I’ve always wanted a raspberry patch, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Picking sun-warmed raspberries, fresh off the bush reminds me of summers at the cottage as a kid. This spring, one of my neighbours was renovating his raspberry garden, and asked if I wanted any transplants. I told him I very much did, and my afternoon shifted to clearing a garden area and transplanting raspberries.
Raspberry bushes are pretty hardy plants. They seem to grow along a lot of the trails where I ride my bike, so often it’s my arms and legs that find their prickly branches first. In the wild, with no one to keep these self-propagating plants in check, they’ll just keep on growing!
It’s important to note there are different raspberry varieties. Black and purple raspberries are transplanted by a process called tip layering. This article will focus on transplanting red raspberry varieties from suckers.
Over the summer, raspberries will grow young canes from their roots and send out new plants—or suckers—via an underground root system. This is how I came to have some raspberry canes of my own. And I wasn’t the only one who benefitted—I saw a few other neighbours getting bags of raspberry canes, too!
When to transplant raspberries
Transplanting raspberries is really easy to do. The best time of year to transplant red raspberry plants is in early spring (before the leaves start to sprout) or late fall (after the leaves have fallen) when the plants are dormant. There were some leaves starting to bud out on my transplants, but they survived the move to their new home. And you want to make sure if a bag of canes lands on your doorstep that you plant them as soon as possible, so they don’t perish.
As a side note, my sister had to move her entire raspberry patch (both original canes and suckers) because it was interfering with the meter reader’s access at the side of her house. The raspberry patch was subsequently moved over a few feet and the transplants are doing well.
Removing and replanting raspberry suckers
You want to transplant the suckers, that have sprung up around your original plant, but not that original plant itself. Using a shovel or spade, dig a circle around the sucker, severing the plant from the underground runner it’s attached to. Be mindful of that original plant as you don’t want to damage its roots, though suckers are usually several inches away. You may also need pruners for this task if you can’t get the shovel through. Be careful to keep the root system of the plant you are digging intact and leave the soil that comes with it.
Choose a site for your transplants that’s in a sunny spot (a little shade is okay), where the plants won’t be interfering with any other crops or perennials. You also want to make sure the site isn’t full of tree roots. Raspberry plants will thrive in well-draining sandy loam with lots of organic matter. (The roots don’t like perpetually wet soil as they can rot.)
My province’s agriculture website recommends preparing the soil of your raspberry patch a year before planting. I didn’t have that luxury, as I had a bag of canes that needed to be planted pronto. I added a bag of soil formulated for growing berries and compost to the new garden area, to add nutrients to the soil.
At your transplant site, dig a hole that’s a bit bigger than the roots of the plant (about six to 10 inches wide) and not too deep. You want the crown to sit just below the soil. Raspberry canes are thorny and sharp, so I used my rose gloves with their protected fingers and gauntlet sleeves to lift each cane out of the bag and gently place it in the hole. (These protective gloves come in handy for pruning my treacherous gooseberry bush, as well.) Be sure the roots are spread out. You may need to hold the cane upright as you fill the hole around the roots. Then, gently tamp down the soil to hold it in place and keep the cane upright. Make sure there aren’t any roots poking out of the soil.
Plant transplants at least a couple of feet apart from each other, as you want to give them plenty of room to grow, with lots of air flow, and without encouraging a tangle of plants. My sister has positioned hers so that they can grow up and through a large obelisk (as shown above), keeping them somewhat contained.
Look closely at your new raspberry cane. You want to cut the plant down to anywhere from eight to 12 inches. But make sure you cut above a bud, so a new branch can grow.
Caring for new raspberry transplants
Give your new raspberry plants a good watering after planting. Water your new raspberry canes regularly until they’re well established. I will add compost to the garden in the fall or early spring, when I add it to my raised beds and other gardens.
Be sure to keep the area well weeded, so nothing else competes with the roots. Remove any dead or poorly looking canes to avoid disease.
If you don’t have a big garden, here are some raspberry (and other berry) varieties that will do well in containers.
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