Blackberry (Rubus species)-Hort Answers - University of Illinois Extension
University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Extension

Hort Answers

Small Fruit

Rubus species

Pruned blackberry canes in early spring
Pruned blackberry canes in early spring

Require full sun, well drained soil, and good air circulation. Avoid sites, where tomato, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes were grown. Destroy wild brambles growing nearby as they may harbor insect pests, and diseases. They do well in soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Roots of blackberries are perennial and canes biennial. Primocanes – first year canes, and floricanes – two-year-old canes.

Prepare the land at least one year before planting. Eliminate all perennial weeds and grasses, test the soil and make pH and fertility adjustments. Add well-rotted manure or compost to improve the organic matter content of the soil. Select cultivars that are adapted to your area (Information available from your local Cooperative Extension office). Locate reputable and certified nurserieswhere you can get one-year-old plants that are virus-free, disease-free and true-to-name. Planting need to be done in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. When plants are ordered from out-of-state nurseries, open the package, inspect the plants. Heel-in plants by digging shallow trench in a sheltered location and covering the roots with soil until the weather conditions are suitable for planting or store plants in refrigerator while awaiting for weather conditions suitable for planting.

Space erect cultivars 4 to 6 ft apart and trailing cultivars 4 to 10 ft apart. You can plant in a hill or hedgerow system. Plant at the same depth as they were in the nursery. Cut the canes on newly set plants to 6 inches. It is advisable to provide support for blackberries. Protect canes of trailing blackberries during winter by covering with soil or straw in fall after they become dormant. Fertilizers need to be applied to the site before planting based on soil test. Apply 15-20 pounds of 10-10-10 per 1000 square feet in early spring before the new growth begins.

Pruning erect blackberries- In spring, remove dead, weak canes. In summer remove the top three inches of the cane (pinching or topping), and remove fruiting canes immediately after harvest.– In spring, remove dead, weak canes and selecting 8-16 canes for tying. If stakes are used for support, canes are wrapped around the stake, tied and cut to the height of the stake. In summer remove fruiting canes immediately after harvest.


Select cultivars that are adapted to zone 5.

  • Erect– Darrow, Cheyenne, Illini Hardy (Thorny).
  • Semi-erect thornless - Chester, Triple Crown
Mature Height
0 Feet (May vary depending with the type. )
Mature Width
0 Feet (Depends on whether it is erect or trailing type.)
Harvest Time
June - September depending on the type


USDA Hardiness Zone
6 - 8 
Soil Conditions
Moist, Well-Drained
Exposure/Light Requirements
Full Sun
Jellies & Jams
Fruit Color
Pests and Problems

Bacterial Disease

Environmental Damage

Fungal Disease

Herbicide Injury

Additional pests and problems that may affect this plant:

Insect pests:
  • Aphids
  • Raspberry crown borer
  • Red-necked cane borer
  • Strawberry weevil
  • Japanese beetle
  • Orange tortrix
  • Redberry mite
  • Spider mites
  • Raspberry fruit worm


  • Anthracnose (Elsinoe veneta)
  • Cane blight (Leptosphaeria coniothyrium)
  • Crown and cane gall (Agrobacterim tumefaciens)
  • Gray mold (Botryotinia fluckeliana)
  • Rosette (Cercosporella rubi)
  • Rust diseases: Orange rust (Arthuriomyces peckianus), Cane and leaf rust (Kuehneola uredinis), Yellow rust (Phragmidium rubi-idaei), Late leaf rust (Pucciniastrum americanum)
  • Spur blight (Didymella applanata)
  • Septoria leaf and cane spot (Septoria rubi)
  • Powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca macularis)
  • Root diseases: Armillaria root rot (Armillaria mellea), Phytophthora root rot (Phytophthora spp.), Verticillim wilt (Verticillium albo-atrum and V. dahliae)
  • Nematodes: Root-lesion nematode, Dagger nematode, Needle nematode
  • Vural diseases: Mosaic complrx,Raspberry leaf curl, Raspberry vein chlorosis,Tomato ringspot
Additional Notes

Plant brambles away from conifers, woods or fencerows, wild brambles. Varieties resistant to aphids, weed control, pruning, and harvesting on time. Plant virus and disease-free seedlings, and plant resistant varieties. Brambles need well-drained soils, good air circulation, and do not plant close to existing bramble plantings.


Related Resources
Home, Yard & Garden Pest Guide
U of IL - Distance Diagnosis through Digital Imaging
U of IL - Plant Clinic