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Which Blackberry Plants to Trellis

by Stark Bro's on 08/29/2012

Anyone who has grown blackberries will tell you, hands down, that these plants are  easy additions to your edible landscape. When growing blackberry plants yourself, it is useful to know about the differences between available varieties. For example, look at thorns — some blackberry plants have thorns that help to protect them from unwanted snackers, while other cultivars are thornless, which makes them safer for little hands to harvest. In this article, we are going to focus on the differences in growing habits and also share some information about when it is necessary to grow your blackberry plants on a trellis.

Growth Habits of Blackberry Plants

Erect blackberry plants grow upright and tend to stand on their own without needing additional support. This is ideal if you are hoping to grow these plants in containers or if you are adding them as points of interest in your home garden.

Browse our erect blackberry plants to see which ones are best suited for your location.

Erect Blackberry Plants Jumbo-6 Pack

Semi-erect blackberry plants have a spreading nature and will require a little support, in the form of a fence or trellis, to continue to grow up and keep their fruit off the ground.

Our selection of semi-erect blackberry plants includes:

Semi-Erect Blackberry Plants Jumbo-6 Pack

When trellising blackberry plants, don’t stress out about finding the “perfect” trellis design — there’s no such thing! There are many forms a trellis can take, like an existing fence or a sturdy railing. Most blackberry plants grow to be an average of 4-5 feet tall and wide. Make sure you keep that information handy to help you design your ideal trellis system. You can usually find a DIY trellis kit at your local hardware store or, if you’re handy, you can design your own — it’s easier than you might think!

Our book, Pruning Made Easy, provides useful information about pruning and care for the different growing habits of blackberries. You will also find illustrations of different kinds of blackberry trellises from the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service if you want to try your hand at constructing your own!

Homemade Berry Trellis

Homemade Trellis
via DeWayne Harrell of HobbyBerries

Some other berry plants besides blackberries might also require trellises.

Our selection of trailing berry plants includes:

Do you trellis your blackberry plants? What are some advantages to using a trellis that you have discovered along the way?

 Shop All Blackberry Plants »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. Barbara permalink

    Great timing. We will be building a trellis of some type for our Triple Crown Thornless Blackberries which are growing like mad!

    • I have Triple Crown blackberries as well, Barbara! They are incredibly vigorous (even potted) so the support system you build will make them even happier. :)

  2. Carl Dimick permalink

    How good are the cone shaped tomato supports often found at Wal-Mart for a couple of dollars?

    • I have actually used these for my own blackberry plants, Carl, so I can say with certainty they do work well as trellises! There are even sturdier (thicker gauge metal frame) versions of the same “tomato cages” I’ve found at farm supply stores that do well when your plants are weighted down with berries. :)

  3. Arleen Gregg permalink

    I purchased 3 thornless blackberry plants from you 2 or 3 years ago but I don’t know which type. Would your records reflect what I bought? They are huge and bearing fruit this year. I am going to need to move them this fall, any suggestions? Thank you, Arleen Gregg

    • Hi Arleen! I was able to look back in your account with us and it looks like the plants you ordered were the Apache Blackberry, package of 3, in spring of 2010.

      If you absolutely must move the plants, we recommend waiting until they are completely dormant (late fall/winter or early spring at the latest) and you should keep as much of the root ball intact — especially the fine hairlike roots. This will help avoid as much stress to the plants as possible. Good luck! :)

  4. Wendy L. Jones permalink

    When, and what do you feed thorny black raspberries? How do you prune them so they will produce to the max?

    This is their first year (just planted) and they are growing explosively! Already have many canes about 5ft long each.

    Stark Brothers really delivers when it comes to healthy plants.

    • Thank you for the compliments, Wendy! I’m glad to hear your plants are growing so vigorously! For raspberries, we recommend Stark® Raspberry Food, which is water soluble and specially formulated (20-21-20) for raspberry plants.

      We also have pruning instructions for black raspberry plants in our Growing Guide. All you need to do is select the section on the left that says “Pruning”. We help you know how and when it is best to prune for the benefit of the plants you’re growing! :)

  5. gayle permalink

    We bought 4 different varieties of thornless blackberries. After 2 or 3 yrs now, most of them have started to show thorns? The berries have been big & great this year though, any suggestions?

    • Hi, Gayle. It is not unusual for thornless variety blackberries to develop thorns. After all, that is in the original nature of the plant. Is it the entire plant that has become thorned or is it just some canes appear to have developed thorns? If it is the latter, you may prune those out if the thorns are problematic.

