We share what you need know to grow raspberries, from planting to harvest, plus the difference between Summer Bearing and Fall Bearing Raspberries.
Raspberries provide delicious sweet tart fruit for fresh eating, cooking and preserves such as jams and jelly. With the right plants, you can have fruit the first year.
How to Grow Raspberries – The Basics
- Raspberries grow in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8.
- They prefer rich, well drained soil with pH between 6.0 and 6.8 and full sun.
- Do not plant raspberries where nightshade family plants, strawberries, or wild raspberries were grown in the last 3 years, as those plants can harbor diseases that damage raspberries.
- Space different varieties of raspberries 100 feet apart.
- Plant raspberries in spring. Space new raspberry bushes about 2 feet apart within a row and plant rows about 4-6 feet apart. The plants will produce side shoots to fill in the row.
- Install wire supports for tall varieties to keep the raspberry canes upright in rows.
- Use several inches of organic mulch to reduce weeds.
- Raspberries need around an inch of water per week during the growing season.
- Fertilize raspberries early in spring for maximum growth. Avoid fertilizing after August 1st.
- Remove dead or damaged canes in early spring.
- Pick ripe raspberries every few days to avoid spoilage.
Two Types of Raspberry Plants – Summer Bearing and Fall Bearing
There are 2 categories of raspberries, summer bearing and fall bearing. The difference between the two types is due to the fruiting cycles.
Summer bearing raspberries bear fruit in one large crop between early July and August.
Fall bearing raspberries (sometimes called Ever Bearing raspberries) produce a large fall crop and a smaller crop the next summer.
Raspberries have perennial roots and crowns, but the above ground canes only live two summers. The new growth (first year cane) is called the “primocane”.
On summer-bearing varieties, the primocane produces non-fruiting growth only. Fall bearing raspberries produce fruit on the tips of the primocanes sometime after August 1st, and keep producing until a killing frost.
In the second summer, the primocane that grew the last summer is now called a floricane.
The floricane (second year cane) of summer bearing varieties produces one large crop of berries and then dies. In fall bearing cultivars, the cane will set fruit on the lower half of the cane and then die.
Black, Red, Purple and Yellow Raspberries
Raspberries come in a rainbow of colors – from yellow to red to purple to black. Only the yellow and red are hardy in Zone 3 where I garden.
Plant different varieties of raspberries 100 feet apart to avoid cross pollination and disease transfer.
Raspberry Varieties We Recommend
I prefer to grow the fall bearing raspberry varieties for a couple of reasons.
The weather is cooler and rains come more often in the fall, so I don't have to water as often. The only down side is that an early hard frost can cut the harvest short.
Because of how they bear fruit, I can prune them fast with a modified weed wacker. (See the explanation in the pruning section.)
Some of our favorite raspberries include:
How long do raspberries take to grow?
As noted above, if you grow fall bearing raspberries, you may get fruit the first fall they are planted.
Summer bearing raspberries won't produce fruit until at least one year after planting.
Raspberry Growing Requirements – Soil and Location
Raspberries are perennial, and a well maintained raspberry patch can last for years. Choose your raspberry growing location wisely.
Where do raspberries grow?
Raspberries grow in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8.
Raspberries grow best in full sun on well drained soil rich in organic matter. They prefer soil pH between 6.0 to 6.8.
In a pinch, they can tolerate pH as low as 5.5 and as high as 7.5.
Ideally, it's best to prepare the soil a year before planting. Test the soil and amend it with organic matter such as worm castings, compost, or rotten manure. Adjust the soil with lime if the pH is 5.5 or below.
Avoid Planting Areas that may Harbor Diseases
When selecting a site, avoid garden spots where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, or strawberries where planted in the last 3 years. Those plants share many of the same diseases as raspberries and could infect your patch.
Try to avoid growing raspberries within 600 feet of wild raspberries.
You may be wondering, “Why not simply grow wild raspberries?” Wild raspberries are much less productive than cultivated varieties.
Wild raspberries can also harbor diseases and insects that will harm your berries. They can cross pollinate with tame berries, reducing your crop.
What's the best time to plant raspberry bushes?
Spring is the best time to plant raspberries, especially if you're starting with bare root plants.
