University of Maryland Extension

Raspberries and Blackberries (brambles)

red raspberries

Brambles Planting and Maintenance:

Brambles are defined as any species belonging to the Rubus genus. This covers a large number of plants found growing wild in the woods and fields surrounding us. Brambles of interest to the home gardener, however, are domestic raspberries (red, black, yellow, and purple types) and blackberries (thornless and thorny types). Wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius, should not be grown in the home garden. It escapes cultivation and is now recognized as an invasive, non-native pest harmful to the natural environment.

Bramble species vary by fruit color, growth habit (thus cultural practice), pest problems, and other characteristics. Bramble crowns and roots are perennial. Canes are biennial. The canes, typical biennial life-cycle is as follows: Each spring, canes known as primocanes emerge, grow tall, put out lateral branches, and overwinter. In the second growing year, the canes, now called floricanes, produce flowers and fruit. Floricanes die after fruiting and must be removed eventually. Usually, this is done in late winter before new canes begin coming up.

Bramble Types

Red raspberries:

produce new canes as suckers from the root system, so they are usually grown in a hedgerow. They are the most winter-hardy type of raspberry and may be either of two types:

  • Summer-bearing types have the typical biennial life cycle of a bramble. They fruit from late June through July of their second growing season.
  • Primocane-bearing types, also known as everbearing raspberries, are an exception to the bramble life cycle. Primocane-bearing types have the ability to fruit in the early fall of their first year on their primocanes. They then fruit a second time, in June, on buds below those which fruited the previous fall. The fall crop, however, is more abundant. Therefore gardeners treat the canes as annuals, rather than biennials, by mowing the canes to the ground in winter after the fall harvest. This keeps the plants more manageable.

Black raspberries:

Initiate new canes from the crown of the plant rather than from root suckers. Because of this, they are grown in a hill system; each plant is grown singly—one plant per hill—with pruning and maintenance done on a per plant basis. Unlike red raspberries, they require summer tipping because individual canes grow to unmanageable lengths. Black raspberries bloom April - May, bear their fruit before summer-bearing red raspberries and are the least cold-hardy of the raspberries.

Purple raspberries:

initiate new canes predominantly from the crown but may sucker between plants as well. Bloom time is June, ripening mid-July to mid-August in Central Maryland. They are essentially grown like black raspberries and are intermediate in cold hardiness.

Yellow raspberries:

are also available although not widely grown. They grow from crowns and are typically primocane bearers. Cut down to the ground each winter like the red primocane bearers.

Eastern blackberries - can be of four types:

  • Thorny and erect–often have excellent fruit quality and are sweeter than thornless cultivars, but the thorns are brutal. They also produce suckers that require containment. Generally, thorny blackberry types will tolerate winter temperatures to about -5°F.
  • Thornless and trailing–are much more cold sensitive (to 0°F) and grow best in the southern or warmer areas of Maryland. Because of their trailing growth habit, they require trellising.
  • Thornless and erect–are relatively new cultivars that don’t require a trellis.
  • Primocane-bearing–are a new type that has not been tested in Maryland.

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