University of Maryland Extension

Pruning/Training - Brambles

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Pruning/Training

March is a good time to prune fruit plants in Maryland, because you can fully assess winter damage. Raspberries, however, can be pruned any time canes are fully dormant (see graphic below on right). There are several ways to train and manage brambles depending upon their growth habits: erect vs. trailing blackberries, and suckering vs. clump growers. See graphic below on left for a simple trellis for bramble plants. Fruiting canes of all brambles (except primocane-bearing types) die soon after fruiting is completed. Remove these dead canes when they become dormant or in late winter.            

(click on drawings to enlarge)

  Simple trellis for bramble plants Dormant season pruning
of red raspberries

simple trellis for bramble plants

Use Twine and place supports 
25 ft. apart 

dormant season pruning of red raspberries

Spacing of canes after pruning
12- 18 inches

All bramble plants also require heading-back cuts during the growing season, as well as the removal of weak, damaged, and diseased canes. The graphics and table below summarize the training and pruning systems used for brambles. See the section, Bramble Types, for pruning of red and yellow primocane-bearing types.

Purple and black raspberries:
summer pruning

    Thorny erect blackberries:
     
summer pruning

Summer pruning purple and black raspberries

Top left: top the new canes at 36 in.
Top rt.:
laterals (side shoots) develop
after topping.
Bottom:
cut back laterals to 6 - 8 inches.

summer pruning thorny erect blackberries

Top left: top young canes at 34 - 36 inches.
Top rt.:
laterals (side shoots) will develop
after topping.
Bottom:
cut back laterals to 18 inches
when dormant.

Recommended Cultural Systems and Pruning Practices for Established Brambles

* Hill system refers to spacing plants and not allowing them to form a hedge. It does not imply that the soil around the plants should be mounded-up.

Species Cultural
systems
(hedge or hill*)
At Planting

Summer
pruning of
primocanes

Dormant pruning; winter to
early spring

Red
raspberry
summer-bearing

Hedge; plants
tied to a trellis

Head back to
ground-level

Narrow the
hedge to
18 in. in width if
necessary.

Select canes of no less than a pencil thickness. Cut back to ¾ of their length. Remove weak
canes. Remove already fruited dead canes. Space canes about 4 in. apart and keep the width of
the hedge to 12 - 18 in.

Red raspberry,
primocanebearing
(fall-fruiting)

Hedge

Head back to
ground-level

Narrow the
hedge to 18 in. if necessary;
harvest fruit
during Aug.
and Sept.

Cut all canes off near ground level in late February or early March.

Black
raspberry

Hill*

Head back to
2 - 3 in. above
soil

Top canes at 36 - 40 in. to force
lateral branches.
(Remove at least 4 in. of growth).

Head back laterals to 12 in. or no less than a pencil thickness. Remove weak canes, leaving
about 5 per hill. Remove dead (fruited) canes, if this was not done since the previous summer.

Purple
raspberry

Hedge/hill*

Head back to
2 - 3 in. above soil

Top canes at 40 in. to force lateral branches
(remove at least 
4 in. of growth).

Head back laterals to 18 in. or no less than a pencil thickness. Remove weak canes, leaving
about 5 per hill. Remove dead (fruited) canes, if this was not done since the previous summer.

Thorny blackberry Hill*; plants must be tied to a trellis

Head back to
2 - 3 in. above soil

Head back at top wire of trellis. Tie 4 or 5 vigorous canes per hill to the trellis. Top canes, if not tipped during previous summer, at 6 to 7 feet and cut back laterals at 18 in. Remove laterals that rise too low on the cane making picking difficult. Remove dead (fruited) canes, if this was not done since the previous summer.

Blackberry Pruning Demonstration, University of Kentucky - youtube video
How Do I Prune Raspberries? University of Maine - youtube video
Pruning Raspberries, University of Nebraska - youtube video

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