The raspberry is a bramble fruit that’s part of the Rosaceae family, of the Rubus genus. Like other brambles, raspberries have perennial roots and crowns, which means they’ll be a garden contributor for many years, so long as they’re appropriately cared for.
Raspberry plants have long, curving stems called canes. Canes play a primary role in the raspberry growing game, so let’s start there.
The Two Kinds of Raspberry Canes
Raspberry plants have two kinds of canes and each has a specific role and a specific set of needs.
These are the new, green shoots found at the top of the plant. You may hear them referred to as the “first years.” These stems grow vegetatively. Their job is to develop a brown bark that will keep the plant safe during the winter months when the plants are dormant.
These are the 2-year old canes, they’re what the primocanes that are put to sleep during the winter become. Floricanes emerge in the summer bearing flowers and fruits.
Floricanes aren’t pruned because flowers and fruits only grow on that kind of cane. Hold on to this fact for a little later, when we talk about the importance of plant maintenance.
What Types of Raspberries are There?
Raspberries can be grouped in lots of different ways, such as growing season, structural needs, color, taste, location, and maintenance requirements. It really depends on the grower to determine what they are looking for.
If you’re thinking about adding raspberries to your garden, is there a particular raspberry that you favor? One that you buy often from the market? If so, do you know what kind it is? If you’re not sure or don’t have a favorite, don’t worry, you’ve got options.
The next step is to look for raspberry farms near you or fellow gardeners in your area. Look for gardening clubs or Facebook groups. People in your area will be familiar with what kinds of raspberries grow best and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to join the club or group. Having a community of fellow gardeners to discuss things with is always a good idea.
Grouping the Raspberries by Harvest
The most general way to group raspberries is by harvest. All raspberries fall under one of two types, each with their own specific requirements for growing.
Summer-fruiting – this is the most common type of raspberry. It yields one crop per season, usually in June or July. These raspberries tend to grow tall so they need to be trellised or otherwise supported, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
Everbearing (sometimes called autumn-bearing or fall-bearing) – this type will yield two crops. The smaller of the two will come first, in the fall, with another, more bountiful harvest in the immediately following summer. These raspberries don’t grow as tall as their summer-fruiting siblings, so support isn’t always necessary.
To give you and your raspberries the best chance at a solid harvesting period, your best bet is a mix of both kinds.
The Different Colors of Raspberries and Their Attributes
Once you decide on your desired harvesting season(s), the color of a raspberry can help you narrow your choice down further.
Red and Yellow (Gold)
Red raspberries are the more commonly known and preferred group. Yellow raspberries are a mutation of red raspberries, so they’re also thought of as “red” raspberries.
Reds are usually more winter hardy than their black and purple cousins because they can handle cooler climates. However, they can’t stand the heat as well. If you choose a red variety and live in a place with high heat in the summer, be sure to find a spot that your raspberries will get some shade in the afternoon.
Reds are collectively considered the juiciest of this berry family which corresponds with their intolerance for heat. This also may explain why reds are the smaller of the cousins in both size and yield since sunlight is a large factor in how much a plant produces.
Small in size with a mellow flavor.
A favorite with growers, these grow very large in size. They’re deep red in color and have a fine flavor.
A favorite with berry lovers, these are medium in both size and hue.
Another that’s large in size and flavor, these have a muted color.
These grow medium-large in size but have a light red color and a mild flavor.
These are similar in size and taste to the Newbergs but are darker in color.
One of the older strands, these are large and bright red with a hearty flavor. Amber. Golden in color, medium in size, big in flavor.
These are dark red in color, are rather large and have a wonderful flavor.
These are also large and wonderfully flavored but are lighter in color.
The golden version of the Summit variety.
These are medium in size and color with a lovely flavor.
Larger in size, deep red in color, with a mild flavor.
Another favorite with consumers, these are one of the largest of the reds.
Black and Purple Raspberries
Black and purple raspberries are both called “black” raspberries and are close cousins of the reds. The differences in red and black raspberries are mainly climate and harvest yields. Black raspberries are typically larger in both size and yield, a lot better in heat, but don’t do so well in cooler climates.
Black raspberries are often called “blackcaps” and are quicker to ripen than their purple siblings, but that may be due to the fact that the purple berries are larger in size. It makes sense that they’d need a little more time to ripen. Purples are collectively thought to have a more distinct flavor than blacks.
Black and purple raspberries are largely of the summer-bearing variety, with Hartmann’s Farms in Ohio claiming the single spot for ever-bearing with their Ohio’s Treasure strand.
Summer-bearing Blackcaps and Purples
These are medium in flavor and usually harvest mid-season.
