Raspberries, blackberries, and other brambles – species of the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae (Rose) family – are some of the easiest and most fun edible perennials to cultivate.
They’re vigorous, hardy, and among the most delicious and nutritious fruits you can grow in your own backyard. With different varieties and a little planning, you can have fresh brambleberries on hand all summer long.
Best of all, once you’ve got just a few plants established, you can propagate (clone) them indefinitely to your heart’s content. Plant freshly rooted cuttings in your yard, give them to friends, or even consider selling them if you’ve got enough to spare – prices for homegrown brambles in quart-sized pots can be as high as $6 apiece.
Propagating your brambleberry canes couldn’t be any simpler, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your yard will turn into a nursery for all of the cuttings you’re accumulating. Here’s how it works.
How to propagate blackberries, raspberries and other brambles:
What you’ll need -
- Quart-sized nursery pots or other similar containers - 4" pots like these will do the trick.
- Bypass pruners - The Felco F-2 is the industry standard, but a Corona will work just as well at half the price.
- Soilless potting medium - ProMix is generally what you'll find in professional nurseries.
1. Fill your pots with a soil-free mix.
Many people will recommend many different potting mixes (I've always had great results with ProMix) but the main thing to look for is a soil-free growing medium, because this will minimize the changes for disease or unwanted fungal growth.
Your mix will likely be some combination of peat moss, coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, and/or pine bark. Don't stress too much about the overall formula! Ask someone at your local gardening supply store if you're feeling overwhelmed by the option.
Fill the quart-sized pots to the top, loosely – don’t pack it down. You’ll want to have these ready to go before you start making your cuttings so that you will be able to get the new plants in as quickly as possible after pruning.
2. Prune the cane.
What you’re looking for here is a healthy primocane – that is, a new cane growing this season. Though brambles are perennials (their roots will continue to send up new canes year after year), each individual cane functions as a biennial, which means that it grows and develops in its first year, then flowers and dies off in its second year. Floricanes are the second-year shoots that yield berries.
Make your cut as cleanly and precisely as possible - Felco bypass pruners really are indispensable for this task.
3. Cut the cane into pieces and prep the stem.
The ideal cutting is about 4-6”, but this doesn’t have to be too precise. My pruning shears are about 7” long so I use those to get a rough measurement.
At the base of your clone, you'll want to cut the stem as close as possible underneath a bud, because this will stimulate new root growth. Plan to stick two buds underground and keep another two or three above soil level.
In my example here, I cut a small primocane from one of my raspberry plants that was long enough to make two new plants.
Once your stem looks good, you can optionally take a knife and gently scrape along the bottom inch. Or, use a stone to smash the bottom inch or so. It sounds destructive but this can actually encourage the new cuttings to grow roots where you've damaged them. This is known as "scarring." Try some this way, and try some without and see what works best for you.
4. Stick the cuttings into the pots, water thoroughly and keep damp.
Seriously, that's all there is to it! People often recommend using rooting hormone, and while it does probably improve your success rate a bit, the fact is that brambles just don’t really need our help to clone themselves.
One reason wild brambles can be such a hassle is because of how readily they propagate – try cutting them down, and when you return in a few weeks you’ll find that all of the stems you cut grew their own roots, while the stumps have grown multiple medusa-like shoots that are tougher than ever.
Stick your cuttings down an inch or two into the potting mix. Water your new clones by gently misting, making sure to thoroughly soak the potting mix.
Keep the soil and the plants evenly moist, and over the course of a few weeks, the cuttings will begin to take root. Congratulations, you’ve just transformed one plant into many! How cool is that?
I took these cuttings late in the summer, around August (in the Northern Hemisphere) but your mileage may vary as far as timing goes. You can also take cuttings at the tail-end of winter, just before the plants awaken from dormancy.
The best time to plant them is in the fall, but if you have to wait until spring, be patient and hold off until at least a couple weeks before your region’s last frost date. Your new young clones are still wimpy by bramble standards, but once the threat of frost is clear they'll take off in no time.
Propagating perennial plants is an immensely enjoyable skill to cultivate, and brambles are a great place to start. With even a small amount of space, you can begin developing your own nursery stock today. Why wait?