How to Prune Raspberry Canes


Raspberries make an ideal choice for the home garden. With a little maintenance and care, they can produce abundant crops of fruit in a relatively small space. Raspberries thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. A yearly top dressing of compost helps improve soil. The perennial produces canes that live for 2 years. The first year the cane grows and forms leaves. It produces fruit the second year of growth during the summer, with the exception of fall-bearing varieties. Before pruning your raspberry canes, identify what type of raspberries you have.

Red and Yellow Raspberries

Step 1

Identify and remove 2-year old canes that have already produced fruit in March. These canes will have a brownish colored bark, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Cut off any dead or diseased canes. For fall-bearing raspberries, prune all the canes to ground level to produce one large crop.

Step 2

Thin the canes, spacing them to about 6 inches apart. Leave only the vigorous canes. The canes should measure about ¼ inch in diameter at 30 inches up from the soil level. Keep the row about 12 to 15 inches wide.

Step 3

Cut remaining canes to a manageable height of 4 to 5 feet. If trellised, you can allow them to grow taller. This keeps the canes from bending over and protects them from wind damage.

Purple and Black Raspberries

Step 1

Remove small, weak or diseased canes in early spring. Leave only four or five canes per plant, choosing the healthiest and largest. Cut lateral branches back. The Iowa State University Extension recommends leaving 12 inches on black raspberries and 18 inches on purple.

Step 2

Pinch the tops of the canes from late May through July to maintain a height of 3 to 4 feet. Remove about 3 inches at a time. Keeping the canes pinched encourages more productivity, because black and purple raspberries fruit on lateral branches.

Step 3

Prune any canes that produced fruit to the ground after fruiting and before the next spring. These canes will not produce fruit again. Removing them allows more room for new canes to grow and helps keep the plant free of diseases.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruners
  • Tape measure


  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Growing Raspberries and Blackberries
  • "The Pruning Book"; Lee Reich, Ph.D.; 2010
  • Iowa State University Extension: Pruning Raspberries

Who Can Help

  • Purdue University Extension: Raspberries
Keywords: raspberry maintenance, pruning raspberry plants, thin raspberry canes

About this Author

Kitten Arbuckle is a freelance writer living in Indiana. Arbuckle has been writing for websites such as Garden Guides since early 2009. Her education includes training in landscaping, certification in herbal medicine from a botanical sanctuary and a variety of college courses.