Stupid Thorns, Tasty Berries: How To Prune Raspberries (It’s Easy)

So every time I open up my pruning book to the raspberry page, I get deep unhappy furrows in my brow. Raspberries are a simple plant. Why do they have to make it so complicated?

There’s the summer-fruiting kind (with a short fruiting season), which fruit best on one year old wood. Ideally with these, you should prune out the canes that have fruited right after they finish (late summer/early fall) and leave the current year’s canes (the brand new fleshy green ones) to fruit the following year.

Then there are autumn-fruiting raspberries (with a longer fruiting season) , which fruit on the current season’s growth. You aren’t supposed to prune out the fruited canes right away like with the summer-fruiting ones. Instead you cut every cane down in late winter when the plants are fully dormant, and allow all new canes to come up in spring.

The problem is, most people have no clue which type they have.

So I was pleased to read recently that there’s a simple rule that works for both varieties: In winter, just remove any canes that gave you fruit, and you are good to go. The stems that once held fruit will still be clinging to the canes, making it easy to tell.

If the vast majority of canes fruited last year, it’s likely you have an autumn-bearing variety. Don’t be alarmed if you basically cut the lot of it to the ground.

If only some of them fruited last year and the rest of the canes seem green and fresh, it’s likely you have a summer-bearer. Either way? The simpler rule of pruning works fine.

Hope that helps you feel confident to get out there and prune your raspberries!

(By the way, the same rule is good for Boysenberries, Blackberries, and Loganberries, which all fruit on one-year old canes – just prune out the canes that fruited for you, and tie the fresh new ones to your trellis! Simple, right?)

36 responses to “Stupid Thorns, Tasty Berries: How To Prune Raspberries (It’s Easy)”

  1. Hi Genevieve, that really is a help. I am new to the raspberry growing world and have not done any pruning yet. There are few canes anyway but I think they did bear, so down they will go. Next season I will try and pay better attention to when they flower and fruit. You have done a great service to us, thanks.

    Frances’s last blog post..Some People Are Just Lucky

  2. I got several raspberry plants from my dad in zone 5 and I live in zone 4. I planted them and have never done anything in 2 years. I didn’t know you had to prune. Some of the canes are 5-6 feet high, they didn’t bear fruit. The small one’s did bear fruit. They got about 3 feet high. They bear fruit in July. Do I prune in the spring? Or just leave it til fall?

  3. So it is end of May (5/23) and i did not get around to pruning last fall, this past winter or this spring. I planted (about 4 feet apart) a white and a red raspberry plant and they bore well last year (when i could see through the canes and collect the berries. now they are just one giant mass of green–about 6 feet tall and footprint about 4 feet x 7 feet. I obviously need some radical surgery, but is it too late to cut them to the ground? Can’t imagine how to tell which ones gave fruit last year. Help please

  4. I’m new to raspberries but seem to have very happy second year plants with lots of fruit.
    I also have a center stalk coming up from each of the main plants that seems to be getting taller by the day and bigger in diameter. No fruit and no big canes either but a foot or two taller. Just curious to know if I should cut them off or leave them?
    The rest of the plants look great and are heavy with fruit.
    Looking forward to your response.
    Roy Mears
    Chestertown, Maryland

  5. Please help me, I can not understand this.
    I have just moved to a home with rows of raspberrys. There are canes with fruit with thorns, and many tall canes without fruit and without thorns,[ Green smooth shoots ]. Should I be pruning out those without thorns? It’s July 1st and I’m in the pacific N.W.
    Thank You,

    • You don’t prune at all until winter, Marilyn. Then you prune out anything that fruited. So leave it be until the end of the year. Hope that helps!

  6. I tie some colorful yarn around the canes that produce fruit, so when I have help pruning, they cut off the right canes. Also I have been looking for white raspberry bushes, and have found nothing. any suppliers would be a great help

  7. Yaaa! Finally sound advice on raspberry plants. I’ve been reading and studying only to get more confused. This is great Gen ..thanks! It is winter…I have not cut anything yet but is it still alright (once the snow is mostly gone) to cut them to the ground? We transplanted 6 plants last spring and we had a little fruit. I’m thinking next month once the snow melts of going out there and cutting them. I have no idea at this point which stems fruited or not.


