Humans have been cultivating blackberries for thousands of years. Blackberries are easy to grow, and produce beautiful white flowers in the garden as a landscape plant. They can also survive less than ideal soil conditions, and thrive on a little neglect.
But when should you plant blackberries in your garden? Does the time of year you plant make a huge difference in how they grow?
As with all plants, there are better times of year to put them in the ground. You’ll need to account for your local microclimate, as well as the amount of sun these plants get before you start planting. Time of year matters, especially in colder climates.
Let’s further investigate the ideal time to plant blackberries in your garden this season and what you can expect from them in the coming years.
The Quick Answer
Depending on the climate, blackberries can be planted in late fall or early spring, preferably when the roots are dormant. In colder climates, waiting until spring to plant blackberries is recommended.
The Detailed Answer
Blackberries are exceptionally easy to grow, and armed with a little knowledge of how these plants function, you should be making pies and jams in no time at all. Blackberries have a tendency to pop up wherever they are happiest, so it’s a good idea to consider where they will end up, and how to direct them in the way that you prefer.
Choosing a Location
For optimal growth, plant blackberries in a sunny spot with fertile soil.
Blackberries like a lot of sun, moisture, and fertile soil. If they aren’t getting what they need where they are located, there is a good chance that they will simply grow in the direction where they will find it.
Choose a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. The more sun a blackberry vine gets, the more berries it will produce. Soil pH is slightly less important. Blackberries can tolerate soil that is somewhat acidic, but a more alkaline environment won’t be the death of them. The ideal soil pH is between 5.5-7.0.
Blackberries will fill a space quickly, so keep that in mind when planning where to put them. Giving them some boundaries, such as a wall or a border, is a good idea. There are different types of blackberries, and their growth habit should ideally play a role in their planting.
Types of Blackberries
There are a number of different types of blackberries you can plant, depending on your hardiness zone. Let’s take a deeper look at the most popular types you’ll come across.
Trailing blackberries have small seeds, a sweet-tart taste, and should be planted 3’-5’ apart.
Also known as Dewberries and scientifically as Rubus ursinus, trailing blackberries are my personal favorite. They have small seeds and a nice balance of sweet and tart flavor. These berries are native to Western North America. The stems should be planted 3’-5’ apart, and the vines can grow up to 20’ long.
Most often, when wild blackberries are discovered, this is the type. That means that they literally grow like weeds. This is great if you have unlimited space and a huge appetite, but they can become invasive if given the opportunity.
Giving them a boundary of some type will help to keep these vines in check. Trailing blackberries do very well when given a trellis to climb, and this will make it easier to harvest the fruit as well.
Erect blackberry bushes are self-supporting and don’t require much maintenance.
These berry bushes grow upright and usually require no support. Many varieties are thornless and less work to harvest from, as a result. Their fruit is sturdy, but not as large as their trailing cousins, and in many opinions, not as flavorful.
Erect blackberry plants grow from their roots and crowns, so they are extra prone to taking over a space. They are more cold-tolerant than trailing blackberries though and are just as easy to care for. The shrubby plants grow to about 3’ tall and should be planted 3’ apart.
Semi-erect blackberries combine the thornless quality of erect types and high yield of trailing types.
Right in the middle, we find semi-erect blackberries, which strike a pleasant balance between the other two types. They typically have the thornless characteristic of erect varieties, making the berries easier to pick.
Like trailing types, they yield a lot of berries, but the berries lack some of the pizzaz found in trailing varieties. Semi-erect blackberry plants do best with some support and should be planted 5’ apart.
Primocane blackberries bear fruit in their first year.
Primocane blackberries are a hybrid that is bred to bear fruit in its first year. Typically, blackberry plants are biennial. When canes are first produced, they are called primocanes; these set buds but typically do not bear fruit.
In their second year, the primocanes become floricanes, which bear fruit, and new primocanes are produced which will then fruit the following year. This means that after the first year, the plant will bear fruit each year, but in the first year, it is unlikely to.
Primocane-fruiting blackberries are bred to produce fruit from their primocanes; thus, they produce fruit the first year. The downsides to these varieties are that the fruit will be later to mature and may not be as flavorful as other types. They should be planted 3’-5’ apart, depending on the variety.
When to Plant Blackberries
Plant blackberries in the spring when their roots and canes are dormant.
Climate has some influence on what time of year to plant blackberries. While it is perfectly fine to plant blackberries in the fall in a warmer climate, spring is a more universally recommended time to plant.
The main objective is to plant your blackberries while their roots and canes are dormant. Blackberries don’t need to be planted deeply, so dig a hole 1.5 times as wide as the root ball and as deep.
Most are self-fertile and don’t need other blackberry bushes nearby to produce fruit. However, if you have other blackberry plants nearby, they can be wild-pollinated by bees and may produce slightly more fruit as a result.
Blackberries need a lot of water, particularly when they are in bloom and while the berries ripen. Insufficient water can halt the production of fruit, so make sure to water frequently as soon as you see the plant set buds.
Adding a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant will help to hold in moisture and protect the newly establishing roots.
When Will I See Fruit?
Most blackberry plants take two years to bear fruit, with primocanes emerging in the first year and floricanes in the second.
Unless you are planting primocane-fruiting hybrids, your blackberry plants are not likely to produce fruit in their first year. While blackberries have perennial roots, their canes are biennial. In their first year, they are called primocanes; they emerge from the ground as plump, fleshy vines with new leaves and, commonly, a reddish tint to the vine and foliage.
The primocanes mature in their second year and become floricanes. Floricanes produce fruit, and then they die off. In the first year, all you will have are primocanes, but since new primocanes appear each year, the plant will continue to bear fruit every year thereafter.
If you live in a warmer climate, you can plant blackberries in the late fall as seen in the video above.
Since primocane-fruiting varieties are bred to bloom on primocanes, they will bear fruit twice a year after their first year.
Typically, blackberries ripen in midsummer, with July being the most common month. Trailing varieties tend to ripen earlier, sometimes as early as April, but more commonly in May to June.
Naturally, the climate plays a role in blooming time. In warmer climates, blossoms will appear earlier in the spring, while colder climates will delay the bloom and therefore, the fruits.
With their ease of care and high nutritional value, blackberries are a fantastic addition to your garden. They are high producers and require little attention for most of the year. Planting blackberries in your garden this spring will mean tons of delicious, fresh berries for many summers to come.