Raspberries are vigorous, sprawling plants with few disease and pest problems. Their flowers are also an important nectar source for honeybees and other pollinating insects.
Red raspberries are the most commonly cultivated but yellow, black and purple types are available. Yellow raspberries are genetically identical to red raspberries except that they lack the red color pigment. Black and purple raspberries are an entirely different story. This article specifically covers red and yellow raspberries.
Before buying raspberry bushes, consider what features are most important to you. Is it berry flavour? Proven cold hardiness? High yields? Harvest time? Whatever features are most important to you will guide you to your ideal variety choice.
At this point, it’s also useful to understand how summer-bearing and everbearing (fall-bearing) varieties differ.
With raspberries, the roots and crowns are perennial but their shoots (above ground growth) may be annual or biennial.
All summer-bearing raspberries are biennial: they need two seasons to complete their life cycle (to grow, fruit, and then die). Without getting into further complexities, suffice to say that this produces one large raspberry crop in early summer. Summer-bearers usually fruit for a few weeks.
All everbearing raspberries have a mixture of biennial and annual canes. The earliest shoots to emerge in spring will fruit that same fall; the later emerging shoots won't produce fruit until the following summer. The result is two crops of raspberries: a small crop in early summer and a large crop in fall.
The drawback to everbearing raspberries is that the larger crop usually ripens in late summer, when frost may damage the harvest. Therefore the yields are often smaller versus summer-bearers. However, their advantage is that they fruit for longer duration.
Berry production, fruit quality, hardiness and ripening time can greatly vary between cultivars. To extend the harvest period, consider getting a few varieties with different ripening times.
Also see the Proven Performer Varieties listed at the top of the page, in the Growing Raspberries Overview section.
Summer-bearing Varieties to Consider
- Killarney: A productive early to mid-season variety with good disease resistance. Firm, sweet berries ripen over 4-5 weeks. Not ideal for preserving as they tend to discolor
- Latham: A classic mid-season variety with good disease resistance. Yields plenty of sweet, medium to large sized berries
Everbearing Varieties to Consider
Everbearing varieties generally fruit later than summer-bearing varieties. They can potentially producing a summer crop and a fall crop BUT in our climate, they are best treated just as a late season producer (see #5 on the Post-Planting Care, below, for more details).
Here are some everbearing varieties to consider:
- Nova: A productive mid-season variety, yielding large, firm berries with great flavour. Fewer spines than some other raspberries. Excellent for freezing
- Joan J: A hardy, nearly thornless, high-yielding variety. Berries are firm, large and sweet flavoured
Note* - If you’re buying bare-root raspberries, there may be additional instructions, such as soaking the roots before planting.
Now that you've prepared the planting site and got your raspberry bushes (refer back to the Before You Plant section if needed), lay out your plants.
Water the raspberry plants and planting holes deeply. Add a handful of bone meal or other similar fertilizer. Once the canes are in the ground, consider adding 2" of bark mulch, sawdust, leaves or lawn clippings around the base of the plants. This helps to retain moisture while suppressing weeds. Water the plants once more.
Install support posts or stakes at this time to avoid disturbing the root system later. Check out gardening books or online sources for support ideas; there are dozens of variations.
Raspberries grow with such incredible vigour that it’s hard to believe that they need any attention. However, you’ll notice huge differences in berry quality, production and general plant health with just a bit of routine care.
- Water deeply and infrequently - about once per week. Watering is most critical during the fruit development stages (bloom time to harvest).
- Eliminate competition - Keep weeds away from the base of plants by mulching and/or weeding
- Feed annually - With a granular berry fertilizer, all-purpose fertilizer or other balanced fertilizer
- Enrich soil - Add organic matter (compost or manure) annually or as needed to maintain soil fertility
- Prune - Raspberries require yearly pruning to prevent disease and keep growth in check. In fall, prune out all canes that bore fruit (to a few inches above ground level). In spring, thin the canes so that there are 4-6 canes per linear foot. Remove any weak or dead cane tips. Do not allow rows to grow beyond 12-18” wide.
Raspberries are excellent for fresh eating, freezing, or preserving. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Sprinkle fresh raspberries on top of salads, yogurt, ice cream, or chocolate desserts
- Add frozen raspberries to smoothies (freeze on cookie sheets before bagging)
- Cook into jams or syrups
- Make juice
My education in gardening began at 13, when I started working at our family-operated garden centres. Truth be told, I wasn't always thrilled to be sweating away my weekends in the greenhouse. However, I did become undeniably interested in the vast world of plants, and my summer job eventually transformed into a lifelong passion.
For 20 years, I've answered customer questions, poured over reference materials, sought the advice of others, and conducted countless of my own planting experiments. In the process, I've gained much insight into what works (and what doesn't) for us Northern Gardeners.
With this blog, I hope to accomplish a few things. I hope to answer the commonly asked questions we hear from our greenhouse customers. I hope to offer information that will be relevant and interesting to you. And my most lofty of goals, I hope to inspire, inform, and help cultivate your lifelong interest in growing plants.
May your personal gardening adventure be ever unfolding!