    • If you have no clue what fruited now, if there aren’t little remnants of the stems that once held fruit and flowers on some of the stems, then instead of whacking the whole thing, I’d leave it be till next year. Best to err on the side of caution with new plants.

  8. One of my relatives decided to mulch my garden while I was away. I came back to find my canby raspberries trimmed back. Will I get any fruit this year?? I did not prune in the fall and like the above have a thick bunch. The leaves are barely coming out.

  9. I pruned my raspberry bushes last summer after I havested my berries. I cut the old canes to the ground and topped the new ones to about four feet. Before winter the topped canes sprouted new vines that grew another three feet before winter set in. This season those new vines produced so much fruit that they collapsed on each other and it was hard to harvest the berries. Was I not suppose to top the new growth? I got much more fruit in doing this.

  10. Hi,
    I basically want to prune out this year’s fruit bearing canes but also would like to get a wild patch under control. They haven’t been pruned in years and are totally overgrown. Hard to pick berries and hard to even get into the patch. Really no rows, just solid canes.

    Can I just cut off the canes I want to eliminate? And when would I do that? Or would I need to actually dig out the canes that have to go. That’s seems like it would be hard.

    Thanks for your advice!

  11. I am living in my parents home. They are not here to instruct on how they dealt with their berries over the years. The bushes have been here 30 or so years. I like to get all my pruning and clean up done now before the weather gets very wet and so there is less to do in the Spring,often cold and wet as well. (Seattle area) Can I prune back all canes to a foot from the ground and have them be OK next season? I did this last year and didn’t know if it gave me more or less of a harvest than I could have had. I covered them with commercially bought compost.

  12. Mine fruited on 3rd year canes. They bear fruit from early July to early Sept. Doesn’t fit any description given here so I guess I’ll just randomly cut them back? I think local climate must dictate more than variety.

    • Cut back anything that fruited last year. That will have you either pruning some or nearly all of the canes. And yeah, when they are first getting going it can take a while for them to begin fruiting, but once they’;re in the swing of things it should be easier to tell whether some or all of your canes are fruiting each year. But the advice doesn’t change. If it fruited, cut to the ground.

  13. Last year I planted two everbearing varieties; Fall Gold and Caroline. This spring I cut them back to the ground. I am going to keep my row no wider than 18 inches but should I thin any of the new shoots out within that row or leave all that come up?

  14. We started our rasberry patch with 3 plants given by a friend 20 years ago. Our patch has grown to an unmanagable 30 – 60 foot patch including weeds. It grows wonderful fruit, and yields 2 and sometimes 3 times each season. However, it is very difficult to reach fruit. I would like to have paths every few feet an keep the rows managed. To start this, can I just mow the whole patch to the ground this winter, and start fresh in the spring… or will this ruin the plants??? thanks…


    • Jerry, the worst that would happen if you were to mow down the entire raspberry patch is that you would not get fruit the first year. Some varieties of raspberry fruit on the current year’s growth and some fruit on the previous year’s growth. If you were to mow down the entire patch, you would certainly find out which variety you have. With berries that fruit on the current year’s growth, I cut them down to the ground yearly anyway. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  15. do you deadhwad raspberrys like you deadhead mums. if you pick the fruit do you cut off the bulb.

  16. I have 3 different types of raspberries, some red some black and some yellow. All planted this spring. The pruning for the reds is simple, but the other 2 are a mystery. The new growth for the blacks, the canes are getting about 5 feet and still growing. The yellows are getting nice and bushy and tall as well and there are blossoms on the top of the new growth. My husband wants to top off the canes, but I’m liking the idea of supporting the canes and leave them be. Please settle this tug of war of the raspberry canes

  17. If you can keep track of which canes bore fruit and which ones didn’t, the early winter-pruning advice will serve you well. There are a lot of gardeners that aren’t particularly knowledgeable about what canes to trim and what canes to leave intact, however. When in doubt, the best time to prune is right after harvest. By the time the berry bush comes to harvest again it will be nearing the year-mark and in so doing you minimize the risk of reducing the yield as a result of inadvertently removing older, berry-yielding canes. For late-season producing berry bushes the standard late Fall or early Winter pruning advice is a safe bet. But for early-peaking varieties, such as boysenberry, it greatly simplifies matters to prune right after harvest.

  18. My raspberries have grown OVER 6 feet tall. Can you cut the tops to reduce height without harming next years crops. Mine ore the everbearing type.