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Raspberries for the home garden

Emily S. Tepe and Dr. Emily E. Hoover

Print this page (664 K PDF) picked raspberries on leaves in a raspberry patch

About raspberries

Diagram showing part of the raspberry plant

Illustration by Emily Tepe

Photo by Jake Overgaard

You can tell primocanes from floricanes by their color. Primocanes are green and fleshy, while floricanes are woody and brown.

Raspberries belong to a large group of fruits known as brambles, all in the plant genus Rubus. Three main types that can be grown in the home garden are red, black, and purple. (Yellow raspberries are red raspberries that don't make red pigment.) Raspberries can be grown successfully in most areas of Minnesota.

Raspberries have perennial roots and crowns, but their canes (branches) live for only two summers. Most raspberries are summer-bearing varieties. During the first year, the new green cane (primocane) grows vegetatively. The cane develops a brown bark, is dormant in winter, and during the second growing season is called a floricane. The floricane produces fruit in early to mid summer and then dies. New primocanes are produced each year, so fruit production continues year after year.

Red and yellow raspberries produce numerous new canes from the base of the floricanes and from buds produced on the roots that become underground stems or stolons. The plants can spread in any direction. Thus "raspberry patch" is an apt name if the canes are not controlled through pruning.

Black and most purple raspberries produce primocanes only from the buds at the base of the floricanes. These clumps or “hills” remain in the original planting location.

Everbearing red raspberries, also called "fall-bearing" or "primocane-fruiting" raspberries, are able to initiate flowers during the first year. These cultivars produce fruit at the tips of the primocanes. During the second year, they can produce a summer crop on the lower part of the same canes. One problem with this type of raspberry in Minnesota is that in areas with a short growing season, many berries may be lost to early autumn freezes. Pruning of fall-bearers may be adjusted to allow for both a fall and following summer crop, or to take just the fall crop.

Grow raspberries in a part of the garden that has good air circulation, good drainage, and full sunlight. Good air movement helps foliage dry faster, thereby reducing disease problems. Standing water will increase the likelihood of disease problems and death of the plants due to a lack of oxygen to the roots. Any well-drained soil is satisfactory for growing raspberries. Irrigation will be needed on a sandy soil, and even on more moisture-retentive soils during dry spells. Raspberry canes are sensitive to desiccation (drying out), so avoid planting in a very windy spot.

Raspberries begin to bloom in late May or early June. Bumblebees, honeybees, and other wild bees are excellent pollinators of brambles. The more bees working your planting, the more fruit you will harvest.

Helpful hints

  • Raspberry plants need full sun to produce the most fruit. The plant will grow in part shade, but harvests will be meager.
  • Space red and yellow types 2 to 3 feet apart; space black and purple types 4 feet apart.
  • Raspberries are self-fertile. You'll get fruit with only one cultivar. They're best pollinated by bees.
  • Prune all types annually.
  • Raspberries will start producing fruit a year after planting.
  • Note: rabbits love to eat the canes in winter. A chicken wire fence will help prevent rabbit damage.


The University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station has been testing cultivars for many years to find those best suited to our climate. This list is based on that research. Most of the cultivars on the list are hardy throughout Minnesota; those with hardiness described as "fair" or "poor" will perform best in protected sites and in the southern part of the state. Of course there are many more cultivars available, with more being released every year, that may be hardy to some areas in Minnesota. As of publication, the cultivars listed here are considered the very best for this region.

If winter injury is a concern in your garden, primocane-fruiting cultivars may be the best choice.

Red raspberry cultivars recommended for northern gardens.

Cultivar Fruiting type Hardiness Freezing quality Description
Zone 4 Zone 3
Autumn Bliss Primocane Good Fair Very good Large clusters of bright red, mildly sweet berries. Early ripening.
Autumn Britten Primocane Very good Good Very good Very large, firm, flavorful berries. Early ripening.
Boyne Floricane Very good Good Very good Very hardy. Produces deer red, medium size, tender, sweet berries.
Caroline Primocane Good Fair Good Very large, rich, sweet berries.
Encore Floricane Very good Fair Good Sturdy, vigorous, nearly thornless upright plants produce a late season crop of large, sweet, firm berries.
Festival Floricane Very good Good Fair Nearly thornless plants. Less vigorous plants, but productive. Medium bright red berries.
Heritage Primocane Very good Good Good Produces large, bright red, super-sweet berries on vigorous, upright canes.
Killarney Floricane Very good Good Good So productive it will weigh down the upright canes. Firm, sweet fruit. Disease resistant.
Latham (1920) Floricane Very good Good Very good Vigorous plants produce lots of large, sweet, firm, bright red berries. Disease resistant.
Nova Floricane Very good Good Very good Very hardy plant with fewer thorns. Medium size, firm, bright red berries with a good, slightly tart flavor.
Prelude Floricane Fair Poor Good Early ripening, medium-large coral red berries. Second crop in fall.
Polana Primocane Good Good Good Large, firm berries with good flavor. Early ripening.
Summit Primocane Fair Poor Untested Upright habit allows for growing as a shrub or hedge. Mild flavored berries.

Yellow raspberry cultivars recommended for northern gardens.

Cultivar Fruiting type Hardiness Freezing quality Description
Zone 4 Zone 3
Anne Primocane Good Fair Good Widely adapted plants produce pale, yellow, very sweet, mild berries. Heat tolerant.
Fallgold Primocane Very good Good Untested Produces large, golden, firm, sweet berries. Very hardy.
Honeyqueen Floricane Good Fair Poor Honey-sweet, peach colored soft berries are produced on arched, spiny canes.

Purple raspberry cultivar recommended for northern gardens

Cultivar Fruiting type Hardiness Freezing quality Description
Zone 4 Zone 3
Royalty Floricane Fair Poor Very good Vigorous plants are heavy producers. Pick red for bright raspberry flavor, or purple for sweet, rich flavor.

Black raspberry cultivars recommended for northern gardens.

Cultivar Fruiting type Hardiness Freezing quality Description
Zone 4 Zone 3
Black Hawk Floricane Fair Poor Good Vigorous plants produce lots of rich, sweet, firm black raspberries. Disease resistant and heat tolerant.
Bristol Floricane Fair Poor Good Vigorous, upright canes produce large clusters of firm black raspberries. Excellent flavor.

Getting started

Buying plants

Purchase disease-free plants from a reputable nursery. Viruses can be readily transmitted into a planting through infected plants, and there is no way to "cure" the plants once they are infected. They can only be destroyed to control the spread of the virus. Raspberry plants can be purchased as dormant bare-root plants or as potted plants.

dormant bare-root raspberry plant on soil

Photo by Emily Tepe

Dormant, bare-root raspberry transplants may look dead, but as soon as they are planted, watered, and exposed to warm temperatures, new growth will appear quickly.


Early spring is the best time to plant raspberries. Choose a planting site that is in full sun. The plants will grow in part shade, but will not produce as much fruit. Raspberries prefer rich, well-drained soil. A couple inches of compost mixed into the soil prior to planting will create a high quality planting site. A good rate is about 3 1/2 cubic feet of compost per 100 square feet. Till the soil well before planting.


raspberries growing behind an iron fence

Photo by Emily Hoover

Try growing raspberries in a narrow raised bed with a decorative fence for support. It will keep them contained to a small area and make pruning easier.

Planting raspberries in a row along a fence or wall makes for easy management, and best of all, easy picking. Or you can go a little more rustic, and grow your raspberries in more of a rounded patch. Either way, space red or yellow raspberry plants every 2 to 3 feet.

Whether you're planting bare-root or potted plants, the key is to keep the crown of the plant 1 or 2 inches above the ground.

Dig a hole based on the size of the root mass, so when you place the plant in the hole, the roots can be nicely spread out. Try not to wrap the roots around in the hole. If any roots are particularly long or unruly, they can be trimmed off. If planting a potted plant, make sure to loosen the root ball and cut any tightly wound roots. This will help the roots spread better once planted in the ground.

Allow new primocanes of red and yellow raspberries to spread along the row or in between plants but not wider than 12 inches. Wider than that and the plants will be too dense, difficult to manage and harvest, and invite fungal diseases because of slow drying conditions.

