Pruning raspberries: instructions & expert tips


I am studying crop science and have always enjoyed gardening, despite the fact that my first attempts as a small child were rather unsuccessful. With the skills and knowledge gained from my studies, I am now enjoying much more success - I find topics like intercropping, raised beds and composting particularly fascinating.

Favourite fruit: cherries, plums and pears
Favourite vegetables: broccoli, chard and peas

Cutting back raspberries requires some skill. Here are all the tips on pruning raspberries from the right time to detailed instructions.

how to prune raspberry canes
Raspberries should be pruned at least once a year [Foto: Popovariel/]

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are one of the most popular berries to grow and are cultivated in many gardens. The red to pink fruits are refreshing, especially in summer, and are quite easy to grow. However, in order for the prickly plant to produce the desired yield, it is important to cut the raspberry canes at least once a year.

In the following, we discuss when and how to prune raspberry bushes so that they produce a high yield also including care of raspberry canes. All important information is summarised in the table below. If you are unsure which type of raspberry you are growing, you can find advice on that below as well.

When to cut back raspberries: spring or autumn?

Before pruning the plant, it is recommended to find out which type of raspberry you are growing. There are several types of raspberries: summer raspberries, autumn raspberries and so-called two-timer raspberries, i.e. double-bearing specimens. The difference between these types is the time of harvest. Depending on the raspberry type, you carry out different pruning techniques at different times:

  • Summer raspberries: these raspberries ripen from June to July. Their berries only form on two-year-old shoots. Prune older, worn, biennial shoots in summer after harvest. Thin out young shoots in spring after the last frost is over.
  • Autumn raspberries: these ripen from August to October. The berries always grow on annual shoots. Prune them in autumn after harvest.
  • Two-timer raspberries: this group of raspberries, also referred to as everbearing raspberries, is a cross between the autumn and summer raspberries and bears on both annual and biennial shoots. This means that a smaller amount of fruit can be harvested once in summer and once in autumn. Cut back two-timer raspberries in spring.
handful of raspberries
Twotimer raspberries can be harvested twice a year [Foto: Draw05/]

Pruning raspberries: instructions for different raspberry types

The following sums up how and when to prune raspberry canes. Depending on the raspberry type, you might have to prune more than once a year. Do not worry, though, once you get the gist of pruning and understand the logic behind it, cutting back raspberries will be quick and easy.

Raspberry typeTime for pruningTechnique
Two-timer raspberries (everbearing raspberries)SpringCut off biennial shoots, which bore last summer's fruit and are now clearly distinguishable from the fresh shoots.
Summer raspberriesAfter harvest in summerUsually, by the time of harvest new, green and prominent shoots have formed. They will bear fruit next summer. Do not prune them! Instead, cut back the old and brown shoots, which bore fruit previously, after the harvest period.
After the last frost (around March, depending on the climate zone)Select ten of the healthiest looking shoots (left uncut from the previous autumn) per one metre to leave on the plant. If there are a lot of nice shoots to choose from, choose in a way that gives each shoot enough space to grow and bear fruit. Cut off the remaining shoots close to the ground. Although this method might seem radical with older raspberry bushes, leaving ten (max. twelve) shoots are ultimately best for the health of the plant and will not impact its yield negatively.
Autumn raspberriesAutumnPruning autumn raspberries is even easier than with summer raspberries. After harvesting in autumn, simply cut off all shoots close to the ground. In the following spring, new shoots will form and bear berries in autumn. If your plant is healthy and low risk of transmitting diseases to the new shoots in spring, you can leave them. They might be used by insects as refuge in winter.
All types of raspberriesAutumnAs a matter of principle, prune diseased shoots in order not to infect the whole plant. However, if the leaves are yellowish, you do not need to cut them off. Yellow leaves may be a sign of nutrient deficiency (for example magnesium deficiency). By applying organic fertiliser in autumn or spring (until around May) you can help the plant grow strong again.

To prevent brown leaves, we recommend a plant-based fertilisation, for example Plantura All Purpose Plant Food. This provides your raspberries with optimal nutrients and thus prevents the formation of plant damage.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Tip that applies to all types of raspberries: if the tendrils grow higher than your head (i.e. taller than two metres), prune them in late summer. Cut off the tendrils above the climbing aid or at a height of about 1.5 metres. This will promote bud formation on the remaining shoot in the coming year.

What type of raspberry have I planted?

In principle, autumn raspberries can be cut back the same way as summer raspberries. However, this does not work the other way around. Summer raspberries that have been completely cut will not bear raspberries the following year, as they form their fruit on two-year-old shoots.

pruning raspberry plants
Summer raspberries, unlike autumn raspberries, should never be cut off completely [Foto: rodimov/]

For this reason, we recommend the following: if you are not sure whether you have planted an autumn or a summer raspberry, simply prune your plant like a summer raspberry. That way, you play it safe and you are sure to have at least one harvest the following summer, if not a second harvest in autumn. If the plant bears an additional harvest in autumn, you will have an autumn raspberry in your garden.

Cutting and propagating raspberries at the same time

If you have a raspberry plant in your garden and you decide to plant more, it is definitely worthwhile growing new plants from cuttings. Remove the cutting when thinning out the mother plant. In this way, you can kill two birds with one stone. In early summer, cut off several slightly woody shoots from the plant and place them in some soil to grow. A branch should have at least two leaves if it is to be used as a cutting. With a little luck and the right conditions, the cutting will develop roots within a few weeks and the new raspberry plant can be planted out in the open. Another option of raspberry propagation is to use raspberry runners.

Learn more about propagating raspberries in this article.

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