I grow Sweetie Pie blackberries, a great thornless variety, and here's what I've learned.
Blackberries aren't only delicious, they are also extremely healthy. Packed full of antioxidants and fiber, they're one of the top super-foods. Blackberries are expensive to buy in the store, but they're so easy to grow. They are a perennial plant, one that comes back year after year, so it really makes sense to grow your own if you can.
Note: If you've decided to grow your own plants, I highly recommend choosing a thornless variety. This means less worry about getting poked each time you need to handle the plants or pick berries. Although you can find certain varieties of blackberry plants to grow in any U.S. zone, the thornless varieties are most hardy in zones 6–10.
How to Propagate Blackberries
Blackberries are easily propagated, so you can make many plants out of one. There are many ways to do it, but below I describe two: tip rooting and stem cutting.
- By Stem Cutting: My favorite way to get new blackberry plants is by rooting cuttings. Cut some 4- to 6-inch pieces off the tips of blackberry canes and place them in a pot of moist potting soil—a moist mix of peat and sand works best. Keep them in a bright shady place until roots develop. Mist them often to keep the soil moist. You can use rooting hormone if you have it, but it's not necessary.
- By Tip Rooting: Simply take the tip of one cane of a plant that is already growing on your land, pull it down to the ground, and cover it with soil. After two to three weeks, it will develop its own root system and can be cut off the parent plant.
How to Propagate Blackberries the Easy Way
Tips for Planting Blackberries
- You will want to keep the soil around your blackberries moist for the first 2 to 3 weeks after planting them. The top inch of soil should be moist. Stick your finger into the dirt to check for dryness.
- If you live in a dry climate, you may need to water them daily when the plants are new. It is best to water them in the morning time. After the first 2 to 3 weeks, simply ensure your plants receive 1 to 2 inches of water weekly.
- If you live somewhere with moderate winters, you can plant your blackberries in late fall. Otherwise, you should wait until after the last frost in spring before planting.
- Blackberries like to be in full sun. It's all right to plant them where they will receive some shade as long as they receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Otherwise, they will not produce fruit.
- The crowns of the blackberry plants need to be planted at soil level with their roots just beneath the surface.
- The plants need a rich, well-draining soil. They are happiest in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. If you're unsure of the pH of your soil, you can purchase a pH testing kit. Soil that is below pH 7.0 is considered acidic. On the other hand, soil above 7.0 is alkaline. If the soil is too alkaline or too acidic, your plants will not grow or produce properly. Sulfur can be added to your soil to lower the pH, or lime can be added to raise it.
- Once your plants are producing berries, you will want to increase your watering. You need to keep the soil moist at all times during this time. It takes a lot of water to produce juicy, plump berries.
- Blackberry plants are perennial, but their stems, or canes, are biennial. Your first canes will only grow leaves the first year, then flower and produce fruit in their second year. Any new canes will produce fruit the next year, and so on.
- During the first year, you will not need any supports for your plants. Some plants are semi-erect, and some are trailing vines. Either way, a trellis is a great idea to keep them upright and happy. You can easily make a trellis of your own, or you can simply grow your plants near a fence.
Tips on Pruning Blackberry Plants
It's important to prune your blackberry canes. They can become a tangled, overgrown mess if you don't.
- When pruning thorny blackberry plants, one should be extremely careful. The thorns are very strong and sharp. You definitely need a good pair of thick gloves for this.
- You can prune in spring: a light trim to canes that are too long to make them more manageable or a trim to some of the lateral canes in order to control and keep your plants compact.
- In fall, you can go ahead and cut those canes that produced berries to the ground so the plant can focus on its new shoots that will produce fruit for you the next year.
Knowing when to harvest blackberries is easy. They will have turned from green, to red, to black. When they are a deep purply black color, hold the berry between your thumb and forefinger and twist it. It should easily remove from the stem. Harvest time is usually between late spring and early fall.
How to Store Blackberries
Blackberries are very delicate and do not have a long shelf life. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 to 5 days. Wait to wash them until you are ready to eat them. They do freeze well. You can wash them, let them air dry, then put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once they are frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag.
Blackberries contain many vitamins: K, C, E, A, B1, B2, and B3. They also contain many minerals such as potassium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, iron, calcium, riboflavin, piridoxine, copper, and magnesium. They are packed full of fiber and amino acids.
Blackberries have large levels of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals too, like gallic acid, tannin, cyanidins, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, kaempferol, salicylic acid, pantothenic acid, catechins, quercetin, and pelargonidins. These protect against neurological diseases, inflammation, aging, and cancer. What a powerful little fruit!
Sweetie pie plants are a great thornless variety. This is the type I've been growing for more than four years. I've not had trouble with any pests, fungus, or issues with the plants outgrowing the bed they're in. Occasionally, a runner will pop up a foot or so away from where the berries are planted, but I just pull those up by their roots and plant them back where I want them, with the others.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.