How to Prune Raspberries: Instructions, Photos, and a Video

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Fallgold everbearing raspberryFallgold raspberry: a sachet of sweet and delectable perfume.

Behold, the raspberry, the gold standard by which I judge other berries whether planted in my garden or in my mouth. As easy as this cane fruit is to grow, pruning can take good berries and make them even better berries–bigger, sweeter, and in greater abundance.

shortcakes raspberry peachShortcakes awaiting raspberries and peaches, a marriage made in Melba heaven.

And before you bristle about the pruning work involved in the cold soggy months of spring, may I remind you why you are doing this: shortcake and ice cream. Need I say more? Raspberries are a fruit that rewards you if pruned regularly, and judiciously, so lick your chops and grab the pruners.

raspberry sundae topping Breathe, breathe…this is within your reach.

Tom’s Video Tutorial:

How to Prune Raspberries


My foray into one-handed video production and tutorial land may leave you with some more questions (and a seasick feeling). Should that be the case, here’s my how-to in photos and the written word. Take a look for more information.

Know Your Berries

First determine the type of raspberries you have: summer-bearing or ever-bearing. Why does it matter? Prune the wrong way and you’ll have a berry-free bowl of regret come July. To keep it simple, I’m taking my lead from Genvieve at North Coast Gardening who distilled it down so well, “just remove any canes that gave you fruit.” Though I have a couple caveats to add, that is the gist of it. Now you may be scratching your head and asking how do I make that distinction between ever-bearing and summer-bearing? Read on Grasshopper, the prune master is here to share.

The Difference Between Summer-Bearing and Ever-Bearing Raspberries. Summer-bearing : The Tulameen raspberry cane above shows last year’s fruiting bracts (the nubbins on the branching ends) are still intact.

Ever-bearing: Fall Gold also has spent fruiting bracts, but there is a difference between the two, which is shown in the photo below.

A Tale of Two Stems (when both show spent fruiting bracts) Summer-bearing (above photo, top cane )

  • Brown stem, inside and out
  • One crop
  • Variety: Tulameen
  • Spent cane: Last year’s fruiting cane dies after producing berries. It will send up new shoots in the same season for next year’s crop. Basically, it fruits only on the cane that sprouted the year before.

Ever-bearing (above photo, lower cane)

  • Green fleshy stem inside
  • Two crops
  • Variety: Fall Gold
  • Viable fruiting cane, year one and year two
  • The ever-bearing cane with bracts will have a live green stem when cut. Each cane produces for two years, a late crop  from the first year’s new green growth and an early crop the following year from the same cane, now woody.

Summer-bearing Tulameen, before pruning (and some weeding). Note the light driftwood colored canes (last year’s spent canes) and the darker wood which will produce this year’s July berries. Summer-bearingTulameen, after dead wood has been pruned to the ground and removed (though tip pruning is still needed to keep canes at five feet). Ever-bearing Fall Gold (above) produces two crops, a summer crop from last year’s cane and a late summer crop from new growth this year. Even if you cut ever-bearing raspberries to the ground in winter or spring, you will still get one crop of berries in late summer from new growth. This is not the case with summer-bearing; if you cut down every cane, you will have to wait a year to get fruit from the new growth of the prior summer. Ever-bearing Fall Gold (shown after pruning) I tend to prune ever-bearing much more severely, leaving only the stronger, more robust canes, which (in my observation) leads to a better second raspberry crop in September. And again you can cut them all to the ground and have one big fall crop. Let me recap for clarification. For both types, look for canes with spent or old dead flowering or fruiting bracts.

  1. Summer-Bearing Raspberries: remove all of the canes with dead flowering or fruiting bracts.
  2. Ever-Bearing Raspberries:
    1. TWO CROP option: For two small crops, one in July and one in September, remove the weakest, thinnest canes with dead flowering or fruiting bracts.
    2. ONE CROP option: For one large late summer crop, remove all canes, and the crop will come entirely from the new summer’s growth and produce berries in September through October.
  3. Summer and Ever-Bearing Raspberries: Prune the tip sections of both types, that is reduce the height of the cane to four or five feet. This helps create bigger berries, allows for easier picking and prevents the canes from breaking down during windstorms and heavy rains.

1. Too far from bud      2. Too sharp an angle       3. Just right Tip pruning: (left to right)

  1. Cut too high: Too much stem left above the bud will cause rot.
  2. Sharp angle: The cutting angle is too close to the bud and angled too severely, which may cause bud die-off or weak bud support and stem breakage when fruit appears.
  3. Just right. This is how you do it, a moderately cut angle just above the bud

Raspberries as big as quail eggs, picked by a hand that needs a little scrubbing, And loved by a man who has a nose for sweetness (and theatrics). limoges china bowl no ice cream The End (well almost)…time for another bowl.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Tom…those berries are making my mouth water…I want some now! I just had a thought…with your wealth of knowledge in the garden, your uncanny wit and humor….why now write a gardening how to book, with all of your antidotes, humor, challenges, and throw in Boz and Gracie’s personalities? (and we must not forget your own charming personality) I think it would be a smash hit, and I promise I will be one of the first to buy it! 🙂

    • What a fine comment to read over my first cup of coffee. Thank you Ina, but now what would I title the book, Tom’s Terra Nova Tidbits, or Tillin’ with Tom, or Getting Dirty with the Garden Guy. Okay let me keep working on these. Again, thanks for your vote of confidence, who knows, maybe I will write a book.

  2. VERY informative!
    I wish I had a printer to take this out to the garden with me. I’ll probably have to come back to this page again and again.
    Thanks so much for the great info!!
    : )

  3. Thank you for the reminder to get out there and prune. Of course, now I have to go out and work in the garden on this wet, PNW day. I better get out there before it starts raining again!

  4. Hi Tom. I began pruning my raspberry canes down to two feet a few years back and it works well for me. Will be interested to see how the height comparison works out in your mini trial. I am about to start my autumnal hack back and clear out. How are the plans for the vegie patch? Anything new? I have just planted out garlic, brocolli and sown two types of heirloom onions I haven’t tried before – Australian Brown and Creamgold. Good keepers apparently. Pats for the hounds :-).

  5. I just have ever bearers. The biggest and best berries are always in the fall crop (unless the cold and wet gets to them first…). I’ve always pruned for two crops. This year I’m cutting half to the ground to see if there is a noticeable difference in the fall crop.
    Nice to see you accessorized with gardening gloves that matched your eyeglass tape.

  6. Do those shortcakes ever look good!!!
    I have absolutely no room in my yard for raspberry bushes. I’ve been toying with the idea of planting several behind our fence on the alley side. Am I a fool to do that?

  7. Thank you! I have some raspberries growing near the base of a silver maple – the gift of birds. I have been trying to develop them into a raspberry patch,but have been baffled by the pruning.

  8. What a lovely video, Tom! Thanks for the pruning for raspberries. We have reaspberry bushes in our city garden & I needed some advice a bout it & you just gave it to me! That dessert looks tasty too! MMMMM!

  9. Thanks Tom for all the info. My husband finally put the fence up at the beginning of the summer last year, to keep those hungry deer at bay. I did get some raspberries from my year old Tullameens after they got to finally grow. I am so excited about this year! When should I ideally prune my 3 foot long berry plants? Chicken manure for fertilizer? Thanks Tom, Starting out in Sammamish

    • Jenny you can prune any time now, but be careful not to prune out this year’s viable fruiting canes. You can wait a little longer until you see green bud tips to know which ones are this year’s fruiting canes. Prune any dead canes out and manure is fine around the plants just not on them. And well composted so as not to burn the plants. Good luck!

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