Raspberries are among the most popular fruits to grow in the garden. Here, you’ll find the best tips on planting, care, pruning and harvesting.
Raspberries are part of the large rose family (Rosaceae) and are popular in gardens, just like Blackberries, Blueberries and Blackcurrants. The raspberries we grow in our gardens predominantly descend from the wild European red raspberry (Rubus idaeus). They are among the few fruits that are actually native to central Europe. Ripening in summer, cultivars and their wild counterparts thrive at heights of up to 4593 feet. The raspberry was first mentioned as a garden plant in around 1500, as it was increasingly grown as a medicinal plant in monastery gardens. Even today, delicious and healthy raspberries are extremely popular: Adults and kids of all ages can hardly wait to pluck the ripe fruits straight from the plant.
There are two main types of raspberries: summer raspberries and fall raspberries. Summer raspberries have a two-year growth cycle. This means that they flower on the previous year’s canes and fruit in early and high summer. Fall raspberries, however, develop in a shorter timeframe. As early as July of the first year, their young canes form flowers at the top third of the shoot. The fruits then ripen gradually from August to October. The parts of the shoots that previously held fruit then die off. The bottom part of the raspberry cane remains alive. If you cut fall raspberries right, they can even fruit twice in one year.
Depending on the variety, raspberry bushes grow to between 39 to 98 inches tall. From sturdy rootstock, the raspberry plant develops new, firm and upright to slightly drooping canes that generally branch in the second year and then begin to bear flowers and fruit. Rubus idaeus spreads through flat, creeping runners that separate from the parent plant over time before continuing to grow separately. Raspberry canes feature long, thin prickles as well as oppositely arranged pinnate leaves. Generally featuring five parts, the leaves have a serrated edge and a striking white underside. Some new raspberry varieties also have prickle-free canes. White nodding hermaphroditic flowers appear on the panicle-like inflorescences from May to June/July.
Depending on the variety, they form round, conical or elongated raspberries. They usually have a light covering of hair and are often pruinose. Depending on the variety, the color may range from apricot to pink to dark shades of red. Although the name implies that raspberries are berries, they are actually aggregate fruits made up of many small ball-shaped stone fruits that grow together.
Raspberry bushes thrive in sunny locations in the garden protected from the wind. Humus-rich, loose and deep soil is essential to healthy, vigorous growth. The soil can be slightly acidic with pH values between 5.5 and 6. Extremely heavy, compacted soil prone to waterlogging is not suitable. You can improve very loamy soils by working in a little mature compost and coarse sand.
A good time to plant raspberries is fall, ideally from October. Make sure to choose a true variety of virus-free raspberry bush with strong buds. Choose a location in your garden that hasn’t already been used to grow tayberries. Before planting your potted raspberry, you should first loosen the earth and work in well-rotted compost or humus-rich potting compost into the soil. Calculate around 4.4 to 8.8 gallons for each yard. If the soil in your garden is very compacted, you can plant your raspberries in mounds of around 20 inches in height. Leave 16 to 20 inches between plants so the bushes can develop well. The base buds on your raspberry bush should be covered with soil up to around 1.96 inches. As this plant’s roots dry out quickly, raspberries should be planted out soon after buying and watered generously.
Raspberries need the right level of care to thrive and form their tasty fruits. One first piece of advice to help you avoid mistakes when caring for your raspberries: raspberries are shallow rooters so are very sensitive to dryness and waterlogging. The bed should always be mulched, e.g. using partly dried grass clippings, mulch soil or hay. Ensure generous, regular watering, especially during dry spells.
Raspberries should first be fertilized in spring from the beginning of March, ideally with compost and horn shavings or an organic berry fertilizer. Mineral fertilizer is best first used between the end of March and mid April. June or July is advisable for the second feed, as the summer raspberry harvest should be exhausted already. In general: Always be careful with the fertilizer and cover the surface of the ground so that the raspberry bush’s flat root system isn’t damaged.
Raspberries are best planted in rows - the raspberry bushes will need something to hold onto. When growing summer raspberries in particular, it’s worth building a climbing support for your raspberriesso the bushes are exposed to enough sun and well ventilated. It’s easiest to drive a stake into the ground next to the holes for the first and last plants and use these to string two to three lengths of wire at heights of 12, 39 and 67 inches. The raspberry canes can then be secured to these. Tip: Immediately after planting, cut back existing canes to around 7.87 to 11.81 inches in length, encouraging cane growth in the following year.
