Primocane Vs. Floricane – Distinguishing Between Primocanes And Floricanes
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Caneberries, or brambles, like blackberries and raspberries, are fun and easy to grow and provide a great harvest of delicious summer fruit. To manage your caneberries well though, you need to know the difference between the canes that are called primocanes and those that are called floricanes. This will help you prune and harvest for maximum yield and plant health.
What are Floricanes and Primocanes?
Blackberries and raspberries have roots and crowns that are perennial, but the life cycle of the canes is just two years. The first year in the cycle is when the primocanes grow. The following season there will be floricanes. The primocane growth is vegetative, while the floricane growth produces fruit and then dies back so the cycle can start again. Established caneberries have both types of growth every year.
Primocane vs. Floricane Varieties
Most varieties of blackberries and raspberries are floricane fruiting, or summer-bearing, which means they produce berries only on the second year growth, the floricanes. The fruit appears in early to midsummer. Primocane varieties are also known as fall-bearing or ever-bearing plants.
Ever-bearing varieties produce fruit on the floricanes in the summer, but they also produce fruit on the primocanes. The primocane fruiting occurs at the tips in early fall or late summer in the first year. They will then produce fruit lower on the primocanes the following year in early summer.
If you are growing this type of berry, it is best to sacrifice the early summer crop by pruning back primocanes after they produce in the fall. Cut them down close to the ground and you’ll get fewer but better quality berries the following year.
How to Tell a Floricane from a Primocane
Distinguishing between primocanes and floricanes is often easy, but it depends on the variety and degree of growth. Generally, the primocanes are thicker, fleshy, and green, while the second year growth floricanes turn woody and brown before dying back.
Other primocane and floricane differences include when fruit appear on them. Floricanes should have a lot of still-green berries in spring, while primocanes will have no fruit. The floricanes have shorter internodes, the spaces between leaves on the cane. They have three leaflets per compound leaf, while the primocanes have five leaflets and longer internodes.
Easily distinguishing between primocanes and floricanes takes a little practice, but once you see the differences you won’t forget them.
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While pruning raspberries may seem difficult, it helps stimulate new growth, produces a larger harvest, and removes disease and dead canes from your plant. Before pruning, it is important to learn the difference between the different raspberry canes, optimal pruning time, and the pruning basics associated with raspberries. By doing so, you'll be reaping a full harvest come summer time, and maybe again in September.
Primocanes and Floricanes
Step one is choosing the varieties you want to grow. If you look in catalogs or go to a garden center, you'll see two different categories of raspberries for sale- summer-bearing and everbearing (sometimes called fall-bearing).
Refers to the first-year stems of raspberries and blackberries. Autumn-fruiting raspberries will produce flowers and fruit on primocanes (they produce fruit in their first year of growth).
First-year growth, usually vegetative, on caneberries. Only fall-bearing raspberries produce fruit on primocanes late in summer.
A fertilizer that is manufactured or is refined from natural ingredients to be more concentrated and more available to plants.
Moderate yields of large fruits in mid-season.
Ouachita-(Thornless) Produces large fruit late in the season with good storability.
-fruiting varieties: (Plants bear on first year canes which eliminates problems with winter injury, but fruit later in the summer and fall.) .
variety - The first year's stems of fruit-bearing plants such as raspberries and blackberries.
Propagation - The process of creating new plants from cuttings, seeds, and bulbs among others.
Pruning - The selective cutting of parts of plants such as branches, stems, or buds.
Blackberries produce two types of canes or stems:
s create new stems, while floricanes produces flowers and after pollination, blackberries.
The first year the plant will grow
s which do not produce fruit in their first year.
Over the winter, these canes will mature and turn brown. By the next growing year they will mature and be called floricanes. These canes are the ones that will be ready to produce fruit in the summer.
Raspberries produce fruit in the spring on second year branches (called floricanes), or in the fall on first year branches (called
s). Here's how you tell them apart: First year branches only have fruit at the ends of the branches, while second year branches produce fruit along the entire branch.
Open canopies can be created by heavy pruning to maintain a narrow row of plantings, removing the first flush of
s, minimizing nitrogen fertilizer application, and controlling weeds. Training systems also help. Some red raspberry cultivars are partially resistant.
Message: Just starting out growing blackberries. can you explain to me how to tell the
s on the plant when there are no berries. I just planted blackberries this year and have nice healthy looking plants but no berries. Am not sure how to protect them in winter. Have both the thorns and thornless plants.
Make sure you differentiate between summer fruiting and autumn varieties. The latter (sometimes known as
varieties, eg 'Heritage' raspberry) can be pruned completely to ground level. Summer varieties should have the old spent growth cut out, leaving the newly formed canes to go on and fruit next summer.
weeds, blackberries are now a popular cultivated fruit. Most blackberries are not very cold-hardy, and need longer growing seasons in order to produce fruit on floricane growth. We offer disease-free, dormant canes of a variety that can be grown successfully in northern areas and that produces fruit on
There are some relatively newer types of blackberry plants called primocane fruiting blackberries. The root system of a blackberry is perennial, but the canes are biennial.
The primocanes are first year canes. These primocanes grow and set flower buds, but usually do not bloom the first year. In the second year, the primocane name changes to floricane—which do bloom and set fruit. After fruiting, the floricanes will soon begin to wilt and die. While the floricanes are flowering and fruiting, the new primocanes will begin to grow.
The primocane fruiting blackberry plants are just as the name implies. The primocane does set flower buds, bloom, and make fruit the first year. Do not treat the floricane fruit blackberry like an annual and cut it down after one year’s growth. The second year floricanes will bloom and make a crop the following year.
