How to Grow and Care for Wild Raspberry

Wild raspberry bush branch with yellow-green leaves and two pink berries

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Wild raspberry, or Rubus idaeus, can easily be identified by its three or five compound serrated leaflets, its prickly thorns, and, most specifically, its little white blooms that grow into tasty red berries. This bush is found frequently throughout eastern North America, growing in thickets along roadsides and trails. Two varieties of cultivated wild raspberry—summer-fruiting and ever-bearing—can also be grown in your backyard. Similar to strawberries, summer-fruiting raspberry bushes produce a crop of berries once during the summer, whereas ever-bearing bushes produce berries all summer and into the fall. The best time to plant wild raspberry is during the early spring, after the last frost, and when the soil is workable. Healthy bushes can grow as big as four feet tall and three feet wide, and bear ripe fruit starting at the end of the season or in their second year of growth, depending on the variety.

Common Name Wild Raspberry or Wild Red Raspberry
Botanical Name Rubus idaeus
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Perennial, fruit, shrub
Mature Size 3-4 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 2-7 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Europe

Wild Raspberry Care

Growing your own juicy wild raspberries is easy and rewarding. Like most fruiting plants, these bushes love rich soil, regular watering, and plenty of natural sunlight. Wild raspberry also grows best with moderate temperatures and humidity levels, as it is native to cooler climates. Special care needs to be taken during the first year of planting until the bush establishes itself and bears fruit. After that, your patch will grow in size producing new baby bushes (or suckers) each spring. Depending on the variety, yearly pruning may be required to keep your plants healthy and harvesting manageable.

Wild raspberry bush with tall stems and small berries hanging on ends

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Wild raspberry bush stem with pink fruit hanging in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Wild raspberry fruit hanging from end of stem with yellow-green leaflets closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Wild raspberry grows best in a sunny location that is partially shaded. This plant requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight during the growing season and can become sunburned during periods of hot, direct sun. This condition appears as white spots on some of the red berries. However, a little sunburn won't affect the quality of the fruit, only its appearance.

Soil

Wild red raspberry loves fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Poor soil conditions can be improved by adding organic material, such as manure or compost, just before planting. Planting wild raspberry in raised beds also helps with drainage, since this plant is susceptible to root rot.

Water

Wild raspberry needs consistent water in order to produce juicy berries. In fact, it prefers about an inch of rain or water from drip irrigation once a week during its growing season. During the first year, pay particular attention to the amount of water your plants receive as they establish themselves, and then supplement when needed. Adding an inexpensive rain gauge to your garden will help you keep on top of watering needs.

Raspberries are susceptible to a variety of fungi, so make sure to water them from below. Wet leaves encourage disease—watering close to the soil avoids this issue.

Temperature and Humidity

Wild raspberry is native to cooler regions and prefers moderate temperatures and humidity levels. In fact, when temperatures are too high, photosynthesis can come to a halt. This plant grows best with summer temperatures between 70 to 75 F. In warmer climates, make sure your location receives morning sun and afternoon shade to help regulate the plant's temperature.

Fertilizer

Keep your soil rich and fertile, and your raspberries will thank you with an abundance of berries. This may require working compost and manure into your soil at planting. For naturally alkaline soil, work humus, peat, and pine needles into the ground to up the acidity. Once established, annual treatment of manure (50 to 100 pounds per 100 feet of row) combined with cottonseed meal, langbeinite, and rock phosphate should do the trick. Do this only once before June for established plants, and twice during the first year for new plants.

Types of Wild Raspberry

There are two notable varieties of wild red raspberry bushes: summer-fruiting and ever-bearing. Some gardeners are drawn to the overbearing variety, as, once established, this cultivar will bear fruit in early summer, and then again in the fall.

  • Summer-fruiting: These raspberry bushes produce one crop each year in the summer. Once established, the summer-fruiting variety will bear fruit during the second year (and from there on after) on second-year branches called floricanes.
  • Ever-bearing: These raspberry bushes produce two crops a season, creating a small crop of berries in June, and then yielding a larger crop in September. This bush produces berries in the very first year on canes called primocanes.

Pruning

Knowing what variety of wild raspberry bush you have is important when it comes to pruning, since summer-fruiting and ever-bearing varieties require different pruning methods to maximize berry yield. Either way, yearly trimming will help your bush stay healthy no matter what kind of variety you have.

Here’s how to prune your wild raspberry per variety:

  • Summer-fruiting: Since this variety only produces fruit on floricanes, be sure not to prune your primocanes, as they will produce the following year. Primocanes are always bright green, so they should be easy to identify. Floricanes, on the other hand, develop a brown, almost woody appearance. Once your floricanes have produced their fruit for the year, they will begin to die off. When this happens, clip away the old branches to keep your plant healthy and manageable.
  • Everbearing: There are two possible pruning methods for this variety, depending on the results you want. The first method entails simply pruning off the canes as soon as they are done producing fruit. If you choose this method, you may not get a small crop next spring, but will yield a larger crop, come fall. The second method calls for leaving the canes on the bush until the next summer, potentially yielding two crops: one on the floricanes and the other on the primocanes. If you choose this method, be sure to prune your floricanes in late winter or early spring to keep them clean and ready for new growth.

