Blackberries are widely consumed fruits eaten fresh as well as in jams and pies. Blackberry bushes are available in a variety of growth habits, with a vast array of cultivars per habit. In both thorny and thornless cultivars, blackberries prefer a temperate climate. Plant according to appropriate cultural requirements and identify necessary care procedures for successful home blackberry bush growth.
Blackberry bushes come in three main classifications including erect, semi-trailing and trailing. Erect blackberry bushes are the most cold hardy and may or may not display thorns. Semi-trailing varieties do not produce thorns. Trailing blackberry bushes do produce thorns and are sometimes referred to as dewberries instead of blackberries, according to the Clemson University Extension.
Blackberry bushes thrive in full sun exposure; however, when full sun is accompanied by extremely high or low temperatures and substantial wind, sun-scald may occur. Keep blackberry bushes out of these conditions to prevent developmental problems or destruction of bushes. Grow blackberries in well-drained, acid loam or sandy loam soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service. If drainage is poor, amend soil with organic matter like compost that will improve drainage; waterlogged soil may leave blackberry bushes vulnerable to disease.
Blackberry bushes need particular care for successful growth. Though tolerant to drought, blackberry bushes thrive on sufficient water. Water your bushes with 1 inch on a weekly basis unless natural rainfall occurs. Additionally, add a layer of mulch to the soil surrounding your blackberry bushes for water retention and the prevention of weed growth that may negatively affect your plants. Mulch is available in many forms including compost and pine needles; choose according to your preferences. For steady growth, prune your bushes beginning in the second year of growth when fruiting begins. Fruiting branches referred to as floricanes must be pruned for removal after they die to make way for new growth.
Each growth habit includes a variety of cultivars. Erect cultivars include 'Rosborough', a thorny bush with acid fruit. 'Cheyenne' is a thorny erect bush with tart fruit. The 'Cherokee' erect blackberry bush is thorny and produces sweet fruit. Semi-trailing cultivars include 'Gem', a thorny bush that produces berries of high quality. 'Hull' is a thornless semi-trailing bush with good quality fruit. Trailing cultivars include 'Floragrand', which produces tart fruit. 'Oklawaha' is a trailing blackberry bush developed to pollinate 'Floragrand' bushes; its foliage is semi-evergreen or evergreen.
Blackberry bushes are susceptible to insects and diseases that may cause damage and loss of fruit crops. A serious insect infestation is the crown borer, which cannot be chemically controlled. Other insects include aphids and spider mites; these infestations are easily managed with pesticide applications. Common disease includes rosette, also referred to as double blossom; this infection is fungal in nature and spreads sporadically, causing deformation of shoots and inhibition of fruit growth. Infections are controlled with fungicidal applications. For all problems, remove and destroy infected plant parts; in severe cases, remove and destroy entire plants. Always sanitize pruning tools between each cut to prevent spread of disease.