One thing that’s important to remember when pruning raspberries: At the middle or end of May, as soon as the new summer raspberry canes have grown to around 12 inches tall, select ten to twelve medium-sized canes per yard. All the others can be cut back to ground level. The remaining canes should be secured to the wires. Canes that are too long can be pruned to around one hand’s width above the top wire in November.
This support is not necessary for fall raspberries, as these canes are often only grown for one year. Instead, you can let them grow in-between an upright steel grate. As with summer raspberries, the new canes of fall raspberries are also thinned out in spring to leave around 20 strong canes per yard. After the final harvest in fall, you cut everything back to ground level. A cover of fall leaves and compost will protect the roots from frost while providing nutrients.
After the final harvest in high summer, the old worn-out summer raspberry canes are also cut back. Simply snip them down to just above ground level. The new canes for the next year’s harvest can be secured to the support. Raspberry varieties that fruit twice in one year are generally fall raspberries. If you cut them like summer raspberries, you can enjoy two harvests.
Depending on the variety, the raspberry harvest may take place from the end of June to the end of October. As the beginning of ripening depends on the location and weather as well, the start of the harvest may even differ from year to year. Only pick raspberries when ripe, as they will not ripen after being picked. The fruits are ready for harvest when they easily slide off the receptacle. You will generally have to harvest the raspberry bush several times.
Raspberries are very good for you. These fruits contain lots of vitamins and minerals but not a lot of fructose, so they taste sweet. The fruits can be eaten fresh or made into jams, jellies, syrups or compotes. They’re also ideal for decorating cakes, making desserts and adding to fresh summer salads. This berry does not keep well so should be eaten or cooked as soon as possible. In our video, we show you how to make delicious homemade raspberry jam the easy way - just in case you harvest more than you can eat.
There are lots of good raspberry plants for the home garden. As well as the color, taste and look, the time of harvest is key when choosing a raspberry variety. Strong-growing “Rutrago” is a variety of summer raspberry that fruits once in July. Its fruits are large and relatively firm. “Schönemann” is a traditional, strong-growing cultivar with dark red and long to conical fruits. This popular variety provides sweet and aromatic raspberries. “Malahat” has minimal prickles and is resilient to plant diseases. The fruits mature in June and July, and are firm, large, aromatic and dark red. “Himbostar” is a summer variety that matures moderately early. The raspberries are conical to round, medium red and have a striking sweet yet tart flavor. This variety delivers a good yield.
“Willamette” raspberries are recommended for organic growing as they are resilient to raspberry spur blight, virus-tolerant and frost-hardy. The fruits mature in mid June and are particularly good for eating fresh. “Glen Cova” is a self-fertile variety that fruits once, ripening early on, and grows moderately to voraciously. It forms medium-sized to conical fruits in light red to orange. The raspberries taste juicy and aromatic, ideal for fresh consumption. “Meeker” stands out with its strong growth and prickly canes. This variety is resistant to viruses. The sweet, dark red raspberries mature at the end of June to July, then impress with their exceptional quality. “Golden Queen” is one of the few summer raspberries with golden-yellow to orange-yellow berries. The harvest begins in early June.
Fall raspberries include “Korbfüller”, a variety with minimal prickles on the canes that matures relatively late in its first year. It forms very robust red fruits with a sweet, tart taste. Rubus idaeus “Zefa Herbsternte” has medium to strong growth and matures late in its first year. The fruits are large and round with a sweet, tart flavor. “Himbo-Top” stands out through its strong growth, minimal prickles and long canes. A support is advisable! The raspberries mature in August to mid October. They are relatively small but very aromatic. “Aroma Queen” ripens from August and bears delicious, firm, light red fruits with a wild raspberry flavor. The canes grow to just 51 to 71 inches tall, growing upright without the need for a support. With its apricot-colored fruits, “Autumn Amber” is a popular yellow variety of two-timer raspberry.
Propagating raspberries is incredibly easy: The bushes don’t need grafting, rather can be propagated through separating runners. The ideal time for this is fall. Simply use sharp shears to cut off a couple of this year’s canes and plant them in another location.
Raspberries can often fall foul to disease, particularly if improperly cared for. This includes viral diseases such as the raspberry mosaic virus. Follow all care measures precisely and always make sure any plant you buy is healthy. Fungal diseases, such as raspberry spur blight, can also impact raspberry plants. It’s advisable to mulch the berries as a preventative measure. What’s more, these bushes can fall prey to pests such as , mites or aphids.