University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
are those members of a particular genus (Rubus)
in the rose family, generally with thorns and with edible fruits.
Common examples are the raspberry and
blackberry, with several types of each to choose from, and many
(cultivated varieties). Which you choose
to grow will depend on your personal preference for fruit, and your
and in particular raspberries, are a favorite fruit of many, and one
easiest fruits to grow. They usually
produce a big crop by the third year after planting, and remain
5 to 12 years, perhaps more. Brambles are usually planted in rows,
foot of row of raspberries producing at least a pint, with one to 4
bush if planted singly. So, a 10-foot
row with 5 plants should produce enough fresh fruit for several
perhaps some left for making jam or freezing. Rich in antioxidants,
raspberries have health
benefits. A fact I like is that they are
easy and quick to pick, without much bending over.
benefits of growing brambles are that they bloom late, so spring
injure the flowers. They get few
insects, which are easy to control, and by choosing virus-free
keeping wild brambles at a distance, they are relatively
disease-free in home
The term “brambles” comes from an ancient Old English
word, dating back at least 800 years.
Red raspberries (Rubus idaeus),
though, were mentioned by the Greeks and Romans even earlier.
means red, and “idaeus” means belonging to Ida.
Legend has it that the nymph Ida pricked her finger while picking
berries for Zeus while he was still a baby, staining the originally
berries red with her blood. Another
story has it that Greek gods were believed to
have brought raspberries from the sacred Mt. Ida in Turkey. In
North America, red raspberries were first
cultivated in the mid-1700’s.
The black raspberry is native,
and has been cultivated only since the mid-1800s. Purple
raspberries, hybrids of the red and
black, came about shortly after that.
Blackberries, although native to North America, weren’t cultivated
until that period as well, even though they had been taken back to
cultivated there in the 1600s. Early
settlers had viewed them as just wild and weedy. A main difference
between raspberries and
blackberries is that when picked, the center of raspberry fruit is
core or “receptacle” stays on the plant.
The central core remains inside picked blackberries.
Red raspberries are by far the most
common bramble, with the most cultivars.
These come in two types. The
summer-bearing, or one crop, bear fruit in mid-summer on canes
previous year—“floricanes”. You’ll want
to pay attention to cold hardiness on all brambles, as this varies
cultivar. Among the hardiest choices of
one-crop red raspberries for zone 3 (-30 to -40 degrees F in winter)
‘Boyne’ and ‘Latham’. Hardy to zone 4
(-20 to -30) are the popular ‘Canby’ and ‘Taylor’.
The fall-bearing, or two crop red raspberries,
bear fruit in summer on floricanes and then again in fall on this
canes—“primocanes”. The two crop are
sometimes seen as “everbearers”, although this isn’t the case.
Among the good choices are ‘Heritage’ and
‘Jaclyn’, both hardy to zone 3, and ‘Fall Red’ which is hardy to
Yellow raspberries generally are
fall-bearing, and being rather delicate are seldom found in stores.
For this reason they’re a great candidate for
home gardens. There are not too many
choices of these, a couple good ones hardy to at least zone 4 being
The black raspberries (R. occidentalis) are called “black
in some areas. Not all people like the
slightly musky aroma and flavor of their summer fruit. Unlike the
these don’t spread rampantly underground producing suckers or new
shoots. Instead, their tips fall over and root where
they touch the soil. They’re also less
hardy than red raspberries,
a couple of the more common and hardy ones (to zone 4) being
Similar to the blacks are the purple
raspberries, with even less suckering, relatively drought tolerant
established, and resistant to most pests and diseases. A couple of
the more common and hardy
selections to look for are ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Royalty’.
Blackberries can be grouped into
upright and trailing types, and ones with or without thorns.
Upright ones grow from roots, similar to
raspberries, as well as a central crown.
The trailing ones have arching stems from a central crown. Although
trailing ones may be seen as
“dewberries”, this really refers to a separate species of trailing
that tends to be sweeter and grows in zones 5 to 9.
The original native blackberries
were thorny and upright, but aren’t seen much as harvesting with
can be difficult. Roots of blackberries
are generally hardy, but the hardiness of the tops varies. Often
the upright with thorns are more hardy
(USDA zone 6) than the upright thornless cultivars, although
‘Darrow’ is hardy
to zone 4. Both ‘Illini’ and
‘Kiowa’ are hardy to zone 5, and have a
long harvest season. ‘Arapaho’ is less hardy
(zone 6) but has no thorns. The Prime series from Arkansas fruits on
canes (primocane), with PrimeJan listed as hardy to zone 4.
The trailing cultivars, particularly
the thornless ones, are generally less hardy although ‘Chester’ and
Crown’ are listed as hardy to zone 5.
Both are good selections, semi-upright, and thornless.
you’ve chosen your brambles, plant in a well-drained soil in full
sun. Space 2-feet apart in rows (farther apart for
trailing blackberries). Rows should be
about 6-feet apart for raspberries, and perhaps 10-feet apart for
blackberries. Often trailing blackberries
need cross pollination between cultivars in order to fruit (so buy
more than one), but most brambles are self-fertile and will produce
with the aid of bees (so you can have just one cultivar).
well for the first few weeks, if little rain, until plants are
established. If you have fertile soil
you may only need compost at planting.
Testing the soil with kits from your local Extension office will
results on how much fertilizer and lime, if any, to add. Otherwise,
use about 2 to 3 pounds of a low
analysis, organic fertilizer such as 5-3-4 per 100 linear feet of
row. Apply this again about a month after
choosing brambles and their culture, more cultivars, and lesser
known ones such
as the loganberry or boysenberry, can be found online
or from the Fruit Gardener’s Bible by
Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry.