Pruning Blackberry Plants: Erect And Trailing

blackberry vine
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  • Beginner
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What You'll Need
Gardening gloves
Hand pruners
What You'll Need
Gardening gloves
Hand pruners

Blackberry plants require some pruning or training through the planting year, and erect and trailing blackberry bushes have slightly different pruning needs.

Blackberries can become unmanageable if not pruned each year. Pruning regularly can help you maintain a tangle-free patch.

TIP—Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein cautions you, "If your bushes are of a thorned variety, make sure to wear gardening gloves and long sleeves before attempting pruning of any kind."

Erect Cultivars

blackberries with honey

Erect cultivars are usually more winter-hardy than trailing blackberry bushes. They don’t need to be protected in winter.

Step 1 - Remove New Primocanes In Summer

Primocanes are the actively growing vegetative canes. Essentially, the new growth.

In one year, the primocanes will mature into floricanes, the old growth fruit producing canes. Once the fruit has been harvested, the floricanes will eventually die.

In erect blackberry plants, remove the top one to two inches of new primocanes when they reach three feet tall, usually in late June to July. This will cause the canes to branch, and they will produce fruit the following year.

TIP—Rachel adds, "Hand pruners are great for tipping canes."

After harvest, use loppers to remove the floricanes at the root crown. These two-year old canes will die by the end of the current growing season.

Removing the floricanes immediately after the fruiting season will discourage disease and infection.

TIP—Rachel advises, "Never prune floricanes before or during the fruiting season, since they bear all the berries, except if they are damaged or diseased."

Step 2 - Tip Lateral Canes

In the late winter, use hand shears to cut back lateral (horizontal) canes to 12 to 14 inches. This will help greatly in allowing better access for harvesting and will encourage larger berries.

Step 3 - Thin Primocanes in Late Winter

When the plants are dormant, thin the primocanes to three or four of the blackberry plants’ strongest canes. If you have multiple plants in a row (hedgerow), thin one large cane every five inches in the row.

Prune all lateral branches on these canes to a length of 12 to 18 inches.

Erect blackberry plants grown in a hedgerow will benefit from a trellis consisting of two wires, one on each side of the row, and at a height of three to five feet. This prevents the canes from bending into the aisles.

Trailing Cultivars

frozen berries

Step 1 - Train New Primocanes In Spring

In most types of trailing blackberry bushes, new canes are produced at the crown of the plant in the spring.

They grow upright for a while and then turn down and trail along the ground. To avoid injury to these new primocanes, it’s best to keep them trained in a narrow row.

TIP:—Rachel suggests, "When the primocanes reach three to four feet tall, top them by cutting off the top one to two inches of growth. This will encourage lateral growth and in turn, a larger harvest."