Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Raspberries in the South

I grow two kinds of raspberries in my yard, and in both cases I am flirting with the edge of their hardiness zones. Mostly, it gets way too hot and humid here for raspberries, and diseases (that should have killed them off) abound. It’s probably a minor miracle that I have enjoyed as much fruit from these plants as I have so far.

The Heritage red raspberries have been in the same bed in the backyard for about 20 years. They were among the first perennial food-crops we planted when we moved here 22 years ago. The Jewel black raspberries have been in the front yard for only three (or maybe four) years.

Heritage is an erect, primocane type, which means that the moderately prickly canes typically grow to only about four feet high and stay (mostly) upright, and that they produce fruit in late summer on canes that first appeared just that previous spring – on canes that are only several months old. You can plant Heritage in spring and expect fruit in the late summer of that very first year. Those same canes can also produce fruit in the following spring if they are left in place over the winter.

Jewel, a trailing, floricane type, has crazy long thorny canes that fall all over the place if left unchecked, and it produces fruit in spring on canes that first appeared the previous spring, a full year later. In other words, the first fruit on a new plant will be produced the second year that the plant is in the ground.

Neither of these varieties is recommended by UGA as being good-to-grow in most of Georgia. The UGA publication “Home Garden Raspberries and Blackberries” does mention that Heritage (plus Redwing, Carolina, Nantahala, and Latham) produces well in the mountain and upper Piedmont areas, but the publication focuses mostly on blackberries and the trailing red raspberry variety called Dormanred.

The hilariously unappealing information offered about Dormanred is this: “Fruit must be very ripe to be sweet; good producer statewide; better cooked than fresh…” The North Carolina State University publication “Raspberries in the Home Garden” echoes the faint praise by saying that Dormanred fruits are “glossy red, fair quality.” In other words, if we want to eat good, fresh raspberries, most Southerners will need to hop in the car and drive north - or way uphill - to find them.

In cooler regions, raspberries are grown in full sun to get the best production from the plants. Here in my yard, the raspberries are in partial shade. The Heritage bed in the backyard gets full sun for only about 5 or 6 hours, and those are not late-afternoon hours. I think this has helped the plants’ longevity, even though it means that the productivity isn’t very high.

When I was thinking about where to plant the black raspberries, I remembered that – when we used to live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia – I had seen wild black raspberries on woodland edges where they got morning rather than afternoon sun. I didn’t have a spot exactly like that, but I do have a spot that's on the north edge of a tree/shrub area that also has a very small tree blocking part of the late-afternoon sun, and Jewel seems to be doing well enough in that place.

We also are growing the invasive Wineberry, because it, like the other two, produces delicious berries.

I'm thinking about raspberries now because some of the Jewel canes have tip-rooted, and the babies, which are in very inconvenient places, need to be moved. I've already moved a couple of the babies into pots, and the rest will be dug up soon. There's also some pruning to do - removing the older, second-year canes before insects and diseases find them and move in.


  1. Hi I live in nw ga also, would blackberries be easier to keep in this area?

  2. Blackberries tend to be a lot easier, and there are more good varieties from which to choose.

    If you are feeling really adventurous, there are a couple of fairly new "primocane" types (Prime Jim and Prime Jan) that produce fruit on first year canes in late summer, so if you plan it all right you can have blackberries in two seasons, just like for the primocane raspberries.

    However, for me the spring crop of berries from my primocane Heritage raspberries is better flavored and more abundant than the late summer crop of berries. I haven't tried the Prime Jim & Jan blackberry plants, so I don't know whether this would also be true for them, but I will probably try them sometime in the next few years (first I have to find a place to plant them...).

    Hope something in that reply is helpful!


  3. Have you tried any of the thornless varieties? I live in Decatur and am trying to figure out the best fruit that's possible to grow in part shade.

  4. Have you tried any of the thornless varieties? I live in Decatur and am trying to figure out the best fruit that's possible to grow in part shade.

  5. I grow some thornless varieties of blackberries that do pretty well in their partial-sun spot in my yard. The little farm where I volunteer on weekends also grows thornless blackberries, and those are doing very well, because they are growing in full sun. The farm plants are much more productive than mine. I still get blackberries, though. The wineberries (which are a bit invasive and fairly thorny) seem more productive in the partial-sun spot. How much "part shade" does your yard have?


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