Blackberry

Rubus spp.

Family – Rosaceae

Blackberry - Chester Thornless Variety
Chester Thornless Blackberry fruit on the vine

Blackberries are one of our perennial favorites.  Who doesn’t like to fill a bowl with sweet fresh fruit from the vine and enjoy those succulent little bursts of flavor?

Fortunately for us in West Texas, blackberries are relatively easy to grow, unlike many other berry varieties.  Blackberry vines will tolerate a wide range of soils and will tolerate the extremes in temperatures that we experience in this region, making blackberries a wonderful addition to a perennial edible landscape.

blackberry drawing showing primocane and floricane

Habits

Blackberries are perennials but have some unique properties that everyone cultivating blackberries should understand.  Blackberries are a biennial producer.  The first year the plant will produce primocanes.  These are new growth canes and are identified by the fresh leaf growth at the tips of the canes and the lack of blossoms.   These primocanes become floricanes the second year, and it is on these floricanes that the blossoms and fruit will appear.  After the fruit is harvested from the floricanes, those canes will never produce fruit again and can be removed from the plant.

Blackberries do like full sun and do well in almost any soil.  Several methods of propagating blackberries can be successful.  The easiest and most successful is taking a finger-sized cutting from healthy plants and plant them directly into the soil.  In clay soil, plant them about 2 inches below the surface.  In more sandy soils, plant the cuttings about 4 inches deep.

Cutting can be stored for later planting by placing them in plastic bags and keeping them at 45 degrees F.

Plant your blackberries 24 to 36 inches apart.  If you are planting in hills, plant three cuttings per hill and space your hills 8 to 15 feet apart.   Blackberries will spread and can become unmanageable if not pruned and controlled.

blackberry trellised

Management

As soon as the fruit on the floricanes has been harvested, prune those canes from the plants.  These canes will never produce fruit again.  Removing them gives the primocanes air and room to develop and will mean bigger harvests next year. 

Pruning to control growth and to keep the plants in check should be done during the late summer.  The buds that will be the blossoms next year are formed in September.  Pruning after that will mean fewer fruits. 

Blackberry vines can be pruned to form low hedges or allowed to ramble as they would in a wild setting.  Be aware that if canes are allowed to ramble and trail along the soil, you will eventually have more blackberry plants where the canes come into contact with the soil and form root balls to spawn a new plant.   This is an effective way of propagating new plants.

Some varieties may show signs of rosette (double blossoms), anthracnose, and may attract borers.  The bigger problem with blackberries is their aggressive nature and tendency to spread everywhere.

Harvest

Pick your blackberries when they turn dark purple.  Eat them right away or store them in the refrigerator.  Blackberries will keep if refrigerated for about two weeks at the max.

Varieties

Blackberries come in two distinct varieties, those with thorns and those without.  These are a few of the recommended varieties for Texas. 

We recommend the thornless varieties for convenience sake.  However, if you are wanting to create a barrier along a fenceline that will deter anyone from crossing it, plant a thorned variety and let them ramble and grow.

Quachita (Thornless)

Patented by the University of Arkansas, Ouachita is a very productive variety that produces medium to large fruit with firm berries. 

Natches (Thornless)

A variety producing large early ripening berries.  Usually ripens early in June in Zone 7. 

Triple Crown

Trip[e Crown is a semi-erect variety that produces very heavy fruit.  It is a winter-hardy variety, food for areas that can suffer extremes in lower temperatures.  This variety also shows good wind resistance.

Links

For more information about edible perennials, berries, and other fruiting plants, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

For more specific information about edible landscaping, these articles might be of interest.

Edible Ornamentals

Elderberries

Create a Mini Food Forest

If you have more specific questions, please use the contact form on the website to reach us or post your questions on our Facebook Page.  You can search for our Facebook page using the tag @westtexasorganicgardening.