These delicious berries can be quite expensive to buy, so it's well worth growing your own
Summer-fruiting raspberries usually grow to at least 1.8m (6ft) tall and form bushy plants that need plenty of space. They fruit from early to late summer, depending on the variety. Newly planted, they will usually fruit from their second summer onwards
Autumn-fruiting raspberries are generally smaller, less vigorous plants, usually 1.2–1.5m (4–5ft) tall, and crop from late summer into autumn. They are easier to prune and suitable for smaller plots. New plants will fruit in their first year
Raspberries are hardy, vigorous plants that grow well in most locations, especially in cooler regions. They do need annual pruning and support for their tall stems. It's also best to protect the crop from birds, by either growing in a fruit cage or covering plants with netting while the berries are ripening.
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Most raspberry varieties ripen to rich red...
...but why not try a yellow variety too, such as ‘All Gold’?
If you’re short on space, consider more compact autumn-fruiting varieties (such as ‘All Gold’ and ‘Autumn Treasure’) and less vigorous summer-fruiting varieties (such as ‘Glen Ample’, ‘Malling Jewel’ and ‘Malling Minerva’) and dwarf ‘Ruby Beauty’ – these are good options for growing in large containers too.
When choosing varieties, look in particular for those with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in trials, so should crop reliably. See our list of AGM fruit and veg. You can also see many soft fruits, including raspberries, growing in the fruit and veg plots at all the RHS gardens, so do visit to see how they are grown, compare the varieties and pick up useful tips.
What and where to buy
Raspberries are available as either bare-root plants (without soil around the roots) or in containers. Bare-root plants (or canes) are mainly available from fruit nurseries and larger online plant retailers by mail order, while containerised plants are available in garden centres too.
Bare-root plants are only sold during the dormant season, from autumn to early spring – they tend to be cheaper and sold in bundles of five or more, so ideal if you want to plant a row. Raspberries in pots are often available for a longer period, but may be more expensive. For the widest choice of varieties, go to fruit nurseries and online fruit specialists. Take care to buy plants that are certified virus-free, as raspberries are prone to virus infections, which reduce their vigour and cropping.
Choose a sunny planting site for best results. Raspberries will fruit in light shade, but will produce a smaller crop and be less robust and healthy. Raspberries are usually grown in rows, ideally running north to south so the plants don’t shade each other. A sheltered site is preferable too, as strong winds can deter pollinating insects and snap thin fruiting side-branches.
Before planting, clear any perennial weeds, as these are difficult to control once raspberries are established. Then dig in lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost – at least one bucket per square metre/yard – and add a high potassium fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or blood, fish and bonemeal. Also put supports in place before planting – usually a system of posts and horizontal wires (see Supporting plants, below). If you don’t have room for rows, you can just use a single post or sturdy bamboo canes to support a couple of plants.
Space plants 45–60cm (18–24in) apart, with 1.8m (6ft) between rows. Take care not to plant too deeply – the first roots should be no more than 5cm (2in) below the soil surface. Use the previous soil mark on the stem as a guide. After planting, spread mulch over the soil in a layer 7.5cm (3in) deep. Garden compost is ideal – avoid alkaline mushroom compost .
Most raspberries should be pruned straight after planting – cut the stems (or canes) down to 25cm (10in) tall. However, don’t prune summer-fruiting raspberries bought as ‘long canes’, otherwise you will lose the fruit for that season.
Planting in containers
Smaller raspberry varieties can grow well in large pots in a sunny, sheltered spot:
Choose a container at least 38cm (15in) wide and fill with 80 per cent peat-free multi-purpose compost and, to add weight for stability, 20 per cent peat-free soil-based potting compost
Plant a single raspberry in the centre, at the same level it was previously growing
Insert bamboo canes for support and tie in the stems
Raspberries need plenty of moisture to sustain their lush foliage and swell their fruit, so keep them well watered in dry spells, especially when flowering and fruiting. It’s best to water at ground level – a drip irrigation system or leaky hose is ideal. Keeping the foliage, flowers and fruit dry helps to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.
When growing raspberries in a container, water throughout the growing season to keep the compost consistently moist. In hard water areas, use rainwater whenever possible.
Apply a thick layer of mulch, such as garden compost, around raspberry plants after feeding in early spring (see below). This helps to hold moisture in the soil and deter weeds. Leave a gap around the base of the stems to avoid rotting.
In early spring, feed with a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4 or fish, blood and bonemeal. Scatter one and a half handfuls per square metre/yard around the base of plants. If growth is weak, apply sulphate of ammonia at 30g (1oz) per square metre/yard or dried poultry manure pellets at 90g (3oz) per square metre/yard.
When growing raspberries in a container, feed with a liquid general-purpose fertiliser on a monthly basis throughout the growing season.
Raspberries are usually planted in rows and supported by a system of posts and horizontal wires – the two main methods are outlined below. If you don’t have room for a row, you can just grow a couple of plants supported by a single post (see below), or one compact plant in a container supported by bamboo canes.