Set black and purple raspberries 4 feet apart. Because these types do not produce root suckers, they will create what is commonly called a hill. The "hill" does not mean mounding the soil; it refers to the cluster of canes that develops from a single plant. Although black and purple raspberries do not send up new primocanes outside the hill, they can spread. The long, vigorous canes often arch down to the soil surface, where they may take root. It's important to keep the canes controlled and supported to prevent this.


Plentiful water is important for raspberries from spring until after harvest. Because the root system is in the top two feet of soil, watering regularly is more beneficial than an occasional deep soaking. Raspberries need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week from flowering until harvest. Use a rain gauge or check reported rainfall, and irrigate accordingly.


All types of raspberries require support to prevent the canes from wind damage, bending over, cracking, and getting out of control. A trellis can be as simple as a couple of posts and twine for a row of plants, or a decorative obelisk, teepee or arbor for individual or mass plantings. Supporting the plants will not only keep them healthier and more productive, it will also keep them looking nice. And don't leave your raspberries all alone: plant sturdy ornamentals like yarrow, echinacea or rudbeckia or perhaps herbs or other edibles like kale alongside your raspberries to create a beautiful mixed garden. These will help support the raspberries and invite beneficial insects into the garden.

Through the seasons

Follow this list of tasks for floricane (summer-bearing) red, yellow, black, and purple raspberries.

Things to do When to do them
For red and yellow raspberries, cut canes back to 4-5 feet tall before growth begins March
For black and purple raspberries, cut side branches back to 12-18 inches; prune all but 4 to 5 canes per hill to the ground March
Plant bare-root transplants as soon as the soil can be worked April, May
Plant potted transplants after threat of frost has passed May, June
Keep an eye out for spider mites and Japanese beetles June through August
Pinch black and purple raspberry cane tips July, August
Harvest July, August
Cut fruit-producing canes to the ground after harvest August
Apply mulch for winter protection November
Set up fence around plants if rabbit damage is expected during winter November

Follow this list of tasks for primocane (fall-bearing) red and yellow raspberries.

Things to do When to do them
For fall-only primocane raspberries, cut all canes to the ground before growth begins March
Plant bare-root transplants as soon as the soil can be worked April, May
Plant potted transplants after threat of frost has passed May, June
Keep an eye out for spider mites and Japanese beetles June through August
Harvest August, September

Fertilizer and mulch

Raspberry plants are heavy feeders and generally need to be fertilized. Composted manure is a good source of nutrients and can be incorporated prior to planting at a rate of 31/2 cubic feet per 100 sq. feet, to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. On established plantings, apply the same rate for continued plant nutrition.

Raspberries enjoy a couple-inch layer of mulch. Good mulches for use in the home garden include leaves, lawn clippings, and wood chips or shavings, because they are usually free of weed seeds.


Keep the area around the base of raspberry plants free of weeds to prevent them having to compete for water and nutrients. Keeping the area weeded will also reduce the potential for insect and disease problems. Remove weeds early and often. A layer of mulch will help control weeds.

Red and yellow raspberry plants send up shoots or suckers in places you would least expect. If you discover suckers outside the area intended for your raspberry plants, cut them to the ground. Remember, those suckers are attached to spreading roots, so it's a good idea to use a shovel to sever the roots. This will likely be a regular task for the raspberry grower.

Insects and other creatures

Raspberries can be damaged by spider mites, aphids, tarnished plant bugs and other insect pests. However, on the scale of the home garden these insects are rarely a problem and are usually managed by keeping the planting area clean and weed-free, maintaining healthy plants, and removing any damaged, dead or infested parts of the plant. If mites or aphids are discovered, a firm spray of water is often all that is needed to dislodge them.

We are starting to see more and more Japanese beetles in the Upper Midwest, and these insects can wreak havoc quickly by chewing on the leaves of raspberry plants, making them look like lace. Damage is obvious, and so are the beetles. They're rather large (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long), iridescent green and bronze, with a row of little white tufts along their sides. Keep an eye on your plants, and at the first sign take a pail of soapy water into the garden and flick the beetles off the plant into the pail and wait for them to die before disposing. The adult beetles only live for a few weeks from late-June into July. Monitor your plants and destroy beetles during this time, and you should be able to prevent significant damage.

raspberry leaves with holes

Photo by Emily Hoover

Japanese beetle damage on raspberry leaves.