These are one of the largest in size and taste, also harvest mid-season.
Mild in flavor, harvest early in season.
Purple color with the kind of flavor that makes for the best pies.
One of the traditional strands of blackcaps, these are early birds for harvesting.
A favorite for jam and jelly makers, these purples are soft and tart. They’re a late-season harvest.
This blackcap is a long-time favorite of growers and consumers. Harvest mid-season.
Firm and very tart, these purples are another late bloomer.
These lists are far from all that’s out there, so be sure to check with your fellow gardeners or growers.
What Kind of Climate Is Best for Raspberries?
Raspberries have been found to grow best in cool, moist climates like those found in planting zones 4-8 (USDA Hardiness Zones). However, thanks to hybridization, there are several varieties of raspberry can do well in almost any planting zone.
How Much Sunlight do Raspberries Need?
Like most vegetation, raspberries need a good amount of sunlight during their growing season but unlike a lot of other fruits, they can still flourish in partially shaded spots, if that’s your only option.
Just remember that there is a direct correlation between the amount of sunlight the plant gets and the amount of fruit it produces— more sunlight, more fruit.
Most seasoned gardeners will tell you that what happens before you plant is the most important part of the whole process. In order to give your raspberries the best possible life and live up to their yielding potential, there are a bunch of things that you’ll need to take care of.
After reading through this section, make yourself a checklist and pair it with a dedicated calendar for quick reference. You’ll be glad you did.
What Kind of Soil do Raspebbies Need?
To give be at the top of their game (and yours!), raspberries need well-drained, airy soil that’s rich in all those lovely organic nutrients.
Clay-based soil or sandy loam is a great option, if possible.
If you think your soil might need a little help to host your raspberries, you can always mix in some manure or well-aged compost. Just be sure to make any of these nutrient boosting additions a good 2-3 weeks before your plan to start planting.
Where Should I plant Raspberries?
The ideal place for your raspberries would be in a row (or rows) along the perimeter of your intended garden area, mainly because they’re the kind of plant that tends to sprawl and climb. This little quirk is important to keep in mind and plan for because:
They will quickly take over any area if not properly trained and pruned.
They shouldn’t share a garden area with plants belonging to the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, or potatoes) because nightshades are potential carriers of verticillium wilt, a disease that is very harmful to raspberries. It means they can get messy real quick if left unattended.
Always be sure to check on the compatibility of your garden’s planned content prior to making any purchases.
Your raspberries will need a good irrigation system throughout the growing season, so this is a crucial part of your pre-planting preparation.
Raspberries are a lot like Goldilocks and her view of those three beds when it comes to water: they don’t like to be submerged for long and won’t survive without enough.
With that in mind, if you have soil that’s slow to drain, like (pure or mostly) clay or other heavier soils, you should consider building a raised bed for your raspberries. If you take this route, be sure that you use soil that meets the requirements above.
Keep the WInd in Mind
Raspberry branches aren’t very thick but can grow pretty tall, especially the summer-fruiters, so your choice of location should include the wind factor.
Try to find a place that offers enough air for circulation but not direct wind, which could uproot them.
When to plant Raspberries?
Another item to include on your garden-planning checklist is marking the frost dates in your area on your calendar.
This is definitely an important item to check off if raspberries are on your gardening wish list because the best time to plant is in early spring, once the ground thaws from the winter months. If you’re planting in spring, you want to be sure that the threat of frost is a thing of the past before you break ground.
Supporting and Training Raspberries
With their tendency to wander (sprawl), raspberries can be quite aggressive. One of the ways this is kept in check is with the use of supports like trellises and fences.
It’s recommended that you make your choice between the options available for support and structure in the pre-planting planning stages so that you have everything you need when it’s time to put your plants in their new home.
As mentioned earlier, summer-bearing raspberries tend to grow taller than everbearing ones, so the installation of a support system, like trellises or fences is a must.
Many gardeners choose trellises for the added aesthetic. Indeed, the visual appeal of trellises can make even the stodgiest on-looker wistfully romantic.
Other Support Options
Other options you can consider are stakes, (bamboo) canes, or poles. It really depends on you and your plans for your garden.
We’ve finally made it to the actual planting part! Wow, that was a lot of preparation, right? But it’ll all be worth it when you pop that first juicy raspberry in your mouth at harvest.
