Growing raspberries is a great way to get delicious fruit every year. But, proper pruning is an essential part of the care and maintenance of these hearty perennials.
We recently began growing raspberries on our little homestead we have a cultivated patch of red raspberries and another of black raspberries. We also have a nice patch of wild raspberries nearby. They’re certainly one of our favorite fruits.
Why should raspberry plants be pruned?
Pruning raspberries is essential to their overall health and future production. Left to their own devices raspberries can become a tangled up mess of thorny vines that make it difficult, if not impossible, to harvest from.
Raspberries that aren’t regularly pruned can even stop producing fruit. So, regular pruning can increase yields on these delicious canes.
Regular pruning also helps maintain your plants. A lot of folks think that raspberries have a tendency to kind of take over, and they can. But proper pruning can help keep your patch where you want it instead of unruly and spreading everywhere.
When Should Raspberries be Cut Back?
Each raspberry cane is what is considered a biennial. It produces foliage its first year, fruit the second and then the cane dies at the end of its second year. However, there are different varieties. Determining which type you have will determine proper care and pruning.
There are essentially two types of raspberries.
- Summer bearing raspberries have canes that produce fruit in the summer of their second year. This fruit is produced on the previous years growth.
- Ever Bearing (fall bearing) raspberries have canes that will produce fruit on the current seasons growth in the late summer of their first year. They will then fruit again the following summer on that same growth. These varieties are sometimes referred to as ever bearing because they will produce that second crop on the old growth in the summer and produce fruit on the current years growth that same year later in the summer.
In addition to these differences, red raspberries produce what are called suckers at the base of the previous years growth while black raspberries form on new growth, so the pruning technique for each is slightly different.
How to Prune Raspberry Canes
Summer Bearing Red (and yellow) Raspberry Bush Pruning
Summer bearing plants will be pruned after harvest in the late summer or fall.
Since these plants will produce on this year’s new growth, the goal is to remove the canes that produced fruit this year. You can identify them fairly easily as they will appear brown or grey in color and be more brittle.
This year’s growth will appear green and strong.
Remove the old growth to the ground, not leaving any stub, with your pruning shears.
Remove any diseased, damaged, or weak new growth in the same way.
Note: in order to keep your raspberry patch manageable, after your plants are around 3 to 4 years old, it is best to leave only about 10 of the strongest canes and remove the rest.
In late winter, or early spring, you can also manage the height of your canes and trim them back to a manageable height of around 4 feet tall.
Ever Bearing Red (and yellow) Raspberry Bush Pruning
There are two methods for pruning ever bearing varieties depending on if you are pruning for one, or two crops.
The first method is tedious. And while it will produce two crops, the work involved results in very little yield. However, I will walk you through how to do it.
If pruning for two crops, in the early spring, you can remove the portion of the cane that produced fruit the previous year. You will know you’ve pruned to the right spot when you can see a bit of green at the end of the cane where you cut it. If you prune and it still appears grey in color, cut down a little more.
You’ll have to do this to every cane in your patch… time consuming doesn’t even begin to cover it. Then, you’ll do the following….
Once those canes that you trimmed back produce fruit, you can remove the growth to the ground, not leaving any stub, in the fall when you prune your summer bearing fruit.
Since it’s so time consuming, most people choose to grow these as fall bearing varieties that produce one, large crop.
To prune for one, large crop, in the early spring you’ll simply cut back your patches first year growth to within an inch of the ground. That’s it! This method will produce a healthier, larger yield as well as saving you tons of time.
Black Raspberry Bush Pruning
Black raspberries grow a bit different than red raspberries, so the pruning method is slightly different.
In the fall, you’ll remove the fruiting canes after you’ve harvested. Also remove all dead canes and any that are smaller than 1/2″ in diameter.
In the spring, tip prune new shoots when they are around 3 feet tall by trimming off 3 to 4 inches. This encourages side branching, which is where the fruit grows.
These side branches should be pruned to keep them around 10 inches long. Repeat the process after harvest.
Additional Tips for Pruning Raspberries
When pruning, be sure you prune at a 10 or 2 angle to allow them to easily and properly heal.
Pruning raspberries is necessary, but fairly easy and will provide you with a bountiful harvest of delicious fruit for years to come.
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Thursday 9th of March 2023
This is my second season of red raspberries. Unsure of what to cut back, I have waited, but find there are multiple new shoots coming out of my existing canes from last year, and am unsure what to do at this point. What do you suggest? It looks as though I had side shoots off last years canes.
Sunday 19th of March 2023
Those new shoots will fruit, as I mentioned the canes are biennial so you won't be pruning much other than to maintain the area you want them to stay in until next winter.
Thursday 18th of August 2022
Thank you for this information, I didn't know how or when and my 2nd year i was lost trying to harvest it.
Saturday 27th of August 2022
Glad you found it helpful!
Saturday 1st of May 2021
Thanks For Sharing Your blog. Keep Doing Good Work.