed.
Raspberry leaf spot is a fungus that causes dark spots to form on the foliage of plants. It also weakens plants and reduces harvests. Like yellow rust, which causes yellow spots to appear on foliage, the easiest way to prevent this disease is to ensure proper air circulation between plants. When planting, allow plenty of space between each plant and prune away old stalks every year.
Raspberry Plant Pests
The beetles of cane borer can cause the tips of shoots to blacken. On closer inspection you will see two rings below the dead tip. This is a clear indication that cane borers are present. Cut away affected shoots from just below the bottom ring and destroy.
Aphids should be removed from the plant as quickly as possible. Blasting with a hose or simply wiping the foliage with neem oil removes most infestations. If allowed to live on the plants, aphids can cause the raspberry mosaic disease to strike. This can slow the growth habit of the plant and also harm fruit production. A number of varieties of raspberries are now resistant to this disease.
Raspberry beetle or fruitworm target fresh foliage and fruit buds. An organic pesticide controls this pest that overwinters in the soil around your plants.
Rabbits can also target the canes, especially during the winter months. A chicken wire fence, such as the Yardgard Poultry Fence, is a great way to prevent pests accessing your plants
How to Harvest and Store
Berries can take about 2 weeks to ripe.
Harvesting is best done on bright, sunny days when the fruit is dry. To harvest gently pull the raspberries from the plant. Ripe fruit is easily removed from the plant. Don’t handle the fruit too roughly, this can bruise or damage the fruit.
Raspberries are best enjoyed fresh. If you find yourself with a glut of the fruit they can also be refrigerated for up to 5 days. To do this don’t wash the fruit. This can cause them to turn soft or mouldy when placed in the fridge. If you do decide to wash before refrigerating, allow the fruits to dry thoroughly before storing.
You can also freeze the fruit. To do this lie the fruit flat on plates or baking trays and freeze. Once frozen the fruit can be placed in airtight bags and stored until you are ready to use.
Carefully pick fruit from the plants. Handling too roughly can bruise or damage the fruit.
Pleasingly easy to grow, and great to eat, planting raspberries in your garden is a rewarding process. They are also a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. If you don’t enjoy the fruit, consider planting a few anyway. They are a great way to make your garden more bird friendly.
The undemanding nature of the raspberry plant makes them a pleasure to grow, and the rewards are fabulous. Suitable for a range of conditions and situations, almost everyone with a little outdoor space can enjoy planting raspberries.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.