Yard and Garden: Planting and Handling Raspberry Plants

AMES, Iowa – Raspberries are a delicious part of any home garden, and growing them can be rewarding. But care must be taken to ensure that they develop properly, grow disease-free and produce a bountiful harvest.  

ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about how to best handle the planting and care of raspberries. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

What would be a good planting site for raspberries?

Raspberries adapt to a wide range of soil types. They grow best in well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Raspberries grow poorly in heavy clay or poorly drained soils. Poor soils can often be improved by incorporating compost or well-rotted barnyard manure. Planting in raised beds can improve drainage. When selecting a planting site, choose an area that receives full sun.
The planting site should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. Avoid shady areas near large trees and shrubs. Also, avoid areas that are heavily infested with perennial weeds.  Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass, are extremely difficult to control in a raspberry planting. If possible, remove all wild brambles near the new raspberry planting to prevent the spread of disease.

freshly picked raspberries

When establishing a new raspberry planting, can I transplant plants from an old bed or should I purchase plants from a garden center?

Purchase virus-free raspberry plants from a reputable garden center or mail-order company. Plants obtained from an existing planting are often diseased. Virus-infested raspberries may appear healthy, but grow and yield poorly.

What are some good raspberry varieties for Iowa?

Suggested summer-bearing red raspberries for Iowa include ‘Boyne,’ ‘Killarney,’ ‘Latham,’ and ‘Nova.’  ‘Heritage,’ ‘Caroline,’ and ‘Autumn Bliss’ are excellent fall-bearing red raspberries. The best purple raspberry cultivars are ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Royalty.’ Black raspberries are not reliably cold hardy in northern Iowa. Gardeners in central and southern Iowa can choose from ‘Black Hawk,’ ‘Bristol,’ and ‘Jewel.’ ‘Anne’ and ‘Golden Harvest’ are excellent fall-bearing yellow raspberries.

When should dormant, bare-root raspberries be planted?

Dormant, bare-root raspberry plants should be planted in late March or April. Before planting, soak the roots of the raspberry plants in water for several hours. The raspberry plants should be set slightly deeper into the soil than they were in the nursery. Plant red and yellow raspberries 2 inches deeper while black and purple raspberries should be set 1 inch deeper than previously grown. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the spread of the plant’s root system. Position the plant in the center of the hole, spread out its roots, then backfill with soil. Firm the soil around the roots as you backfill. Water each plant thoroughly, then prune back the canes, leaving a maximum of 2 to 3 inches above the soil.

What is the proper spacing when planting raspberries?

In order to obtain top yields, proper spacing of raspberries is essential. Red and yellow raspberries may be planted 1½ to 3 feet apart within the row. Choose the 1½ -foot-spacing for earlier maximum plant density and production. The distance between rows should be 6 to 8 feet.  For best results, maintain red and yellow raspberries in 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerows.  

Black and purple raspberries should be planted 3 feet apart within the row. Rows should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart. Black and purple raspberries grow in clumps and remain in their original location.