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Raspberry Pruning Time!

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It's that time again. Dig out your heavy duty gloves, and eye goggles if you 'em.  Let's get to pruning those raspberries!!

To get the biggest yield in your raspberries, proper pruning is a must!  Not only do you get more berries with good pruning, but the berry size is larger and it helps to control the spread of diseases.  

All raspberry plants have perennial roots and biennial canes.  This means while the roots live on from year to year (given the proper growing zone and conditions), the canes die after producing fruit in their second year. 

Correct pruning should always be done in the early spring (March - April, depending on your zone), and is all based on how your plants grow and produce fruit which are unique characteristics for the various types of raspberries. 


Black, Purple or Summer Bearing Red or Yellow Raspberries

If you have black, purple or summer bearing red or yellow raspberries, you will notice that the stems produce leaves the first year, fruit the second and then die.

  • Summer-Bearing Red and Yellow Raspberries

    Remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. After thinning, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart. Also, prune out the tips of the canes which have died due to winter injury. Cut back to live tissue. Red raspberries sucker profusely. Plants should be maintained in a 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerow using a rototiller or spade.

  • Black and Purple Raspberries

    Remove the small, weak canes, leaving only four or five of the largest, most vigorous canes per clump or plant. Cut back the lateral branches to 12 inches in length for black raspberries and 18 inches for purple raspberries.


Fall Bearing Red and Yellow Raspberries

Fall bearing red and yellow raspberries usually will produce 2 crops.  The first year they will produce fruit in late summer or early fall at the tips of the stems, and in their second year they will produce fruit below last years fruit in the summer. The canes die after their second crop with fall bearing raspberries.

  • Fall-Bearing Red and Yellow Raspberries (Two Crop System)

    Follow the same pruning procedures as described for the summer-bearing red raspberries. This procedure allows you to obtain both a summer and fall crop.

  • Fall-Bearing Red and Yellow Raspberries (One Crop System)

    Prune all canes back to ground level in early spring. While the summer crop is lost, the fall crop should mature one to two weeks earlier. 

    Maintain the plants in a 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerow.

    Total crop yield is typically larger utilizing the one-crop system versus the two-crop system.


 To help prevent pests and diseases, be sure to remove and destroy all pruned material from the garden.

Source: Richard Jauron, Department of Horticulture Iowa State University 

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