How to Prune Raspberry Bushes for a Better Harvest

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Growing raspberries is so rewarding and requires minimal effort. One of the only tasks required is pruning. Spring is a great time to remove your dead raspberry canes from last year’s harvest. This post will help you know how to prune raspberry bushes to grow a large crop this summer.

a bowl of red raspberries sitting between two rows of pruned raspberry bushes

Summer-bearing Raspberries vs Fall-bearing Raspberries

The type of raspberry you are growing will dictate how you prune your raspberry bushes. The difference between summer-bearing raspberries and fall-bearing raspberries comes down to growing season.

Summer-bearing raspberries are biennial in nature. This means that they grow new shoots one year, and then those canes bear fruit the following summer. After these canes produce raspberries, they die. The following spring, new shoots grow.

When you prune summer-bearing raspberries, you need to make sure you cut and remove all of these dead canes to reduce disease potential and provide growing space for the next crop of canes.

Fall-bearing raspberries produce raspberries in the fall on first year canes that grew that year. They also produce more berries on those same canes in early summer the next year. Pruning needs are different for fall-bearing raspberries.

It is best to prune fall-bearing canes after they produce their summer crop in the second year. It can also be beneficial to prune the fruiting tips of these varieties in the fall to encouraging branching.

closeup of second year raspberry cane with leaves

The Best Time to Prune

If you are growing summer-bearing raspberries, it is best to remove last year’s canes from late fall to early spring. In my area, a good time to prune raspberries is in late winter around the beginning of March. It’s always one of the first garden tasks I complete in the spring.

If you are growing fall-bearing raspberries, you can choose to only have a fall crop. To do this, you simply prune all canes to the ground after the fall harvest. New canes will grow the following year and produce another fall crop. If you want to enjoy a summer crop on these canes as well, you would not prune them until they produced their second crop the next summer. You can then remove them in late summer.

Identifying Which Raspberry Canes to Prune

In an established raspberry patch, it can be difficult to distinguish between old dead canes and second year canes that will bear your current year’s crop. The old canes are more brittle and you will also see the fruiting structures that held the flowers and raspberries the year before. These fruiting tips are the best way to identify the canes that need to be cut. New canes that will produce your current year crop will not have these branched structures on top. Most of the time, the current year’s fruiting canes are a single stem without any branches.

closeup of gloved hand pruning raspberry bushes with green and yellow pruners

Cutting to Ground Level

It’s important to cut canes to ground level. This encourages your raspberry plants to send up new canes from the root system and not from lateral branches. New growth from the root system is much stronger and will produce a better crop.

Creating Space

In addition to removing dead and diseased canes, it’s also important to remove any broken or weak canes. It is also important to remove some of the current year’s fruiting canes to provide space for picking and airflow. Try to space remaining canes about 6 inches apart for best results.

Dispose of Pruned Canes

After you have pruned your raspberry bushes, it’s important to remove the pruned canes and dispose of them. You don’t want to leave any diseased canes lying next to you healthy raspberry patch. I usually pile up the canes and burn them.

Watch out for Thorns

It’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when pruning raspberries! Those thorns can really scratch up your arms and hands.

closeup of a silver metal bowl full of red raspberries


The last thing I always do after I’m done pruning my raspberries is apply a thick layer of mulch. Wood chips are easy to come by and they do a great job at reducing weeds and keeping moisture in the soil. I also apply a thick layer of compost around my raspberries each spring. Adding compost each year has really increased my fruit production.

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More Helpful Raspberry Tips

Transplanting Raspberries to Grow More Fruit: A How-to Guide

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