Blackberries are from the genus Rubus, which also includes raspberries. Depending on the variety, blackberries are also known as dewberries, boysenberries, loganberries and marionberries. Blackberry plants are perennial, which means they live for several years, but the canes of the plant are biennial and die after fruition. Primocanes (first-year-growth canes) become floricanes, which will flower, bear fruit and die back the following spring and summer. Removing dead canes and training new growth will help your plant remain productive.
Selecting a sunny location with well-drained soil will provide the best outcome for your blackberry bushes. Plant near a water source for dry periods but do not allow the plants to become waterlogged. Planting blackberries in low-lying areas leaves them subject to frost since most varieties bloom in February and March. Blossoms can be damaged when the temperatures are below 28 degrees F, according to the University of Florida. Ideally, blackberries perform best with a soil pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes attract the same pests and disease as blackberries. Plant blackberries in soil that has been free of these crops for at least three years.
Thorny or thornless, blackberry bushes grow either erect or trailing. Erect cultivars handle colder climates better than their trailing counterparts. Erect cultivars are self-fruitful and do not require another cultivar for cross-pollination, but both erect and trailing varieties benefit from cross-pollination and are more productive when planted with several other varieties of blackberry bushes.
Erect cultivars include Cherokee, Shawnee, Navaho, Ouachita and Cheyenne. Trailing cultivars include Boysen, Black Satin, Chehalem, Hull Thornless, Logan, Silvan, Sunberry, Tayberry and Waldo.
Care of Bushes
Use caution when cultivating blackberry bushes; the roots are shallow and can become easily damaged. Plants should be watered with an inch of water per week from early summer to harvest time. Mulching is recommended to retain moisture. Preferred mulches for blackberry bushes include leaves, plastic mulch, hay, pine bark, pine straw or wood chips.
Pruning canes shortly after harvest and selecting new canes for the following season will keep your blackberry bushes productive. Lay your selected trailing canes on the ground and cover thickly with mulch during the winter months, since trailing cultivars are more sensitive to frost.
Diseases and Pests
Controlling weeds and debris in the garden area will allow proper air circulation and help control diseases and pests. The extent of infestation dictates whether treatment is recommended. Pests that affect blackberry bushes include the red-necked cane borer, stink bugs, thrips, strawberry weevils and beetles.
Most diseases that affect blackberry bushes are caused by fungus. Fungal diseases that affect blackberry bushes include leaf spot, double blossom, anthracnose and orange rust.
Pick berries when they ripen and turn black by breaking them away from the stem, and avoid pulling them. Harvest berries twice a week, handling with care and refrigerating as soon as possible. Blackberries are perishable and picking berries when wet will shorten their shelf-life.