These primocane fruiting blackberry plants may be something to try on a small scale. Keep in mind that the primocane fruit ripens when the temperatures are much warmer and the fruit quality may not be as desirable as the floricane-produced fruit. Again, temperatures in the 90s reduce fruit quality as well as production, and primocane fruiting blackberries should be planted on a trial basis in Alabama.
Pruning Erect Blackberries in the Home Garden
Blackberries can make a nice addition to the home fruit garden as a beautiful living hedge with nice flowers and tasty fruits. Gardeners can also enjoy blackberries as fresh fruit, jam or cobbler. Maintaining a neat, clean blackberry planting can be a considerable challenge. A good weed, fertility and pest control program can promote plant growth and quality fruit. Annual pruning of blackberry plants is also essential for high quality fruit production.
|Figure 1. Thornless blackberry bushes loaded with fruits. Photo by Gary Gao, OSU South Centers.|
Proper establishment of blackberry plants is important. This fact sheet is intended to help gardeners better understand how blackberries should be pruned. Refer to the glossary of terms if you are not familiar with some of the words used in this fact sheet. Thorny, erect blackberries tend to be more aggressive in their vegetative growth than thornless varieties. Thornless, erect varieties tend to be slower to fill in rows and overall are more manageable than thorny blackberries. Blackberry vegetation can be managed through effective pruning practices and still maintain good quality fruit production.
When is the best time to prune blackberry plants?
Since blackberry plants are not as cold hardy as our fruit crops, it is beneficial to conduct dormant pruning as late as possible. Late March or early April may be typical timing for most parts of Ohio. Floricane bearing cultivars can lose many canes to winter injuries. It is a good idea to wait until the full scope of winter injuries can be assessed.
Primocane-fruiting blackberries (e.g., Prime Jim, Prime Jan) bear fruit on new canes that grew during the summer. This is different than floricane production in which the fruit is produced on canes that grew the previous year. Once fruiting is completed and frost has occurred, all primocanes can be pruned or mowed off. An alternative approach is to remove canes in early spring prior to when new growth emerges in March. Refer to the follow sections for more detail.
Why is it important to prune blackberries?
Blackberries can become unmanageable if not pruned each year (Figure 2). Pruning can help you to maintain a fairly tangle-free blackberry patch and hopefully it will be a more enjoyable area in which to pick fruit (Figure 3). It is also important to keep the erect blackberries in a confined space in the garden. If allowed to do so, blackberries will send up new shoots out in other areas of the garden and yard.
|Figure 2. Primocanes of thorny, erect blackberries that have not been pruned.||Figure 3. Primocanes of thorny, erect blackberries that have been pruned.|
What steps should be followed to successfully prune floricane-fruiting erect blackberries?
Blackberries are considered to be biennial fruiting plants. Primocanes are actively growing vegetative shoots that are produced in the first year, and the floricanes are normally the fruit-producing canes. Some erect blackberry varieties (e.g., Prime Jim, Prime Jan) produce fruit on primocanes in the fall. Primocanes, left un-tipped, can grow several feet in length. In the following year, primocanes mature into floricanes. Once the fruit has been harvested, the floricanes will eventually die. All spent floricanes should be removed from the blackberry planting. By removing the spent floricanes, more room will be available for new primocanes to grow the following year.
The following steps will help you to keep your blackberry planting in good condition.
- Take time to observe the planting and determine what canes need to be pruned.
- During the growing season, tip back each developing primocane to 48 inches in late June and July.
- Lateral shoots will develop throughout the growing season.
- Tip lateral shoots back to 18 inches in the spring of the following year to avoid winter injury.
- Do not prune floricanes before the fruiting season unless damaged or diseased.
- When the fruiting season is over, use loppers to cut out spent floricanes at the root crown.
- Discard all pruned plant material.
Are there different pruning systems for thorny and thornless varieties?
Thorny and thornless erect blackberries are generally pruned in the same manner. The thorny canes are more challenging to handle and often gardeners wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts to provide protection. Thornless varieties are smooth to the touch and are fairly easy to handle. Thorny blackberries tend to produce more canes and have more vegetation than thornless. Both thorny and thornless blackberry plants can bear green leaves well after frost.
How should blackberries be tipped to maximize fruit production?
As each new cane reaches approximately 4 to 5 feet, they should be tipped back (Figure 4). By tipping the ends of the canes, apical dominance is removed and growth hormones in the canes are released. This process will stimulate new growth from the lateral buds. Lateral shoot growth that develops prior to fruit bud formation will increase the amount of plant surface area in which fruit can be produced. With more aggressive varieties it is possible that the lateral branches will need to be tipped as well to help restrict the overall plant growth.
What tools are used for pruning?
|Figure 4. Blackberry canes tipped during the growing season tend to produce laterals which will bear fruit in the following season. Photo by Ryan Slaughter, OSU South Centers.|
Hand tools such as loppers and hand pruners can be used to effectively remove spent canes from the blackberry planting. Select the appropriate tool to cleanly remove old canes. Hand pruners can be used to effectively remove tips of actively growing canes. Loppers are generally the tool of choice when removing several canes. Be sure that all pruning tools are maintained properly. Sharp tools will enable you to make smooth cuts and will cause less stress on the plants.
Learning to master the art and science of pruning blackberries takes time and practice. Contact your county Extension educator for updated information on pruning. Make sure your blackberries are pruned each year to maintain the size and shape of the planting, maximize fruit production, and increase the overall fruit quality. Gardeners are also encouraged to purchase a copy of the OSU Extension Bulletin, 940, Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide, for additional information.