Picnic beetles, also called sap beetles, can become a nuisance soon after berries begin to ripen. They are attracted to all types of overripe fruit, as are wasps. Frequent picking will help reduce the amount of overripe fruit and decrease the area's attractiveness to these insects.

Spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) has recently become a major pest in commercial raspberry plantings in Minnesota. These problematic insects might be found in home raspberry plantings as well. For more information on SWD and other insect pests, see Pest management for the home raspberry patch.

Rabbits are partial to raspberry canes in winter, and will eat them, thorns and all, right down to the ground or the snow line. A simple chicken wire fence around your raspberry plants should protect them from rabbits throughout the winter.

Diseases and other challenges

heat damaged raspberry with white spots

Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Sunscald on raspberry. The fruit is still edible.

Diseases can be limited by planting certified disease-free plants, destroying wild or abandoned brambles near the garden, and removing weak and diseased plants in established plantings. After harvest, remove and destroy canes that have fruited or are weak; one of the most effective measures is to improve air circulation by proper thinning and pruning and by controlling weeds. Keep an eye out for spots, discoloration, parts of the plants dying, or moldy growth on foliage or fruit. Refer to Pest management for the home raspberry patch to help you identify and manage diseases.

Heat can damage raspberries. Hot days with strong sunlight may cause the production of berries that have white or colorless drupelets (the small, individual, seed-containing parts of each berry). The white drupelets will be flavorless, but there is no harm in eating them. Once the weather cools, normal berries will be produced. Heat can also cause berries to ripen faster than you can pick them, which can attract insects. Pick ripe fruit immediately.


Raspberries grow vigorously and need annual pruning. This keeps the plants looking good, increases productivity, and reduces the chance of diseases.

Summer-bearing red and yellow raspberries

After the last harvest, cut all canes that have produced fruit to ground level and remove them. This eliminates a disease source and gives primocanes more room to grow. Thin primocanes to 4 to 5 sturdy canes per foot of row. In areas where winter injury is common, you may delay thinning the primocanes until the following spring, when you will be able to tell which canes have survived. Primocane growth may be somewhat reduced under this delayed-thinning method, due to competition among new canes. Before growth starts in spring, cut the canes to about 12 inches above the support. Don't cut back more than 25% of each cane, to avoid reducing yield.

Fall-bearing raspberries

If only a fall crop is desired, cut all canes off at the base before growth begins in spring. Fruit will be produced on primocanes in late summer or fall. To get both fall and summer crops, thin the canes as described for summer-bearing raspberries. The primocanes that produced the fall crop should not be removed, as they will produce fruit the following summer. Prune them back in spring to about 12 inches above the support, or to the last visible node that had fruit, cutting off the dead tips.

Black and purple raspberries

When primocanes are between 24 to 30 inches in height, pinch out the tip of each shoot to induce branching. This will make the fruit easier to pick and increase production. After harvest, cut down all canes that bore fruit to ground level. Before growth begins the following spring, cut back all side branches so they are 12 to 18 inches long. Select 4 to 5 canes per hill, and prune out the rest. Tie these canes to the support system.

Harvest and storage

pile of bright red raspberries

Photo by Julie Weisenhorn

Wait to wash berries until just before eating.

Raspberries of all colors are ready to pick when their color is developed and the fruit is plump and tender. Another indicator of ripeness is when the fruit comes off the plant easily when gently pulled.

Berries ripen over a couple of weeks, so simply pick them as they ripen. Pick berries into a shallow container. If they get piled too deep they'll crush each other.

Right after picking, place raspberries in the fridge. If your fridge tends to dry out produce, lightly cover the container. Raspberries don't store for very long, usually just a few days. Don't wash berries until you're ready to eat them; the moisture will cause them to break down more quickly.

Additional resources

Downloadable eBook

cover of book Growing Fruit in the Northern GardenGrowing Fruit in the Northern Garden
eBook for iPad, iPhone and Mac
University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science

Pest management

Pest management for the home raspberry patch
University of Minnesota Extension
What's wrong with my plant?
University of Minnesota Extension
What insect is this?
University of Minnesota Extension
Plant Disease Clinic
University of Minnesota


Revised 2016

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