Growing Blackberries

 male hands holding soil humus or mulch, blackberry plant beside

Blackberries are best planted in early spring, using the same care as when planting raspberries. Spacing will depend on the trellis and training system to be used. Most erect blackberry cultivars can be grown without physical supports and are spaced two to four feet apart in rows eight to ten feet apart. Semi-erect and trailing blackberries are planted eight to ten feet apart in rows eight to ten feet apart.

Blackberry plant cuttings. How to root blackberry branch

Establish your planting from virus-indexed (certified) plants. Some nurseries can supply tissue culture-derived plants. Tissue culture-derived plants grow more vigorously and become established more quickly than conventionally propagated plants. Tissue culture-derived plants are supplied in three-inch root plugs. When these small plugs are planted, the roots should be barely covered with soil, whereas conventionally propagated plants are set at the same depth as they were when growing in the nursery. The tops of conventionally propagated plants should be cut back to six inches; tissue culture-derived plants need no pruning at this time. Cultivation, mulching, and fertilizer are the same as for raspberries.

snow on blackberry bush leaves
Winter Protection

Most of the semi-erect and trailing thornless blackberry cultivars are not very winter hardy and are suggested only for southern Illinois. However, with special protection, they can be grown in northern areas, though some winter injury should be expected even then. After they become dormant in the fall, the canes are protected by removing them from the trellis support and completely covering them with soil or straw. Any exposed canes can be damaged by cold air. When the danger of severe cold is past in the spring, uncover the canes, remove broken or dead canes, dormant-prune the other canes, and tie the remaining canes to the support.

Sterility Problems in Blackberries

Sterility in some blackberry cultivars has been a problem. Affected plants generally grow vigorously and bloom profusely, but set only a few malformed berries. If such plants occur in your garden, they should be destroyed immediately—roots as well as stems. 


Blackberry Cultivar

Harvest Season

Region of Adaptation*







Hull Thornless

late summer


large fruit, good flavor, not very winter-hardy; plants are semi-erect and need to be trellised

Chester Thornless late summer, harvest can last up to 6 weeks C, S large, round fruit; fruit is firm and could be transported to local markets without leaking; plants are semi-erect and need to be trellised

Triple Crown

mid-summer; earlier than Chester


newest semi-erect thornless; suitable for trial only

Arapaho July S erect, thornless, suitable for southern Illinois



very early


good flavor, erect growth habit




good flavor, erect growth habit




very large fruits, good flavor, erect growth habit

Illini Hardy long harvest season N, C, S dependable moderate production of good quality fruits


  •  *N = adapted to region north of Interstate 80,
  • *C = adapted to region between Interstate 80 and Interstate 70,
  • *S = adapted to region south of Interstate 70