This system of posts and horizontal wires is ideal for summer-fruiting raspberries:
Install a tall, sturdy post at each end of the row, plus extra posts at 3.6m (12ft) intervals if necessary. They should stand about 1.8m (6ft) tall
Attach three lengths of strong galvanized wire horizontally between the posts, at 60cm (2ft) intervals
Plant the summer-fruiting raspberries and tie in the stems along one side of the wires
Keep all the fruiting stems on one side, and the young new stems for next year’s crop on the other side as the season progresses. This way, the fruited canes can easily be pruned out and the young canes will be separate along the other side of the wire
Single or double fence with parallel wires
This system is ideal for autumn-fruiting raspberries, and for summer raspberries in a small space. Tying in individual canes isn’t necessary, as they are fenced in by parallel wires either side. However, harvesting is a little more tricky, and there is a greater chance of fungal problems due to more crowded conditions.
Install a sturdy post at each end of the row – they should stand about 60cm (2ft) tall for autumn raspberries and 1.8m (6ft) for summer raspberries. Add extra posts at 3.6m (12ft) intervals if necessary
Attach short lengths of timber horizontally to the top of each post, plus another 60cm (2ft) below on the taller posts for summer-fruiting raspberries
Attach strong galvanized wire to the ends of the horizontal timbers to create parallel wires along each side
You can also add thinner wire or twine between the parallel wires as cross ties, every 60cm (2ft) along the row
Plant the raspberries in a row between the posts. The stems don’t need tying in, as they will be supported by the parallel wires and cross ties
For a double fence, insert posts (as above) along each side of the row rather than in the middle, then fix horizontal wires to the posts at the spacings described above. You can also add cross ties if you wish.
This system is ideal for very small spaces:
Install a sturdy post that stands about 60cm (2ft) tall for autumn raspberries and 1.8m (6ft) for summer raspberries
Plant two or three raspberry plants around the base of the post and tie the stems to it with twine.
It’s easy to make new plants from existing raspberries, to extend your row or start new ones. Simply dig up any healthy suckers that appear outside the row and replant in the new location. You can also divide large clumps.
Only propagate from recently bought plants that are certified virus-free, as raspberries are prone to a number of diseases and viruses as they age, which would infect the new plants too, reducing their vigour and cropping potential.
Pruning and Training
Pruning autumn-fruiting raspberries is very simple – just cut all the stems to the ground in late winter
Pruning summer-fruiting raspberries
Summer-fruiting raspberries (floricanes) produce fruit on one-year-old stems (the previous season’s growth). They should be pruned and trained straight after you finish harvesting the crop, as follows:
Cut all the old, woody, fruited stems right down to ground level
Then select the strongest young green stems that have grown during the current season – around six to eight per plant – and tie them to your horizontal wires, spacing them 8–10cm (3–4in) apart. These will fruit the following summer
Cut any other young stems to ground level
If the young stems are taller than the top wire, loop them over and tie them in temporarily. Then in February, trim back these long canes to a bud about 10cm (4in) above the top wire
Pruning autumn-fruiting raspberries
Autumn-fruiting raspberries (primocanes) produce their crop on the current season’s stems. They are easy to prune:
In February, cut back all the old, fruited stems to ground level. New ones will start growing in spring, which will bear fruit later in the year
In early summer, thin out any very overcrowded clumps if necessary, removing weaker stems so the remainder are about 10cm (4in) apart
Pruning autumn raspberries for double cropping
Double cropping is useful if you don’t have space to grow summer-fruiting raspberries as well. You’ll get a modest summer crop, and a slightly reduced autumn crop, but the combined harvest should be at least five per cent larger.
To prune for a double crop:
In February, instead of cutting all the stems to ground level, select six to eight of the strongest ones per 1m (3ft) of row, and prune off just the upper fruited part
Cut all the other stems to ground level as normal
After the half-pruned stems have fruited in summer, cut them down to ground level, leaving the current year’s stems to fruit in autumn
All raspberries will send up suckers, or new canes, in spring. Any that sprout up outside the intended growing area should be removed. If you want more plants, the suckers can be replanted in a more suitable spot, as long as your existing raspberry plants are young, healthy and virus-free.
Raspberries come away easily when fully ripe – be gentle, as they are easily squashed
Harvest regularly, to get fruits at the peak of ripeness, when richly coloured, plump and easy to pull off. Pick on a dry day, as damp berries can soon turn mouldy. Raspberries are best eaten fresh, when juicy, sweet and delicious. If you end up with a glut, they freeze well and make lovely jams, sauces and desserts.
Raspberries generally grow vigorously and crop well for several years in most locations. However, they can be affected by various problems, including:
Viruses and fungal diseases – including cane blight, spur blight and rust. Raspberries are particularly prone to viruses, which cause stunting and distortion. Affected plants should be removed quickly, as viruses are easily spread by aphids and other sap-sucking insects
Birds and squirrels will eat the fruit if given the chance, so protect ripening crops with netting or a fruit cage
- Insects and mites – including raspberry beetles and leaf and bud mites
- Magnesium deficiency – foliage turns yellow between the leaf veins, sometimes with reddish brown tints
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