Best Raspberry Plants for Your Garden

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Heritage raspberries

Growing up in a semi-tropical climate, I was ten years old before I experienced two natural wonders – snow and summer-ripe red raspberries. Like snow, the red raspberries discovered in my aunt's yard in Iowa during a summer visit seemed like a miracle – mild, sweet and pleasingly seedy, nothing like the crazy-tart blackberries that grew back home. My brothers and I picked enough to eat in the back seat all the way to Chicago.

Now that I live in a raspberry-friendly climate with adequate winter chilling, the challenge is to grow the best raspberries for my garden. Many newer varieties produce earlier or later than the traditional summer-bearing types, but are they any better? The answer depends on how much space you have for growing raspberries, and what you plan to do with the crop.

Summer-Ripening Red Raspberries

This group of highly desirable cultivars produce plump red fruits in early summer on new canes that grew the summer before. The process of growth, dormancy and spring emergence serves the plants and their keepers well by resulting in firm, flavorful berries. Summer-ripening red raspberries produce heavy crops all at once, so they are ideal for freezing or making into jam. It's also nice to get the raspberries picked before summer vegetables need harvesting, there being only so many hours in a day.

Raspberry 'All Gold'

In the US, 'Nova' and 'Prelude' are often the strongest early-ripening red raspberries, a niche filled by 'Glen Ample' in the UK. Because these varieties get on with the business of fruiting soon after they emerge from winter dormancy, they are easy to manage as compact bushes tethered to posts or fences.

Varieties that ripen a few weeks later such as 'Boyne' and 'Killarney' in the US, or 'Tullameen' or 'Malling Admiral' in the UK, can be phenomenally productive, but their taller canes need more discipline. Tight wire trellises are often recommended for keeping them upright, but again small garden plantings can be supported in a number of ways, like incorporating raspberries into a fence along the garden's boundary. With adequate moisture the bushy plants will grow to 4 feet (1.3 m) tall, at which height they should be pinched back to induce branching.

I think these summer raspberries are the first ones to get situated in a sustainable landscape, because they are dependable and delicious, and have few pest problems when properly managed. As soon as the last berry is picked, the cane that bore it should be lopped off at the ground and then pulled out from the top. This operation thwarts many potential pest and disease problems by removing tired plant tissue from the site, and by increasing the sunshine available to the new canes, which will bear the following year's fruit.

Raspberry 'Heritage'

If you have space and enjoy making homemade wine, juice or jelly, I recommend a pillar or two of either 'Royalty' purple raspberry or a black raspberry known to grow well in your area ('Bristol' and 'Jewel' are popular, well-adapted black raspberry cultivars). 'Royalty' purple raspberry is a cross between red and black raspberries, with the productivity and fruit size of red raspberries with complex black raspberry flavor. But be forewarned that these bristly brambles like to grow long stems that arch over and root at the tips, a habit you will need to control by topping new canes back to head height in late summer.

Awesome Autumn Raspberries

If you have no tree fruits that fill your time in September, by all means give autumn raspberries a place in an airy corner of the garden. Unlike summer-bearing varieties, fall-bearers produce on the current year's growth. Plantings are cut back to stubs in winter, and kept well supplied with moisture and nutrients until they bloom and set fruit from late summer to fall.

Raspberry 'Autumn Bliss'

The oldest name in autumn raspberries, 'Heritage', is gradually being replaced by varieties that produce heavier crops of better-quality fruit. Two excellent choices in autumn red raspberries are 'Caroline' and 'Autumn Bliss', but many people like to let golden raspberries take center stage in the fall. Indeed, fall-bearing golden raspberries like 'Anne', 'All Gold' and 'KiwiGold' often taste extra sweet because of fewer tart compounds.

The world of raspberries has changed since I was a child on the Gulf Coast, where autumn raspberries are now grown with great success because of their low chilling requirements. To me raspberries remain a wonder, so I'm now starting to dig and amend planting holes where new plants will be planted next spring. Can a gardener ever have enough raspberries?

Photos of 'Autumn Bliss' and 'All Gold' raspberries courtesy of Groves Nurseries in Dorset, UK.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Show Comments


"Thank you Barbara for your article. Can IO ask you to please explain what you mean by "should be lopped off at the ground and then pulled out from the top"?. It is the puling out from the top part that I don't understand. Sorry to bother you with such a silly question!! Thank you, Keith"
Keith Jamson on Friday 7 December 2012
"Keith, it's a good question! Most raspberries are quite prickly, and the bushes are broader at the top than at the bottom. If you do what we humans are inclined to do -- cut off the cane and pull it out from the bottom -- you meet much more resistance than if you pull out the severed canes from the top. This results in fewer scratches and less damage to the young green canes."
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 7 December 2012
"I have both Latham and Heritage in the same garden plot. I believe the Latham produce rasberrys in the summer, and Heritage in the fall. I planted them 7 years ago and I am not able to tell them apart, until they bear fruit. Should I start over and be careful to not mix them? "
Jerry on Friday 7 December 2012
"In my experience Heritage will grow and bear just about anywhere, so I would gradually remove them from the Lathams. Then you can do a better job coaxing a stellar crop from your summer-bearers, and manage the Heritage so they bear only in fall by cutting them down to the ground in winter. "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 11 December 2012
"can i just grow 1 autumn bliss or do i need to plant 2 autumn bliss to grow some fruit"
alice oapa on Tuesday 12 March 2013
"I would plant two or three in case one plant fails to grow for some reason. Pollination depends on wind and insects, so fruit set would probably be improved with more than one plant."
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 12 March 2013
"would like to know about red raspberry"
judy washburn on Monday 13 May 2013
"Judy, I would look at some of the summer red raspberries discussed above, because they are such strong producers."
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 14 May 2013
"Hi Barbara We have recently moved house and our soil pH is around 7.5. Are there any raspberries that tolerate higher pH levels better than others? I am specially keen to grow autumn fruiting ones. We didn't realise how spoilt we were before as they grew like weeds in our old garden!"
Susie Peach on Thursday 27 June 2013
"Susie, with a little work and some time, you can lower the pH in your future raspeberry patch using elemental sulfur and acidic soil amendments like sawdust or pine needles. Mix the sulfur into the soil (follow package directions) and then cover with an acidic mulch through the winter. Check the pH in spring. You may need to mix in a second application of sulfur, but that should bring you down to 6.0. "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 28 June 2013
"Thanks Barbara, I will be working on lowering the pH for the raspberries as you suggested but wondered if there are any varieties that are more tolerant than others in order to tackle the problem from both ends and hopefully increase the likelihood of a productive outcome as soon as possible. "
Susie Peach on Saturday 29 June 2013
"Making lasting changes in soil pH takes time, at least months, but meanwhile you can grow a few plants in containers filled with an azalea/rhododendron planting mix. Sink the planted pots halfway into the ground in a temporary nursery area, and then pop the plants into the modified soil first thing in spring, and mulch with an acidic mulch. You will get a few berries the first year this way."
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 30 June 2013
"hi Barbara Thank you for this further information on improving the soil pH and using containers. Is it not possible to find out whether there are any varieties that are more tolerant to higher pH levels than others? Thanks"
SUSIE PEACH on Sunday 30 June 2013
"Most references say raspberries need a pH of 6.5, but others use the word "neutral". In the US, a variety sold by White Flower Farm, Raspberry Shortcake, is said to adapt to 7.5 pH. I think this is true of most raspberries in good soil conditions. Go ahead and make planting plans that involve an acidic mulch, and let the raspberries be the judge of things."
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 4 July 2013

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