The most common starts for raspberry bushes are either as bare-root or potted plants, which are usually available at a nearby nursery. Be sure to check with the nursery or doing some research online to determine which variety of raspberry you want to bring home
Unlike potted plants, bare-root plants need to be soaked in lukewarm water before planting. Think of this soak as a way to wake them up after their journey to your garden. If you’re not planning on planting them right away,
Potted plants don’t need the soaking but the steps to take after the soaking are much the same. The only other difference in methodology with regard to planting has to do with whether your raspberries are summer or ever-fruiting.
Once you’ve decided on a location, as discussed above, dig a hole that will allow the plant’s roots a generous amount of room to spread out. If you’re planting more than one bushel, you’ll save yourself some time by digging a trench.
No matter if you’re starting with canes or a potted plant, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The crown (base) should be kept 1-2 inches above the ground.
Your starters should be planted at least 18 inches apart, side-by-side, and at least 3 feet between rows. Once they’re planted, the canes should be trimmed to no more than 9 inches in height.
If your starters are summer-fruiting, make sure to set up your support system right away. Remember that raspberries like their soil airy, so don’t pack the soil around them too much. Lightly tamp the soil with your foot, just enough to be sure your starters won’t fall over.
Can’t I Just Plant the Seeds?
In case you were wondering, it is possible to plant raspberry seeds. This isn’t a popular or recommended method for beginners because it can be a rather tedious and lengthy process to germinate the seeds, which must be done first before the seeds are ready for planting.
Can I Grow Raspberries in a Container?
The answer is yes! here are a few tips if you’re opting for container living:
A pot is not the best home. Instead, go with a longer container, like those typically sold as window beds. This will give your raspberries space to grow.
Everbearing varieties (so mostly reds) do better in container-growing because they typically don’t grow as tall as their summer-bearing counter-parts.
Choose your soil carefully and be sure to check with your local gardening supply store or fellow gardeners for tips.
Raspberries are actually self-fertilizing, one of the many amazing things about this gardener favorite. However, this independent streak makes it important to mulch throughout your growing season, to make sure your raspberries have all the nutrients they need to feed themselves.
A thick layer of quality mulch around your plantings at all times is your best bet.
Summer-fruiting raspberries need to be pruned as soon as you’re done harvesting. Cut the canes down all the way to ground, but remember to only cut the canes that produced berries.
For everbearing varieties, no pruning is needed during the growing season, but after you harvest, all canes can be cut (to the ground). This needs to be done no later than the end of the winter season, well before the growth begins in spring.
How to Harvest Your Raspberries
Raspberries begin their ripening period In the early months of summer (and in the early months of autumn for everbearing varieties) over a 9-14 day period. They’ll keep you busy over those couple of weeks because you’ll find they’re ready to pick every few days.
Tips for Harvesting and Storing Your Blackberries
Sunny days make the best picking days because the raspberries will be dry. Otherwise, it can get a little messy, so dress appropriately. Ripe raspberries easily separate, so if you feel more than a slight resistance when you try to pluck the berry, it’s probably not ready yet.
Don’t pile your pickings too high or you’ll risk crushing them and once they’re crushed, they won’t be fit for storage as they’ll likely mold. Raspberries don’t keep well and need to be eaten or refrigerated as soon as they’re done picking.
Raspberries will last up to about 5 days in the refrigerator but should be kept in a single layer, not on top of each other so that they don’t lose their shape (get mushy) or grow mold or both.
Their skin is quite fragile, so don’t wash your raspberries unless you plan to eat them right away and if so, be sure to air dry any that aren’t eaten completely before storing to avoid mush and mold. You can freeze your raspberries for longer storage and later enjoyment.
To freeze your berries, put them on a flat surface, like a cookie sheet or baking pan, in a single layer. Once they’re frozen, they can be moved to air-tight storage containers or bags.
Known Raspberry Pests and How to Avoid or Eliminate Them
One of the reasons raspberries are a favorite among growers is that they’re one of the few fruits that are largely unbothered by pests and diseases. However, here are a few threats to the health and well-being of your raspberries and how to deal with them:
Cold injury and frostbite. Blackcaps run the biggest risk for cold-related issues. Keep an eye on the frost dates for your area and never plant before the threat is over or before your soil is appropriately thawed from winter.
Insects. Japanese beetles, root weevils, spider mites, leaf-roller larvae, and aphids are the most common pests for raspberries. Carbaryl and Diazanon are insecticides that are commonly used among the gardening community and will help with most pest issues. A natural alternative is found in the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Always read the instructions for insecticides very carefully and follow all precautionary measures closely to avoid unwanted mishaps or contamination.
Plant Diseases. There are a few diseases that may affect your plant. Most can be avoided with proper care and maintenance, including cleaning up after harvesting and prompt pruning of summer-fruiting varieties.