      I have the Thornless Loganberry growing in my yard and, out of 7 plants, one of the limbs of one of the plants has many obvious and sharp thorns. If I didn’t find it so interesting, I’d probably prune it out, too. :)

      • gayle permalink

        Thanks. I did check & it seems to just be some of the vines. Since they all did so well this year, i guess I’ll just leave them for now.

  6. Jill permalink

    Several years ago I planted three Chester thornless blackberry plants in a row. Six metal posts about 5 feet high are distributed to form a large rectangle. I had some really thick cable wire (about 1/4″ diameter) available, which I connected to each of the posts about 4 feet from the ground. Newer canes are pushed behind the cable when they get high enough. This suppports the canes and does not interfere with picking.
    We could have made the support wire a bit higher, as some canes get at least 8 feet high and end up touching the ground outside the plot. We are in zone 5-6 and most years we get about 30 quarts of berries total from the three plants.
    I let the pruning go for a couple of years and that resulted in the bushes getting a fungus of some kind (maybe Rosette). A really strict pruning this spring got things back to normal. Moral: don’t avoid annual fall pruning of spent canes!

    • Jill, your setup sounds wonderful and your advice is appreciated! It makes such a difference to do a little bit of pruning every year instead of letting things go and suffering the consequences later (disease, or a tangled overgrown mess). Thank you. :)

  7. Rita Zufolo permalink

    I like to know what to do with all the new growth of blackberry cut it down or leave it ?i know I read other comments that you cut the old stuff down to the grown so I don’t know what I should do??thank you I love my blackberry I got so many big huge fruits and so much I don’t know the name but it’s perfect.

    • Hi Rita! Your blackberry plant sounds wonderful (even if you don’t know which one it is ;) ). The best method, with blackberries, is to prune the canes that have produces berries down to the ground after they are harvested. This helps keep the plants from becoming overgrown and it also allows the plants to save energy.

      In the fall, after the plants are dormant, you will want to prune back the canes that are left (the ones that didn’t produce fruit) back to a sturdier height (like 16-18 inches) so that they can survive the winter.

  8. Ben Grossman permalink

    At one of our regional parks, we planted a row of thornless blackberries and installed a v-shaped trellis system. It is next to our Nature Explore Classroom and lends another learning opportunity for children and families. The supports were made from cedar logs harvested onsite during a prairie restoration. Three wires are strung between each post for the trellis. We are training up the vines on one side this year only, about 4 vines per plant. When they got to the top, we clipped them. Next year this side will produce fruit and we will train up vines that come off the root on the other side, then at the end of the season, we will remove all the vines off the side that produced fruit. Keeps from guessing which vines to cut and which to not, one side each year is producing fruit and the other is being trained.

    • Ben, the v-shaped trellis system sounds ideal for your maintenance and fruit production/harvest, and it sounds aesthetically pleasing to boot! I’m sure visitors to the regional parks appreciate it. :) Are there any photos of this online somewhere so I can see it, too?

      • Ben Grossman permalink

        No, but I will work on that.

        • I received the photos you emailed to us, Ben! Thanks so much — they do look wonderful. :)

          I hope you don’t mind that I posted them on our Pinterest board here with credit to you, so others could see them as well!

  9. Donna Evans permalink

    I have had thornless blackberries for years and love them, don’t know the variety,but they are upright canes that stand alone. My problem is this year the new plants that I transplanted last year are really wierd.They have 5 leaves instead of 3 leaves and they are real long and viney but still thornless and the berries are real small and nubby. they act like they’ve reverted to wild. Is that possible or is it a disease? Don’t want them to affect my other berries. Help

    • You’re not alone there, Donna! My blackberry plant has done the same thing. I wonder if you have the Ouachita Thornless Blackberry, too. :) It’s not a disease or anything that might spread. I have researched this a bit and found that younger vegetative canes tend to have 3-7 leaves where older more mature and fruiting canes can have 3-5 leaves. It just gives an idea of the age of the plant’s growth.

      As for the fruit, many people have had small and oddly-shaped berries due to the intensity of the weather. As long as things like the weather normalize or level out some next year, this shouldn’t be an ongoing problem. :)

  10. Marti permalink

    I see in comment to Rita that you told her to cut canes which had fruited back to ground after harvest. We have always done that, but you also told her to cut new canes (canes that had not fruited) to 16″- 18″,we have never done that. We have ours canes trellised on a fence trellis and just tie up the new canes as they grow. Would we get fuller bushes and more berries if we cut them down to say 18″ for the winter months? The one guy ask about keeping out weeds, We have ours in a row and mulch them to keep out the weeds. We get lots of berries off our plants (from you). We have the throne free plants and it’s a pleasure to pick from them ,I got scratched up plenty growing up picking from wild black berries.
    with all the thrones.