That said, it's okay to plant potted raspberries in fall or early summer, too. Avoid planting in extreme heat, as that will stress the plants.
Raspberry Plant Spacing
Space new raspberry bushes about 2 feet apart within a row and plant rows about 4-6 feet apart.
Each year, new canes grow up from the roots. Over time, your plants will spread over a wide area.
Supports for Growing Raspberries
Given our short growing season and the sturdy growth in my raspberry patch, I don't trellis my canes.
If you're in a longer season area with tall, floppy plants, check out this article on Training and Trellising Raspberries.
How do you take care of raspberry bushes?
Your berry patch must have water. If you get a period without rain, you need to supplement with a watering program, or the blossoms will dry up and end your harvest in as little as 10 days.
Cultivate a Clear Border
Cultivate or mulch heavily around the outside of your patch to keep rhizome grasses like quack at bay.
If you mow nearby grass short, it will make your maintenance much easier.
When to Prune Raspberries
In early spring, remove dead canes and burn them or move them far from your patch. This is the best way to keep your plants pest free, as some insects will overwinter in the dead canes.
Removing the dead canes also removes diseased plants, giving new growth a better chance. Dead canes must be removed each year if you want to have a healthy planting.
Fast Pruning Option for Fall Bearing Raspberries
With fall bearing varieties, you can cut the entire patch to the ground with a SHARP tool after the harvest.
I use a weed wacker blade attachment to avoid damaging the crowns, which is quicker and easier than pruning individual canes.
I cut the canes back in the fall after they die back 100%. If I don't get to them in fall, I cut them down early in the spring before they bud out.
When to Fertilize Raspberries
You should fertilize your raspberry patch early in the spring for maximum growth.
Avoid fertilizing after August 1st so you don't encourage new growth late in the season. Late season growth makes plants susceptible to winter damage.
Established plants need nitrogen for new cane growth. Top dress the canes with composted manure or compost, and consider an organic granular fertilizer.
Mulching Your Raspberry Patch
A 2 inch layer of mulch is very beneficial for growing raspberries.
Use old silage, leaves, lawn clippings, wood chips, sawdust, wood shavings, or rye or sudan grass straw are free of weeds. All of them will help keep in moisture and add to the soils nutrients as they break down over time.
If you use sawdust mulch, add extra nitrogen. Because of the small particle size of the sawdust, it steals nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down.
If you want to maintain paths between rows, multiple layers of cardboard under the mulch will slow down the raspberry runners.
Pests and Diseases
Most raspberry pollination (90%) is done by bees, so using any insecticide is a bad idea.
Destroy dead and sick canes, pick fruit promptly, and fertilize regularly, and pest problems should be minimal. I've never had a serious problem in my patch.
Harvesting and Storing Raspberries
Ideally, raspberries should be picked into shallow containers because they crush and bruise easily. In dry weather they will be more durable.
Raspberries normally store a few days in the refrigerator, except under wet or very humid conditions, which will cause them to mold quickly.
Do not wash them before storage, or they will become soft and mushy. If your patch is clean, you don't need to wash your berries before use.
You need to pick at least twice a week to avoid fruit spoilage.
For nutritional information and storage tips, please visit Raspberry Storage and Health Benefits of Raspberries. We also have a low sugar raspberry jam recipe here.
I can only speak for myself, but homemade raspberry jam is my favorite. It tastes nothing like the product you buy in the store – the raspberry flavor is much stronger.
I hope you enjoyed this information on how to grow raspberries, and that you'll consider growing your own home raspberry patch.
This post includes raspberry growing information from the USDA Cooperative Extension Service. Cooperative Extension is a great source for local gardening information.
This post is by Laurie Neverman’s brother, Richard Poplawski. Since his service in the Marines, Rich has been a mechanic, fabricator and “fix just about anything” guy for over 20 years. He lives in northwest Wisconsin and maintains a large orchard and perennial plantings, as well as a vegetable garden. He loves spending time with his grandkids, introducing them to gardening or getting in some fishing with “Papa Rich”.
See a full list of all our gardening articles on the Common Sense Gardening page.
Originally published 2013, last updated March 2020