Week 4: The lifecycle of a raspberry plant

On these cold winter days I’m dreaming of raspberries. I want tarts, ice cream, jam and smoothies.

So my mouth watered as my Master Gardener class learned about them from Bernadine Strik, a berry crops specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

Raspberry. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

Raspberries are made up of drupelets, which each contain a seed. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

There are two types of raspberries: The ever-bearing variety produces fruit twice – once in summer and again in the fall – and grows berries every year from the first year. The summer-bearing variety produces fruit only once, in early summer. Fruit does not show up until the second year on a new summer-bearing plant.

The summer-bearing raspberry’s canes are biennial. During the first year, all of its canes produce only leaves. These are called primocanes. They become dormant and overwinter.

In their second year, the canes shed the primocane moniker and become known as floricanes, which produce flowers and fruit in the second season of the plant. As the floricanes are fruiting that second year, new primocane shoots emerge from the perennial root system. The cycle begins again.

In the third year, those primocanes grow anew as floricanes, produce fruit and then die. In the fourth year, a different mix of primocanes grows anew as a different mix of floricanes fruits and dies off. The plant will produce fruit every year.

Raspberry plants can bear fruit for up to 20 years.

To get started with raspberries in your garden, well-drained soil and full sun are musts. In the spring when you can till the ground, form dirt into a free-standing raised bed and plant raspberries two to three feet apart. A trellis helps support the plants. Don’t over-irrigate or water late in the day. Rely on drip irrigation. Prune and remove dead floricanes in July or August after the fruit is harvested.

Pick frequently. Don’t store berries for a long time in the refrigerator because they bruise easily. An OSU Extension Service guide tells you how to freeze them.

Hankering for more? Growing Raspberries in your Home Garden is a good reference from OSU Extension. Raspberry Cultivars for Oregon is also a great choice.

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