The past couple of years I have been received lots of questions via email regarding how to prune Bababerry plants, a variety of everbearing raspberry that grows well in Southern California and other low chill – warm climates. Managing Baba raspberries is much the same as any other everbearing or fall bearing raspberry variety. Most folks are able to pick fruit the first year they buy and plant an everbearing raspberry, including Baba. That is not the case on summer bearing raspberry varieties, which only produce on second year or two year old canes. Since I am in the middle of my winter pruning chores, including pruning out the old wood on the berries, I figured it was a good time to take a short break and post something about it.
A new or first year cane on a raspberry plant is called a primocane. A second year cane is referred to as a floricane or floracane. Summer bearing raspberries only produce one harvest each summer and only on their floracanes. Those two year old canes are then pruned out in late fall or winter, after bearing fruit. Everbearing varieties produce on the top half of primocanes the first fall, and then on the lower half the following Spring.
With all everbearing raspberries, the gardener can choose to have either one or two crops each year, depending on the pruning or management technique the gardener prefers to use. Here at Hanbury House I often to prune to get two crops a year. To do this, I prune out all the two year old canes to the ground each winter and just prune the top half of the primo canes from the previous season. Although it is ideal to prune when they are dormant, if you are unsure what to prune at first, the chore can wait until the first new leaf buds begin break dormancy in early spring.
Usually I can tell which canes are two years old on my Babas just based on how the “skin” of the cane looks. The canes that are grey and/or really flaky looking are usually the old ones that need to be cut to the ground and completely removed. New canes usually emerge nearby. Any canes that are primocanes and produced fruit on the top 1/2 of the cane in the fall, usually look healthy and a medium shade of brown, with the top part being dried looking and sometimes has a few tiny barren side stems where the berries hung last fall. They will also have new buds along the stem. I prune those canes down only about half way, to the point just below where the last berries grew or above where it looks like there is a live bud still. Those pruned canes will bare fruit along the rest of the portion of the cane, usually in by mid to late Spring or early Summer. Then, next winter, I prune the rest of that cane out as mentioned above.
The other method to manage everbearing raspberries is pruning all canes to the ground when the canes are pretty much dormant, typically sometime between the new year to early February, basically in the middle of winter. With this pruning method the gardener only gets one crop later in the summer or early fall, instead of two. This is the easiest method, and many folks prefer it, including my friend across the street that also grows lots of Baba berries. It is much less work, and a bit tidier looking. Either method, new canes usually emerge each spring around the base of the plant.
Once a raspberry patch has been established for many years, the canes will have spread out and multiplied a lot. Any canes that are outside the designated garden bed can be dug up and and used to start a new raspberry patch or shared with friends. The best time to divide and dig out canes, if you want the canes to survive the transplant, is in the dormant season. If you are just trying to tidy things up, dig out the stray canes at any time of year. If you are still wondering if your raspberry plants are summer bearing or everbearing, here is short list of commonly grown varieties of each. I put an * next to varieties I have grown or my close friend across the street has grown at some point over the last two decades.
Everbearing raspberry varieties:
- Anne *
- Autumn Bliss
- Autumn Britten *
- Bababerry *
- Caroline *
- Fall Gold
- Indian Summer *
- Kiwi Gold *
- Josephine *
- Rosanna *
Bababerries are my favorite, and in my opinion, the best raspberry, out of the all the red raspberries varieties I have grown in our low chill Mediterranean climate. I hope this helps those of you searching for tips on how to prune your raspberry plants. If you still have raspberry questions, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to get back to you.