Raspberry bushes are low maintenance plants which need pruning only once a year. Raspberries can grow in the wild or in your backyard. The bushes should be pruned in the late winter or early spring after danger of frost has passed and before new growth begins. Dead canes can be removed in the fall to minimize overwintering disease.
TIP: "There are both summer-bearing (floricane) and fall or everbearing (primocanes) types of raspberries," says our expert gardening advisor Karen Thurber. "Primocane raspberries fruit on the first year's canes. Floricane raspberries fruit on the second year's canes in the summer. Each has its own method of pruning. Here we are discussing how to prune raspberries that fruit in the summer, also called floricane raspberries."
Step 1 - Watch Out for the Thorns
Raspberry bushes have sharp thorns. To protect your skin, put on thick gloves and wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Safety glasses are also a good idea to protect your eyes.
Step 2 - Remove Dead Canes
With clean and sharp pruners or loppers, cut back all dead canes to ground level (these are the canes which have died during the last season). The removal of these canes is important even though they are dead.
TIP: "Dead canes can be places for insects and diseases to live," says Thurber.
Step 3 - Prune Fruited Canes
Prune all raspberry canes that bore fruit because they will not produce anymore. You can recognize them by their grayish color and peeling bark.
Step 4 - Remove Weak Canes
Remove all canes that look weak or irregular. Insect-infected canes should be burned or thrown into the regular trash; do not put them into the compost bin.
Step 5 -Thin the Newly Grown Canes
Thin the newly grown canes because raspberry bushes grow fast and vigorously. Leave the healthiest and sturdiest canes (about three to five per square foot). Leaving few but healthy canes results in larger, better fruit. The remaining canes should be about chest height.
TIP: "After you are through pruning your raspberries, rake up dropped leaves to discourage homes for insects and diseases," Thurber adds. "It is also a great time to fertilize and mulch."
If you have done a good pruning job, you will see the results in your next harvest.
More Tips and Tricks
Make sure that light and air can get inside the plants. To ensure this, keep the raspberry plants growing in a row.
TIP: "Raspberries can be supported with stakes on each side of the row with wire or twine run between the stakes," adds Thurber.
Along a fence you will have more trouble controlling them, as raspberries grow wild easily. If you have enough space in your garden, create rows. Prune the raspberries that grow outside 12 to 18 inches of the row. Canes should have 4 to 6 inches between them for adequate air circulation.