Blackberries are pretty short-lived, having a lifespan of about 15–20 years with proper care. Proper care for blackberry bushes includes planting them in acidic soil, giving them 3 doses of water per week (1-2 hours each of those days), and annual pruning sessions in fall to late winter. This winter care is especially important as blackberry canes wither and die after two years. This means your bush can appear dead even though it isn’t. You simply need to prune off the dying canes and new canes will grow in spring.
Table of Contents
Do Blackberries Come Back Every Year?
Blackberry plants are perennials, meaning they will grow back year after year. In comparison, annuals are plants that die after one growing season. The natural cycle of a blackberry bush is to bear fruit in spring and summer then go dormant during the colder temperatures of winter.
- Blackberries are perennials and come back every year.
- Individual canes die off every two years.
However, the individual blackberry canes that start from the roots only live for two years. During the first year, the canes produce no fruit. In the second year, the canes produce fruit, then wither and die. For this reason, it’s a good idea to prune second-year canes before the cold winter sets in. This will prompt new cane growth in the spring and increase plant hardiness.
How Do You Revive a Blackberry Bush?
You can revive a blackberry plant by cutting off old, dead canes. New canes will sprout, grow for a year, then produce blackberries in their second year. Some gardeners prune bushes in winter because the canes will already be brittle and easy to remove. However, you need to be careful not to remove the healthy canes by mistake. So most gardeners wait until spring or summer when they can see which canes are living and dead more easily.
- Prune dead blackberry canes every other year to prompt growth.
- Dead canes will be withered even during growing season.
It’s easy to spot dead canes because they remain withered even when other canes have leaves. By clearing away dead canes you make room for new ones, remove thorns, and ensure your plant produces the most fruit.
When Should You Cut Back Blackberry Bushes?
Cut off dead blackberry canes in fall or winter, once the cane has finished producing fruit. Once a blackberry cane has produced fruit, it will never produce fruit again, so it’s safe to remove these canes once harvest is done. Some gardeners prune the canes as part of winter care.
- Prune any canes that have produced fruit after the harvest season.
- Any canes that have not produced fruit will bear fruit next year.
Remove only canes that produce fruit. Leave any one-year-old canes that haven’t flowered and fruited yet. A good blackberry plant will have a mix of one and two-year-old canes so it produces fruit every year.
At What Age Do Blackberry Plants Stop Producing?
Blackberry plants produce fruit their whole lives except for their first year of growing. This means that a single blackberry bush that is well cared for can bear fruit for 14-19 years. For the best results, you’ll want to get your plant to grow new canes every year. Canes only live for 2 years and only go into fruit production during their second year. This means that if you don’t get your canes to alternate growth patterns, your bush will only yield fruit every other year.
Why is Your Blackberry Bush Dying?
Although blackberries die naturally after the age of 15, there are many reasons your blackberry could be dying at a younger age. The trick is to recognize the signs of each of the possible reasons and respond accordingly. Plants suffering from overwatering will grow sluggishly and have droopy leaves. Underwatered plants will be wilting and sit in dry, cracked soil. It’s important to water blackberries the right amount to ensure their health.
- Improper climate or soil
- Serious frost
Planting blackberries in the wrong soil type will result in sickly canes but these plants can be revived with a layer of mulch that acts as blackberry fertilizer. It’s also good to be aware of the three most common types of blackberry disease: orange felt, cane blight, and leaf spots. A diseased blackberry will need to be heavily pruned or else uprooted and replaced. Likewise, serious frost will kill off a blackberry plant permanently.
How Long Will Blackberry Plants Live?
A well-maintained blackberry bush will live to 15 or 20 years of age. Be aware of the soil conditions, type of watering, and pruning needs of your bush to maximize its lifespan. Also, keep in mind that blackberry canes have two-year life cycles. This means that a bush can appear dead due to having dead canes but really it just needs its canes pruned. Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
- Blackberries are perennial plants that come back every year.
- Always prune canes after they’ve borne fruit to ensure new canes grow next year.
- Try to prune after the harvest season but before winter so you can identify dying canes.
- Be aware of what issues can cause a blackberry bush to die prematurely, such as underwatering, poor soil, disease, and killer frosts.
Taking care of blackberry bushes is a year-round job. With these tips in mind though, it should be that much easier to keep your blackberries alive and productive.