How to Grow Raspberries

Raspberries are relatively easy to grow in the backyard, but they do have some special pruning requirements. Of the 200 varieties of raspberries, there are some that will grow in every area of the U.S., from arctic to tropical climates.

Strawberry Plant

Raspberries come in two types: ever-bearing and summer-bearing. Ever-bearing raspberries produce two crops, one in the spring and one in the fall while summer-bearing types produce one crop in the summer. Red and yellow raspberries tend to be of the ever-bearing types, while black raspberries and purple hybrids tend to be summer-bearing.

Another difference between the red or yellow types and the black or purple types is their growth habit. Red and yellow raspberries send up suckers and shoots both from the root system and the crown of the plant and grow into thick hedgerows, while the black and purple varieties only send up shoots from the crown. Both types require trellising, though red and yellow raspberries require minimal support along a row. Black and purple varieties are generally grown in hills with an individual stake for each plant.

Raspberries should be planted in a sunny area sheltered from winds. The plants need at least six hours of sunlight and can handle full-day sun in all but the hottest climates. Raspberries prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.5. To increase soil acidity in alkaline soils add composted leaves or sawdust, and to decrease soil acidity add lime. Raspberries should not be planted in an area that has previously grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or strawberries to avoid a disease called Verticillium wilt.

Raspberry plants are usually sold as dormant bare-root canes and may be first year bearing or second year bearing canes. For first year bearing canes, plant the cane with the crown just covered with soil and cut the cane down to a height of about four inches. For second year bearing canes, plant the crown into the soil and do not cut back. For red and yellow varieties, plant the canes in a row up to 40 feet long with about 2 feet between plants. String trellis up along the length of the row. For black and purple varieties, plant the canes 3 to 5 feet apart in a hill around a supporting post.

Raspberry plants require between 1 and 2 inches of water per week, but the soil should not be allowed to remain wet for long periods or root rot will set in. During fruiting periods care should be taken to avoid wetting the leaves and blossoms.

After the plantings are established, raspberries will need regular pruning. For summer bearing red raspberries, pruning should be done in the spring, cutting the plants back to a maximum height of five feet, and again after fruiting the canes which bore fruit should be removed. Ever-bearing raspberries should be pruned once in the spring to take off height and again after the spring and fall fruiting period to remove canes that bore fruit. Ever-bearing canes can also be mowed down in the spring to a height of 2 to 3 inches and allowed to grow back. Using this method the ever-bearing canes will only produce one crop per year.

Raspberries are generally hardy and disease resistant, but there are some pests and diseases that affect raspberries. Raspberries are susceptible to anthracnose, a fungal disease that causes spots and drying of the leaves and canes. Avoid watering from the top. Follow proper pruning methods to avoid anthracnose, and if the disease is confirmed, a fungicide can be used. Raspberries are also susceptible to several types of blight, which can also be prevented by proper pruning and watering methods.

Garden pests that are common to raspberry plants include the raspberry crown and cane borer, raspberry bud moth and raspberry fruit worms. Heavy infestations of these pests require the use of insecticides. Earwigs and grasshoppers can also attack raspberry plants. To control earwigs remove dead leaves debris around the base of the plant and keep the rows well-weeded. To control grasshopper populations, till the soil around the plants in the spring to destroy eggs.

Harvest berries as they become ripe. Berries will become ripe at different times even on the same plants, so there should be plenty of berries for a stretch of three weeks to a month.

<< Raspberry Health Benefits | Raspberries in the Kitchen >>


University of Illinois: Raspberries and More: Planting Raspberries
The University of Maine: Growing Raspberries and Blackberries
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Raspberries for the Backyard Fruit Planting


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