One of the most common questions I am asked is “How do I prune my blackberries?” That is a very relevant question, however, it is usually asked at the WRONG time of the year!
So I have decided to take the “mystery” out of pruning blackberries! There are a few simple facts you will need to know before pruning your blackberries. Blackberries are unique in that they have perennial roots and biennial tops. The tops (canes) live for two years, then die!
Blackberries have two kinds of canes:
*Primocanes: these canes grow during the current season, and will flower and fruit next year. Prune all Primocanes (those produced in the spring) when they reach 36”-48” tall, to encourage branching. Continue tipping monthly to maintain rows at 48”.
*Floricanes: these canes are 1-year-old, flower-bearing canes that will fruit the current year and die after the berry crop matures. Prune all fruiting canes after harvesting fruit. Cut them back to the ground!
Every three years, mature plants may be cut to the ground after fruiting to remove diseased wood and rejuvenate growth. This usually reduces yield the following year, and should only be attempted when irrigation can stimulate primocane growth by the end of the season.
“Prime Ark” varieties of blackberries, introduced from the University of Arkansas, will produce fruit on both the first year primocanes in early summer, then again on floricanes (the second year canes) in the fall. All floricanes die after fruiting. Remove dead canes as early in the season as possible to reduce disease-causing organisms.