Pruning Brambles

As with any plant, pruning reduces the chance of pest invasion and infection, allows better air circulation and light exposure, and so ultimately, means more fruit.

Pruning Brambles (Blackberries and Raspberries)

Pruning Brambles (Blackberries and Raspberries)

Brambles that produce blackberries and raspberries should be pruned periodically to ensure a good harvest in coming years. However, not all brambles are the same, and pruning techniques vary from plant to plant.

Photo by: Alex Coan /

Alex Coan /

Tools and Materials

  • Pruners
  • Loppers
  • Heavy gloves and arm protection

Step 1: How Brambles Grow

It's easier to remember how to prune brambles if you understand how they grow. The plants' underground parts the roots and crown are perennial, but the canes (upright stems) that arise from the crown are biennial, meaning that they live just two years. In its first year, a cane grows vigorously, develops a strong structure, and stores energy. It produces fruit in its second year. After fruiting, the cane declines and dies, though some species called everbearing produce fruit late in their first season and again in their second year.

Since the 2-year old canes die after fruiting, you can cut them back to the ground immediately after harvest. Prune carefully to avoid damaging the bramble's crown with your pruners.

Each category of brambles has a different growth and fruiting habit, so pruning practices vary. At any time of year, you can remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches and canes.

Note: the recommended pruned lengths are for untrellised brambles. If you provide support for your brambles, you can leave longer canes.

Step 2: Summer-Bearing Red and Golden Raspberries

These brambles produce tall, unbranched canes as well as root suckers (canes that spring from the roots rather than the crown of the plant).

In late winter or early spring before new growth begins, remove canes until there are eight strong canes per three feet of row. If your brambles grow in a bed rather than a row, thin them to six to ten canes per square foot of row. Another way to measure is to leave an average of four to six inches between canes.

In the early spring as growth is beginning, prune back the tips of second-year canes so they stand erect and about 4 to 5 feet high.

Step 3: Black and Purple Raspberries

Unlike their red and golden cousins, black and purple raspberry canes branch vigorously, and grow in a vase shape, producing few if any root suckers. If allowed to grow unpruned, the long canes that come in contact with soil form roots, giving rise to new plants.

In spring, when first-year canes reach 18 to 20 inches tall, prune back the tips. This encourages strong branching. The following spring, trim branches back to 8 to 12 inches. When thinning canes, leave five to ten canes per plant, depending on the soil fertility.

Step 4: Everbearing Raspberries

Despite their name, these varieties also called fall-bearing don't bear fruit constantly. The first year, canes bear fruit at their tips. The following summer, the same canes bear fruit lower down.

After fall harvest the first year, remove the cane tip. After the summer harvest the following year, prune the rest of the cane to the ground.


Remove dead, damaged, or diseased canes any time of year.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How and When to Prune Blueberry Bushes

To keep them producing well, blueberry bushes need to be pruned every year.

How to Prune Fall Raspberries

The plump, juicy fruit of a raspberry is one of summer’s greatest joys, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

How to Prune a Tree

Pruning trees doesn't have to be a daunting process. Learn how to safely, quickly and easily prune the trees in your yard.

Pruning a Needle-Bearing Evergreen

Evergreens with needle-like foliage usually need pruning only to remove dead, damaged, or diseased limbs. You can also prune to keep their growth compact. Pruning methods vary depending on the conifer's branching habit.

Pruning a Shrub Rose

Pruning your roses will help increase blooming and decrease disease and pest problems. Follow these steps to learn how to make the right cuts.

Pruning an Apple Tree

Learn how to prune your trees correctly using the steps below.

Pruners Beware

Horticulture agent Paul McKenzie advises against reckless pruning.

How and When to Prune Hollies

Hollies easily tolerate pruning but not necessarily in deep winter.

Pruning Basics

Keep these tips in mind before tackling trees and shrubs.

When Your Bramble Starts to Ramble

When they take over your garden or yard, invasive blackberry brambles need sustained and serious treatment.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.