how to grow raspberries
Organic Gardening

Growing Raspberry Plants: How to Grow Them and What You Need to Know

Learn about growing raspberries from the different parts of the plant and how many harvests varieties produce, to when to plant, fertilize, mulch, friends and foes.

Fun Facts about Raspberries

Raspberries belong to the rose family.

They are not actually berries, along with blackberries and strawberries, contrary to their name. Berries form from a single flower and a single ovary, like blueberries do. Raspberries grow from flowers that have more than one ovary and form a cluster around a core. Each little round part of the fruit is known as a drupelet and they develop from a single ovary, containing a seed.

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Brief Synopsis about Raspberries

Did you know there are more than 200 types of raspberry plants?! Raspberries are definitely an all time favorite for many. It’s a pretty delicate fruit and not an easy one to ship. They quickly mold or are damaged in the shipping process. (All things I learned from shipping food at my last job!) It’s a fruit to consider growing yourself since they’re relatively easy to grow and no worries about them quickly spoiling. Due to their fragility/perishability, raspberries tend to be more expensive at the store.  They’re the perfect “pick as you go, when you need them”, type of fruit.

Contrary to what we see in the store, raspberries come in a few different colors: red, black, purple, orange, and yellow. Yellow and orange raspberries grow because of mutations from red-pigmented fruit. Depending on the variety, raspberry harvests last from late May to July/August. Raspberry plants can either produce one or two crops.

There are two different types of raspberries that determine when they bear fruit. 

  • The most common are summer-bearing raspberries. They develop fruit on the previous year’s growth and have one crop per season.
  • Ever-bearing raspberries, which are also known as fall or autumn bearing. Fruit can be produced on new growth and there two different crops – one in the fall, and one during the following summer.

We have a few raspberry canes in our garden. They’ve been here since before we moved to our home back in 2019. We don’t know what variety they are, but I think they may be a summer-bearing variety. Our first couple of years here, the plant got fruit in the summer. But last year our crop was late and came late summer/early fall.

Parts of a Raspberry Plant

Before delving further into planting raspberries, we should understand the different parts of the plant. There are five main parts to the plant: roots, canes, thorns, leaves, and fruit (also known as drupelets).

Raspberry plants are a perennial plant. Perennials are plants that are cold-hardy and will return in the spring. In general, perennials can live for 3 or more growing seasons.  The root system of the raspberry plants will typically live for 5 to 12 years. The canes (the stalk, or branch, part of the plant) only live for 2 years (biennial). New canes will grow along the root system.

There are two types of canes a raspberry plant grows – primocanes and floricanes.

Primocanes versus Floricanes

A primocane is a green stalk that the raspberry’s root system grows. The green stalks develop a brown brown which later in the year go dormant until the following year. Thus, primocanes are first-year growth. Floricanes are second-year growth. They have a thicker, woody, brown appearance.

Most varieties of raspberries grow their fruit on second-year, floricane, growth.  But there are some varieties that can produce fruit on their first-year canes. Most varieties bear fruit in the summer.

The more pollinators that are attracted to the raspberry plant, the more fruit it will bear!

How to Choose a Healthy Raspberry Plant

Raspberry plants can be purchased as bare roots. Look for disease-free plants with a reputable company. It’s important to be sure you have disease-free plants to avoid introducing viruses and other diseases into your garden.

Raspberry Care

Checklist for Planting

I’ve created a mini checklist of what to consider when planting raspberries:

Watering and Sunlight

  • The area should have good air circulation; rich, well-draining soil; and full sunlight.
    • Air circulation will help avoid diseases. Have good air circulation but avoid windy areas.
    • Rich, well-draining soil helps with healthy roots and avoids a lack of oxygen, which is important to keep the plant alive.
    • Raspberry plants prefer full sunlight, but can tolerate some shade. By providing full sun, the plant can be more productive with fruit. In shady locations, the plant produces less fruit.

Support with Trellises

  • Provide the raspberry canes with support. Consider setting up a trellis to support the canes as they grow and develop fruit.

When to plant

  • Plant them in early spring when the ground has thawed. In warmer climates, they can also be planted in the fall.
  • Before putting the plant into the ground, soak the roots for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Dig the hole deep enough for the roots to have room.
  • Once planted, prune the canes to stimulate growth.

Plant Spacing

  • Plant red and yellow raspberries 2 to 3 feet away from each other. Black and purple plants need to be planted 4 feet apart as they form “hills”. The “hills” are clusters of canes the plant develops.

Removal of Suckers

  • Remove suckers that grow from the raspberry plants.
    • In general, a sucker is a plant’s attempt to grow more branches either along the stem or the root. It is not the main part of the plant and zaps the plant’s energy as it concentrates on the sucker’s growth. By removing the sucker, it re-directs the plant’s energy to focus on the main parts of the plant and fruit production.

Healthy Raspberries and Higher Fruit Productivity

To keep your raspberry plant healthy and have high fruit productivity, it will have to be pruned every year.

Summer-bearing raspberries need to be cut to the ground after the last harvest. By pruning the plant it gives it room to produce primocanes and help prevent diseases.

Fall-bearing raspberries can have two crops. If you want to have two crops follow the same process for pruning as summer-bearing canes. Otherwise for just a fall crop, prune the canes down to the crown in spring before any growth appears.

Fertilizing, Mulching, and Weeding

Raspberries do need to be fertilized. Last fall we used a nice layer of leaves. Leaves are always considered a nuisance in the fall. However, they’re one of the best sources for mulch and they’re free! Shred up the leaves for easier decomposition and then put down 2-3 inches. Other options are a nutrient rich compost, wood shavings, or wood chips. Remove any weeds that pop up.

You may also get some more ideas for mulching and replenishing nutrients in the soil by checking out the following posts:

Raspberry Diseases and Pests

Diseases to be on the lookout for:

  • Cane blight
  • Gray Mold
  • Phytophthora crown and root rot
  • Heat Injury
  • Winter Injury

Pests to look out for:

  • Spotted wing drosophila
  • Sap beetle
  • Multicolored asian lady beetle
  • Corn rootworm
  • Cane and leaf eating insects, such as Japanese beetles, flat-headed cane borers, and spider mites.
  • deer
  • fruit worms
  • harlequin bugs
  • raccoons
  • sawfly
  • squirrels

Companion Plants for Raspberries: What to Plant with Raspberry Plants

Companion plants for raspberries are:

  • avocado
  • beans (bush and pole)
  • chamomile
  • chives
  • garlic
  • kiwi
  • marigolds
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • nasturtiums
  • onions
  • oregano
  • parsnips
  • peaches
  • peas
  • shallots
  • tarragon

Planting these plants with raspberries will help reduce disease and deter pests. For instance, herbs and flowers are important in the garden as they mask the scent of a plant a pest prefers. The essential oils from the plant emit a fragrance that the pests don’t like.

Foes of Raspberry Plants: What Plants are NOT Companion Plants for Raspberries

You should not plant the below list of fruits and vegetables next to raspberries

  • Banana peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Hot peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes (bush and vine)

The above list of fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be planted together. For example, they can negatively impact taste, compete for nutrients, and they may be susceptible to the same pests and diseases.

Do you grow raspberries in your garden, and if so, what tips do you have for growing them that you’d like to share? What has worked for you?

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