    • It is perfectly fine to cut all of the canes completely back to the ground, Marti. Some methods of pruning recommend leaving the canes that have not produced that year with some growth on so that the 16-18″ laterals are able to fruit that following growing season. It’s simply up to personal preference!

      Thank you for your weeding advice for Mr. Barnhardt. That is a great method to not only keep out weeds but keep in moisture so the plants are less likely to dry out. :)

  11. Benneth P. Cachila permalink

    Hi Sarah, I bought a 6 pack of Stark’s “Arapaho” blackberries it fall of 2011. They are now growing so tall ( about 7-8 ft.) Will you please clarify your advice to Marti about cutting down the canes that has not produced this year 16-18″ from the ground. But you also mentioned laterals to be able to fruit the following season. If I cut the cane that low to the ground, there will be no laterals left. Please clarify. Thank you.

    • Certainly, Beth. Arapaho Blackberries are erect in nature, so you may simply prune out the canes that have produced berries down to the ground after they have been harvested that season. You will also want to prune out any weak, unhealthy, canes at that time and repeat this when you prune for the winter.

      If you do not have any lateral growth or buds in the 16-18″ range on your plants, consider pruning all of your canes back to 3-4’ in midsummer. This forces lateral branches to emerge from buds below this point. This pruning increases the sturdiness of the plants and the encouraged lateral growth provides more area for berries to be produced. I hope this helps! :)

  12. martin cherniske permalink

    I certainly understand the need to prune out the two year old canes but I don’t find them as easy to identify as you make it appear. What specific signs do you look for to identify canes that have fruited earlier amongst all the new canes ?

    • Great question, Martin! Older canes on blackberries will have more of a woody-bark appearance compared to the first-year new growth that is a brighter green. An easy way for you to keep track is to prune out the old stems after you have harvested the berries from them. You’re already out there, so if it’s part of your routine it will be easy! ;)

      Many berry growers find it to be helpful (in the case of older, overgrown, berry patches) to prune everything right to the ground in the late fall/winter so that they can keep an eye on what’s growing and producing from that point on.

  13. Ruby Lorraine Comer permalink

    We planted our blackberries just this year. They have not produced of coarse, so should we still cut all the vines down this winter? What month? I live in west central arkansas

    • You will want to do your dormant pruning when all the leaves fall from your plants and trees in your area, Ruby. I’m not too familiar with your local environment but, chances are, it’ll be safe to prune there after November.

      It is recommended that you keep your plants maintained at around 3-4′ tall. Also, be sure that you completely prune out any damaged/weak-looking stems to leave room for healthy, strong, growth the following spring.

  14. pattie kucera permalink

    Hi! I am still in the research phase of buying Triple crown blackberries, and am not a seasoned veteran like many of you! I am in zone 6 and had heard that I can plant in the fall as well as the spring. I was also wondering exactly what kind of soil to purchase? Is there something I can buy like Miraclegro? And is there a fertilizer that is good? I had heard Miracid is good too? Thanks for enduring all of my questions!

    • Hi Pattie! That’s right — Zone 6, in most areas, has the luxury of planting blackberries in both the spring and the fall. As long as blackberries are known to grow in your area, this will also apply to you. If your local soil is well-drained and the pH is around 6.0-6.8, blackberries are able to grow in the ground.

      If you prefer/need to grow your berry plants in containers, be sure that the type of soil you buy is potting soil. This helps avoid the soil becoming compacted within the container, which can stunt growth and can keep water running down the inside of the container instead of getting absorbed by the roots.

      If you are amending local soil, you should look for top soil and/or a nice composted material. These can all be found in the same place you’d find potting soil.

      If you opt for something like Miraclegro, keep in mind they already have nutrients/fertilizers mixed in so you may not need to fertilize additionally. As for fertilizer in general, we recommend a 12-10-10 formula, ideal for blackberries, like our Stark® Blackberry & Bramble Fertilizer.

