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Pruning Blackberry Plants

Pruning is an important part of proper edible plant care, but many people find the task overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be! Keep these things in mind:

  • You can have confidence in knowing that not everyone will prune the exact same way (even the experts).
  • There are several reasons to prune: to maintain the size and shape of your plant, stimulate strong growth, and overall fruit quality.

NOTE: This is part 8 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow blackberry plants, we recommend starting from the beginning.

Pruning Blackberries

Pruning Tips

  • You may want to stake or trellis-train your berry plants to keep them more compact and upright.
  • Pruning may vary depending on the blackberry variety you plant. Most berry bushes bear only once on 2-year-old canes. After the canes have produced fruit, you should prune them back to the ground to leave room for the stronger, 1-year-old canes.
  • Some pruning should be done every spring to keep the plants from becoming tangled and to improve their ability to bear. Prune trailing blackberries in the spring for good growth habits. Prune each main cane back to 3-4’. Then cut back side branches to about 12”, leaving five or six buds on each. Erect and semi-erect varieties should be tipped or cut back to 3-4’ in midsummer. This forces lateral branches to emerge from buds below this point.
  • Later in the fall, after they are dormant, cut back the laterals to 16-18”. Fruit will be borne on these laterals the following summer (after which, the canes should then be removed to make room for next season’s growth).

Additional Notes

  • First-year or juvenile canes of erect and semi-erect varieties may be trailing. Let them grow, and they will produce fruit the next year. After the fruit is harvested, prune the canes back to the ground to make room for strong, erect, new canes.
  • Everbearers fruit twice on the same cane. These canes will fruit at the tip during the fall and then bear again the following spring farther down the canes. If one large crop is desired, cut the canes back to the ground after the fall crop. This will result in a single, large crop the following fall.
  • A good reference book, such as Pruning Made Easy, can answer questions and guide you through the pruning process.
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