Cultivating Blackberry Plants

Blackberry plants are long-lived (15 to 20 years) perennials that bear delicious, dark purple berries from June to September. There are many species of blackberry and most are hardy and cold tolerant. Blackberry plants are very forgiving and easy to plant. Once blackberry plants have a home, they'll provide you with delicious fruit for years to come.

Starting Your Blackberry Plants Right

Blackberry plants aren't picky and they're very hardy once established. Still, you'll get better fruit production if you treat your plants with care, right from the beginning. Here's how:

  • A tale of two canes. Blackberry plants come in two varieties: upright and trailing. Upright plants have stalks (called canes) that vertical and cold tolerant. Trailing plants have low growing canes that prefer warmer climates.
  • Not fussy. Blackberry plants aren't particular about the soil or site they grow in, but you'll get better production with full sun and rich, well-drained soil.
  • Pruning and patience. Blackberries are only produced on canes that are two years old. That means that any flowers you see the first year won't fruit. It also means that pruning should only be done in the winter, while your blackberry plants are dormant. You'll want to cut away canes that have produced fruit, as they will die over the winter and new canes will replace them.
  • Can you say wildfire? Blackberry plants spread via underground runners. Your blackberry plant, if left unchecked, will seek to take over your backyard. To avoid any B-movie horror scenarios, plant you blackberry plants in containers supported by a trellis.

Blackberry Cultivars

Upright and trailing blackberries are available in a number of different varieties. Here are some favorites:

  • Cheyenne - This erect variety produces very large berries that are ready to harvest early in the season. Expect vigorous, hardy plants that are moderately thorny.
  • Shawnee - A mid-season producer, this erect variety features fruit that is shiny black and has good flavor. The Shawnees is a thorny, but vigorous bush that is known to be very productive.
  • Silvan - An early season producer with thorny, trailing canes. Silvan is very productive, with large, flavorful berries.
  • Hull Thornless - This thornless, semi-erect plant produces berries in mid to late season. The firm, tasty berries have good keeping quality.
  • Chester - A later season producer, Chester blackberries are medium and have good flavor. Plants grow thornless and semi-erect.
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