  15. David permalink

    Hi, love your site – In my confusion of the different canes – my 1st year growing I cut the wrong cane and had to wait for any blackberries. I have 2 of the Triple Crown blackberries and 5 of the Everbearing Darrow Blackberry that all did very well in 2012 – we were picking some everyday after work – and I think I have the pruning of them down to a science now. My confusion is on the Triple Crown – this is the 1st year that I pruned them down to 6ft tall and from what I was reading I could of just left them without pruning them? The canes were close to 9 feet tall along the fence line and some of them broke off at ground level. As for the Darrow ones – every year I prune them to about 5-6 feet tall thinking that they will spread out more canes – which they seem to be doing. Do I have to prune any of them to a certain height? Thanks for all your help.

    • I’ll try to clear up the confusion for you, David! ;) A good method is to maintain your blackberry plants at a 3-4 ft height. This will allow for stronger plants (avoiding breakages) and will also encourage lateral growth, which provides more surface for berries to grow. We recommend doing this annually to avoid tangled overgrowth.

      An ideal system for pruning is to always prune out weak or damaged/diseased canes to leave room for strong, healthy growth. You can prune to remove these at any time. In mid-summer, it is recommended that you prune your blackberry plant’s canes back, like you have been, so that more laterals are formed. We recommend aiming for around a 3-4 ft height, but if 5-6 suits you better, that works as well.

  16. Douglas Stout permalink

    My Prime Jim Blackberries are on their third growing season here in Northern Nevada and are doing well. I have to pick every other day, and have only 12 plants and get a quart of berries every 4 days. The berries are terrific in it takes about a half dozen to fill a cup. Very large berries Last year I trimmed back the first years growth as recommended but not the second year’s because they produce on second year cames as well as first year also. The cames currently about 8-10 feet tall on this years growth. Do you recommend trimming back first year growth to get a bushier plant on these species or allow them to grow?

    • I need to reiterate here the “wow” I left when I saw the Prime-Jim® photo you shared with us on Facebook! We’ve sorely missed our Prime-Jim® plants being productive this year because of late frosts. :)

      Even with this variety of blackberry, if you maintain your plants at about a 3-4 foot height, they will be encouraged to grow more sturdily and they produce more lateral stems, which provide space to produce even more fruit for you to enjoy!

  17. David Gibble permalink

    I have a successful organic U-pick blueberry operation and would like to add blackberries. I need early and late varieties to extend season length but am concerned about diseases which I see on the wild canes on our upstate SC farm. I also need tutoring on best cultivation practices.

  18. kathy permalink

    Would you show a picture or explain how using cone shaped tomatoe cages would work as a trellis with blackberry plants, I am in the process of creating a raised bed for blackberries and need to know if I put the cage on when planting or wait til the next season. Thank you

    • Well, mine is in a pot with the tomato cage providing support as it grows tall. It’s not the best-quality photo but you can see it here, Kathy:

      Potted Blackberry Plant with tomato-cage trellis

      I can tell you now that you don’t have to put the cage on immediately at planting time, but be sure to get them on there before the plants really take off growing. I had difficulty stuffing the leafy-limbs into the cone without breaking them once it started taking off vigorously. :)

      • Kevin permalink

        I’m new to growing blackberries. I have 2 semi-erect blackberry plants in my yard. I planted them 2 years ago and they’re now producing fruit. Now, I need to look into a trellis for my backyard. I really don’t want to take over my backyard with a long trellis. With your idea of using a tomato cage as a trellis, would the blackberry plants ever outgrow that “trellis?” Would I need to prune within or around the tomato cage at any time? Thank you.

        • In my experience, semi-erect blackberry plants are very vigorous. They have a horizontal growth habit, so it may be like swimming against the current trying to keep the vigorous growth neatly confined within the tomato cage. It’s ok if they bush out beyond it — personally, I like the look of the plant more than the wire frame. :)

          With mine, I do have to prune within the cages to remove the damaged leaves and lower growth to keep things cleaned up and disease-free. I make sure the leafy canes are growing within the tomato cage, using the sides as support, and they are free to bush out over the top once they’ve reached that height. I don’t prune to keep everything else inside a neat little box, I let the cage do all the support work once the plant has grown to the right height.

          The main goal is to keep things off the ground to avoid mold and other problems, and a good sturdy tomato cage does that well with very little effort!

          • Kevin permalink

            So once the plants reach the height of the tomato cage, I don’t want them to waterfall over the top of the cage, right? I just wanna make sure I can still get to these berries. :) I also want to make sure I’m not stunting the plants’ growth by confining them to tomato cages; once the cage is there, it’d take a lot of wire cutting to remove it from around a mature plant.

