Blackberries (Rubus) are among the robust berry bushes. They have low maintenance requirements, which is why they are very popular for self-cultivation in your own garden. In addition to healthy growth, a rich harvest is of course important for hobby gardeners. The basis for this is the right planting time, ideal site conditions and, above all, the right planting. The following instructions show how to optimally plant blackberries.

Blackberry varieties

If blackberries are bought, the available space is important. Only those who know how much space is available for planting can subsequently choose a suitable blackberry variety.

This is less about the variety itself, but about the growth forms or growth characteristics. There are slender, upright growing, broader and very bushy growing varieties. Some also have widely branched roots, making it difficult or impossible to replant in a few years. The planting distance is also important if several blackberries are to be planted next to each other or if neighboring plants reduce the space available. There are also evergreen varieties that fill dreary locations with color even in winter. Or should it be a thornless, frost-resistant blackberry?

The following is an overview of some examples of popular blackberry varieties:

  • ‘Silvan’: slow-growing, very frost-resistant, prickly, wide-growing
  • ‘Choctaw’: upright growing, short tendrils, sensitive to frost, with spines
  • ‘Wilson’s Early’: medium-strong growth, upright growth, few prickly rods, hardy
  • ‘Theodor Reimers’/’Himalaya’: tried and tested variety; prickly, tendrils sensitive to frost, upright growing, evergreen
  • ‘Thornless Evergreen’: evergreen, good frost hardiness, growth habit is sprawling, tall, shrub-like
  • ‘Waldo’: compact growth, very frost-resistant, with spines
  • ‘Jumbo’: very fast-growing, not sensitive to frost, shrub-like, wide and tall habit, no thorns
  • ‘Navaho’: very strong upright growth, hardy, no thorns, many flowers and high ornamental value
Note: ‘Evergreen’ for blackberries means they spend the winter with foliage. However, they shed their leaves in the spring. They are therefore not always and continuously green, as is the case with many other plants.

Best planting time

If the blackberries are offered in containers, the planting season is theoretically all year round – provided the weather conditions are frost-free.
The best planting time for all blackberries, even if they are not in containers, is spring, when the frost is over and the sun warms up the soil, but it still has enough winter moisture. These soil conditions allow blackberries to grow quickly. So that frost does not endanger the planting of frost-sensitive blackberries, the ideal time is after the ice saints in mid-May. Depending on the weather, frost-hardy varieties can be planted in the garden from the end of April.
Alternatively, for larger plants, a time in late summer to early fall can be chosen, when the soil is still warm from summer but the air is starting to get cooler and wetter.

young plants

In addition to the ideal planting time, maturity also plays a role in young plants. Only when certain conditions are met should they be planted outdoors in the ground.

Conditions include:

  • At least three fresh green basal shoots
  • healthy appearance
  • No injury or desiccation
  • Pot ball very well rooted, so that no soil comes loose when unplugging
  • No twisting roots at the bottom of the pot (long, unbranched roots that twine around the root ball – an indication of an unfavorable long pot life)
Tip: When buying potted blackberries, the root ball should be briefly lifted out of the pot to identify any root defects. If there are any, this complicates a problem-free ‘tackling’ after planting and, in the worst case, can lead to the death of the plant.

Offshoots, cuttings, sinkers

If you want to plant offshoots, cuttings or lowers of an existing Rubus for propagation, you should do this between October and April at a frost-free time.

Ideal location

Blackberries should only be planted where the best site conditions are offered.

The following site conditions describe the ideal planting site:

  • Light conditions: many hours of sunshine, also tolerates partial shade
  • Sheltered from the wind (e.g. on walls or in the windbreak of trees)
  • No risk of waterlogging (e.g. far away from swamp zones)
  • Sufficient space for trouble-free growth
  • Climbing options available for climbing varieties (if necessary, space to attach a climbing aid)

plant neighbors

Blackberries are quite undemanding and undemanding plants. They get along very well with other plants in the immediate vicinity. Even planting next to raspberries (Rubus idaeus) is not a problem. Strawberries are also very popular next to blackberries. Only a close proximity with walnut should be avoided instead. While they do not inhibit blackberry seed germination, they can negatively affect blackberry growth. The Rubus is ideal for mixed cultures in fruit and vegetable gardens.

