Blackberry plants, which come from the plant genus Rubus, are one of the most varied genera of flowering plants. Let’s take this time to learn about the different types of blackberries and how to grow them.
Once ripe, this plant delivers bountiful harvests that will require picking every few days!
Blackberry Canes, Flowers, and Roots
The shoots that blackberry plants produce are called canes. All blackberry varieties are perennials, meaning they will grow again and again every year.
However, each shoot, or cane, of blackberry is biennial and lives for only two years or growing seasons.
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First-year canes are known as “primocanes,” while canes in the second year are called “floricanes” when they bloom.
The plant’s foliage is palmately compound leaves, containing three to five leaflets, with the center leaflet being the largest one. Their leaf margins are thinly notched.
The gynoecium, which is a flower’s reproductive part, has 60 to 100 ovaries. Individual ovaries each develop into druplets, and there are 60 to 90 stamens, five petals, and five sepals.
Types of Blackberries
In short, there are three types of blackberries:
- Erect thorny blackberries
- Erect thornless blackberries
- Trailing thornless blackberries
The three types of blackberries are erect thorny, erect thornless and trailing thornless plants, says Oregon State University. The main difference is the type of growth habit of the plant’s canes.
Whether thorny or not, erect varieties are defined as such because they can support themselves without requiring a trellis or support system.
Trailing blackberry plants need a support structure or a trellis to help them grow and to allow their vining arms something to grab onto.
While erect blackberry plants have arching canes that are fairly self-supporting, trailing varieties or dewberries have canes that aren’t self-supporting.
Types of Erect varieties
- Shawnee plants
Cherokee blackberry plants are medium and firm.
Cheyenne blackberry plants are exceptionally large and somewhat moderately thorny.
Shawnee plants are also very large and vigorous.
Types of Trailing thornless blackberries
There are numerous trailing cultivars. A few of them include:
- Black Satin
- Hull Thornless
Pick the Biggest and Juiciest Blackberries
If you’re looking for some of the biggest, juiciest fruit, you definitely want to try planting Navaho thornless blackberry plants. With big clusters and huge fruit, you can’t go wrong with this garden favorite.
They are a trailing type so make sure you also have a trellis.
Otherwise, the golden standard is the triple crown blackberry.
Triple Crown Blackberry plants are large, sweet, grow abundantly, and are low maintenance. Another benefit is that it is a disease resistant plant.
Triple crown varieties are a little unique in that they are an erect variety, but they do grow vine that can trail. A little trimming and pruning will keep them from needing a trellis, however.
You can buy triple crown blackberry plants for sale here.
Benefits of Blackberries
According to Healthline.com, blackberries offer several health benefits. For example, they’re rich in acids with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
The fruit’s dark blue color contains one the most antioxidant levels of any fruit that’s been regularly tested. They contain high amounts of magnesium, Vitamin C, and fiber, which help reduce the chance of certain cancers.
Blackberries can also help improve a weak immune system, which can cause fatigue and stress.
When first adding blackberries to a diet, it helps to eat them with other berries such as raspberries, strawberries or blueberries, rather than consuming them by themselves. By blending them with other berries, they provide more health benefits, as these berries are also good sources of vitamin C and manganese.
Where to Plant Blackberries
When deciding where to plant blackberries, you need to make sure the space receives full sun.
Also, depending on the number of plants, choose a space that will allow enough room between each.
- For erect varieties, you need to plant blackberries 2-3 feet apart to allow their spread enough space without overcrowding each other.
- For trailing varieties, you will need a LOT more space, with about 10 feet between plants. They will climb and sprawl and you need to avoid having them grow into each other. They can grow up to 5 feet wide!
If growing erect types, you’ll find most success in growing them in rows. They should be planted in the ground at about 12-18 inches deep. They grow deep roots and should have a solid base to grow on.
The most successful zones to grow them are zones 5-8.
What Soil Is Best
When planting, make sure you have nutrient rich, well draining soil with slight acidity.
Test your soil to understand the baseline measurements and add organic matter to the top 12 inches to reach the idea conditions. You can use manure, compost, and fertilizer to achieve best results.
If your soil is not well draining, you may also want to mix in a good amount of sand or rocky soil to allow for proper drainage. Otherwise, you may experience root rot from the roots staying too wet for too long.
When to Plant Blackberries
These fruit bearing plants should go in the ground during their dormant state. Ideally, you want to plant them in early spring, or immediately after the last frost.
While some say you can plant in the fall, there are verities that can die from freezing temperatures you you are better off waiting until spring time.
Blackberry Plant Care
Considering adding mulch to the base of your plants to keep weeds at bay. This will also allow for appropriate water drainage.
Water them well and often. While we do want well-draining soil, they are juicy fruits we’re planting – you won’t achieve that if you let them dry out! Keep them well watered.
Feed with an acid lovers fertilizer about once a month during the growing season.
Pruning is also important for proper maintenance. So, when do you cut back blackberry bushes? You actually do it twice per season.
Once you have an established plant, you want to trim blackberries in the spring by chopping off the tips of the vines before they flower. At this point, it you notice any dying leaves or canes, trim them back as well.
The second time to prune them is once they have completed their fruiting cycles and are done for the season. This is typically done in late summer.
Remember earlier when we said that a cane, or a shoot, only lives for two years? Well, that means the plant in still alive, but that particular vine is done and can now be cut off.
Be sure to cut back on floricanes that are two years old to allow for newer, first year primacanes to grow and produce the following year. Look for groups of empty and dried pods and cut them all the way to the base, or ground level.
Whether pruning in spring or summer, be sure you are using clean, sharp pruning shears. Clean the shears between each pruning session to avoid the spread of any un-noticed plant disease or bacteria.
When to Pick Blackberries
Blackberries ripen in mid summer, toward July and into August. Once this native berry is ripe, get ready for an abundant harvest, picking every couple of days!
You’ll know when they are ready when they are a rich, dark black color. You should be able to easily pop them off the plant without force or pulling hard.
Blackberries are ready to pick a few days after they turn from red to black. The longer you wait, the sweeter they will be. They don’t continue to ripen once picked so avoid picking any red berries.
At the height of the season, you’ll likely be harvesting blackberries twice a week. Maybe even more depending on how many bushes you have!
Do not rinse the berries once harvested. Instead, keep them refrigerated in a shallow container. A shallow dish is optimal rather than a big bowl because you don’t want the weight of the berries to squish or bruise the ones on the bottom. Rinse them with cool water right before consuming.
They will be best if consumed within 3-4 days of harvesting. If you know you will not be able to cook or eat them within that time, consider freezing them. You can freeze them for future uses like smoothies, jams, or pies.
Warning Regarding Wild Blackberry Seeds
Because many animals consume wild blackberries, seeds can spread easily from one place to another in the form of animal droppings.
The hard seed coverings of wild blackberry seeds can stay dormant for a long period of time. However, once blackberry seeds start to germinate and grow, plants become established, causing a thicket to explode over nearly an entire area because of the vegetative growth from rhizomes.
In other words, just one plant can cover an exceptionally large area.
Growing these plants can be a rewarding hobby, but most of all, blackberries are tasty. Besides eating blackberries by themselves or with other fruit, many people enjoy using them in salads and other recipes.
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