Pruning Black Raspberries - Knowledgebase Question

Unionville, MO
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Question by fmtc
March 23, 1998
I have read everywhere on how to prune my black raspberries but my raspberries just don't act like what they are describing. I planted them last year and didn't do anything with them. They then grew long stems that just laid flat on the ground and began to take root there. Late in the summer I gathered them all up and tied each plant together on a stake but it didn't work very well. What should I do now?

Answer from NGA
March 23, 1998
As you've noticed black raspberries DO have a different growth habit than red or yellow raspberries. What they have do have in common is that they fruit on 2 year old canes (called floricanes).In the first year of a cane's growth, it's calleda primocane. It spends the first season beefing up and storing food for its grand finale in its second year.

Whereas red/yellow raspberries grow sturdy, unbranched primocanes, black raspberries sprout long, branching, supple primocanes that tend to head back to earth. As you witnessed, they take root, and this is actually how new plants are propogated! Black raspberries fruit on side branches, so you need to prune off the tops of the canes the year they appear to encourage branching. Ideally, in the first season, when the primocanes reach 18-24" tall, you should cut off the top 3-4". Late the next winter, before they start to grow, trim back the side branches to 8-12", which will stimulate even more fruiting side-branches! In the fall,after leaves have dropped from the canes, remove the floricanes by cutting them off at ground level (be careful not to scrape or jab the crown of the plant in the process, or you may damage next year's buds).

Since you didn't prune yours the first season, head them back now, before they begin to grow too much, and some side branches will grow. Start on the right foot with the new primocanes, and next year you should see a bumper-crop!

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