Instructions – Plant Rubus

When the best planting time has come, the planting can begin, whether in the tub for the balcony and terrace or in the garden bed.

climbing aid

So that long tendrils of blackberries do not snap off and this can greatly reduce the harvest yield, a suitable climbing aid should be provided before planting. It can be purchased as a finished product from any gardening store or you can build it yourself. You should know the following about the climbing aid and pay attention to a few details when planning:

  • Adapt the height and width of the climbing aid to the maximum blackberry growth height/width (at least five meters high for “Jumbo”)
  • For specimens that grow upright, a wooden stick, higher fence or something similar is usually sufficient
  • Trellis is a visual eye-catcher and ideal climbing aid
  • Trellis must be firmly planted in the ground or attached to a wall (for stability)
  • The first climbing opportunity should be at a height of 50 centimetres

garden bed planting

1st step: Mark/observe the planting distance

If several blackberries are planted or a specimen is placed between plant neighbors, it is important that there is a minimum distance between the individual plants so that the Rubus and the plant neighbors can spread optimally and air can draw through.

The respective planting distance depends on the growth form and growth width of the Rubus variety. The following recommendations apply here:

  • Upright growth forms: Planting distance between 60 and 80 centimeters, maximum one meter
  • Semi-upright, such as the “Chester Thornless”: four meters planting distance
  • Horizontally growing rods, like the “Oregon Thornless”: four meters planting distance

2nd step: preparing the planting hole

  • Plant hole depth: 50 to 70 centimeters
  • Planting hole width: same as depth
  • Cover planting soil with two to three centimeters of quartz sand or fine gravel (drainage)
  • Fill up with loose, humus-rich soil substrate
  • Ideal: mix with compost and/or lawn mulch (saves additional fertilization in the first year)
  • Loamy and sandy soils: compost and/or sand required for loosening
Tip: Because prickly blackberries in particular often tend to form root shoots, a so-called rhizome barrier can be useful so that the roots do not one day run through the entire garden. For this purpose, for example, a thicker pond liner can simply be placed in the ground for the mostly shallow root growth.

Step 3: Plant Rubus

  • If necessary, unpot from the pot/container
  • Place root ball in water bath
  • Remove from water bath when bubbles stop rising
  • Drain the water well and loosen/”defrimble” the root balls
  • Place the root in the center of the planting hole
  • Avoid snapping the roots
  • Plant roots three fingers lower than they are tall
  • Fill in the side cavities with soil
  • The upper area of ​​the transition between roots and shoots should be covered with two to three centimeters of soil
  • Press the soil lightly
  • Pour generously (sludge to close air holes in the soil)

4th step: cutting

If it is a larger plant, it is advisable to prune after planting. Planting and transplanting is always a strain on the Rubus. Pruning allows it to recover quickly and the roots are stimulated to grow, which greatly encourages them to become established.

Cutting long/longer rods is ideal. They should be cut back to a length of about 30 centimeters.

pot planting

When planting a Rubus in a pot or tub, the procedure is the same as when planting in the garden bed. The ideal planting time and site conditions to be met are also identical. However, the following details should be considered:

  • Use loose, humus-rich substrate
  • Substrate should be slightly acidic (pH between 4.5 and 6.0)
  • Mix in some sand or perlite (optimizes the water permeability)
  • Pot/bucket must have a drainage hole (to avoid waterlogging)
  • Don’t forget drainage on the bottom of the pot/tub

Proven Rubus varieties

In the past, certain blackberry varieties in particular have proven themselves for pots/tubs on the balcony. Above all, the lack of spikes reduces the risk of injury, especially when space is limited.

Proven varieties include:

  • Navaho“ Early“ und „Big&Early“
  • Black Satin
  • Loch Ness
  • Jumbo
  • Chester Thornless

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