Propagating Wild Raspberry

Mature wild raspberry bushes tend to sprout little plants which pop out of the ground some distance away from the mother plant. These baby plants are called suckers. Suckers can be dug up and used to start a new raspberry patch.

Here’s how to propagate wild raspberry from suckers:

  1. Gather a spade shovel, gloves, compost, and mulch.
  2. In the spring, locate the mother plant's suckers (they can lie within 8 feet of the mother plant). Put on your gloves to avoid any pricks from the plant's thorns.
  3. Gently dig 6 inches around the baby plant, taking care to severe the parenting root. Carefully lift the plant out of the ground with some soil intact.
  4. Select a location for your new plant, making sure it is at least 24 inches away from your other plants to allow room to grow.
  5. Dig a hole and amend the soil with compost.
  6. Place your new plant at the same depth in the hole and backfill it with amended soil to cover the roots.
  7. Provide a thin layer of mulch around the sucker to promote acidity in the soil and water it thoroughly.

How to Grow Wild Raspberry From Seed

Raspberry seeds are best planted in the fall, as the cold winter weather fosters spring germination. Start seeds in a tray placed outdoors to mimic the overwintering of seeds that have fallen to the ground (stratification). You can also place the seeds in the refrigerator for the same effect.

Here's how to plant wild raspberry from seed:

  1. Gather a paper bag, a glass jar with a lid, a seed tray, seed starting mix, and a watering can.
  2. In the fall, collect overripe and shriveled fruit from a healthy plant and place them in a paper bag.
  3. Remove the seeds from the berries, place them in a glass jar, and seal the lid tight. Place the seeds in the refrigerator for 45 days.
  4. Fill a seed tray with a loamy seed-starting mixture. Remove the seeds from the jar, crumble off the dried berry remnants, and then sprinkle the seeds over the surface.
  5. Cover the seeds with 1/8 inch of the mixture and gently press them into the soil.
  6. Water the tray until moist and place it in a warm, sunny, indoor location. (Or, skip watering and place it outdoors over the winter, should you choose to forego stratification. Water the tray once spring temperatures have warmed.)
  7. Pinch away crowded seedlings to maintain 2 inches between each plant. Continue keeping the soil moist as they grow.
  8. When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, plant them in their permanent outdoor location.

Overwintering

Some cold-climate gardeners choose to provide extra protection for their raspberries in the winter. For summer-fruiting varieties, prune the producing floricanes after harvest, and trim the primocanes back to 3 feet tall. Gently bend the young canes to the ground and cover them with 3 inches of soil to protect them from winter damage. Come spring, remove the soil and fluff the canes with gloved hands.

Everbearing varieties do better in extremely cold climates and can be overwintered by simply covering the canes (old and new) with soil, as you would with summer-fruiting varieties. This method will preserve both harvests. However, a simpler method is to cut the old floricanes, forego the soil mound, and allow only new canes to sprout next season. You'll sacrifice the first crop if you choose this method, but the second crop will be bigger.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Like most fruit, certain pests love wild raspberries and a few diseases can creep into a neglected patch. Birds can quickly wipe out your harvest of ripe berries. To keep them at bay, place bird netting over your plants. While unsightly, the netting can be removed once the harvest is over.

Aphids, Japanese beetles, and raspberry fruitworm beetles can move into a raspberry patch. It's best to pick them off by hand and place them into a jar of soapy water to kill them quickly. To control aphids, try introducing their natural predator—ladybugs—to eradicate the population or spray a soap and water mixture or neem oil concoction onto the plants. Try to avoid using insecticides on edible berries, as you may harm yourself, alongside beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Spur blight, anthracnose, and cane blight are among the fungal diseases that can move into a wild raspberry patch. To prevent this, make sure to always prune away sickly-looking canes and be sure not to splash water onto the leaves of your plant while watering, as these diseases are spread by splashing water. Often, removing diseased canes or whole plants to increase your patch's airflow will rectify the situation.

Common Problems with Wild Raspberry

A patch of untended raspberries can grow unruly after only a few seasons. And this fruit tends to perform poorly under crowded conditions when the plants are not allowed the room to grow and the airspace to thrive. Make sure to thin canes each spring to 8 inches apart to avoid this situation.

Sunscald can also affect the color of the raspberry fruit. If the sun-exposed side of the berry turns white, it could be suffering from white druplet disorder. This condition does not harm the fruit or the plant and simply providing some shade, like additional leaf cover, can prevent this predicament.

FAQ
  • How do I harvest my wild raspberry patch?

    Simply grab a pair of gloves and peel back the plant's canes to locate ripe, red berries. Give them a gentle pull. Ripe berries will slip right off their inner white cores. If a fruit doesn’t easily pop off, don’t force it. Leave it on longer to ripen fully.

  • What's the best way to store wild raspberries?

    Harvested raspberries do not stay fresh for long, so enjoy them quickly. However, if you plan on storing them, don’t wash them. This will help you to avoid mushy or moldy raspberries. Instead, wash your berries right before you eat them.

  • Are wild raspberries always red?

    Wild raspberry bears fruit in many different colors of red, purple, gold, or black, and they are all safe to eat. That said, the golden variety is often much sweeter.