          • Kevin, most blackberry varieties only get about 4-6 feet tall (or “long” I guess, since the semi-erect canes grow more horizontally). There are sturdy tomato cages that are about that tall, so if your plants are exceeding that by all means keep them in line with some pruning! There shouldn’t be any waterfalling. :)

            The cages shouldn’t require any wirecutting at all. As with any well-manicured blackberry plant, caged or not, you remove old canes after they fruit and after the plant has gone dormant. You start over again training the new growth inside the cage setting the following growing season.

  19. Joline Fleming permalink

    I live where there are some wild blackberries near where I want to plant some blackberries in my orchard. Is there any problems with them pollinating each other??? Or infecting with diseases???

    • Hi Joline! If you have wild blackberry plants growing there, consider their fruit and additional pollination a bonus! As long as the wild blackberry plants are healthy, there should be no reason to worry about them spreading disease to the blackberries you plant in your orchard, either. :)

  20. Betty Dixon permalink

    can I grow these blackberries in pots? if so, is there a certain type of soil to us.. I have not order yet, But I am looking forward to getting my first order complete. Thank you

    • You can definitely grow your own blackberry plants in containers, Betty! The ‘soil’ to use for any container-grown plants/trees would be potting medium (to avoid compacting and also to avoid soil-borne pests, fungus, disease, and weed-seeds that might be in topsoil). You can find this at your local garden supply store.

      Many people prefer planting erect, thornless, varieties like Arapaho or Ouachita when they want to grow blackberries in pots, but if you include sturdy stakes, like bamboo, in your planting, you can simply tie up the more trailing canes of the semi-erect blackberry varieties to keep them growing orderly — and wear gloves to protect yourself from the thorned varieties. ;)

      Before transplanting it into my yard, I had the Ouachita Thornless Blackberry plant growing in a 5-gallon container, and I kept its naturally-upright growth in check by placing a small tomato cage right into the pot with it. It worked perfectly! :D

  21. Jim permalink

    I planted a 6-pack of Kiowa I purchased from you about 6 weeks ago. They are growing like crazy, some have 10 or more canes. Should I thin these down at this time, if so to how many? I’m in zone 9.

    • Oh boy, blackberries love to grow don’t they? :) I recently pruned mine all back because they were creating a jungle-haven for who-knows-what in my yard.

      If any of your blackberry plant’s canes fruited this year, be sure to completely remove (prune to the ground) those canes as soon as you finish harvesting from them.

      For what’s left, prune the main canes back to 4-5 feet if they are longer than this, and prune any laterals (horizontal stems coming from the main canes) back to about 18 inches. Remove any weak canes or damaged diseased ones as well. You should aim to leave about 4-6 of healthiest, strongest canes per plant.

  22. Charles Leveridge permalink

    Last year my Triple Crown blackberries produced wonderful fruit but this year I have noticed several berries with white drupes. What causes this and what can I do to prevent it from happening to next years crop?

    • If you notice the white drupes are on the sun-side of the fruit, it is likely a result of heat — sort of like a sunburn on the fruit. You can try shading the plants if your location is prone to hot temperatures or dry air during a certain time of year. It really is just an appearance thing, and the fruit is still edible.

      If you notice the white drupes appear randomly on the fruit (not just the sun-side), then what you’re seeing may be a result of stinkbug damage to the fruit. They are all over blackberries, raspberries, and similar fruits this time of year. You will need to consider some form of pest control to keep the stinkbugs out of your blackberries if they are the culprit here, since they will more than likely be back next year.

  23. Lyn permalink

    I purchased a Northern Mix this year and the plants are doing very well.

    I trellised them, but one of the canes drooped over and touched the ground under my weed barrier walkway. This cane took root and appears to have a lot of healthy roots. Can I cut the cane and have another plant to place elsewhere?

    • That’s the nature of blackberry plants! They tend to “self-propagate” when their canes touch the ground. If you gather as much of the new plant’s root system as possible, you’d be able to cut it from the “mother plant” and relocate it to a more suitable space.

  24. Lyn permalink

    I have also read that you can overwinter the trailing canes under straw and not prune them. Is this a bad idea?

    Thanks again! Great blog by the way!

    • It’s not a bad idea at all – I was actually instructed to do this by one of my coworkers here after I told her I lost 2 out of the 6 loganberry plants I was growing a year ago. She advised me to leave the canes long and bury them under straw mulch to protect the plant over winter. She always does this and has great success with it, so I plan on giving it a try!

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