Pruning Raspberries

What is the purpose of pruning the spent canes?

I lost my raspberries to drought and shade a few years ago. Since then, a couple of tress came down, and I’ve replanted the raspberries. But I still have a pretty wimpy row of canes. And the #1 problem is that stuff eats them, especially the tender young shoots. The #2 problem is that critters eat the fruit, and maybe #3 is raspberry cane borers.

I didn’t get around to pruning over the winter, so there are some scattered dead canes. And I’m wondering if I ought to leave them, as they interfere just a little with animals browsing the new shoots.


They are mostly messy
but perhaps they also shelter cane borer larvae.


Leaving old canes for one or two years in a wimpy row will not hurt anything, but if conditions and growth improve, an abundance of old canes could eventually interfere with pruning, harvest, etc.

It is unlikely the old canes are preventing new shoot damage; animals are very persistent.

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Just like with other plants you get what you put into them. An unkept raspberry patch will give you small fruit in small quantities and lacking in flavor. Then again for 0 effort that is not a bad return. For my patch I dug 3 feet wide, 12 inches deep, removed rocks, amended with a ton of compost, topped off with mulch. Every year I add more compost, mulch, weed, and thin the canes to the strong performers, in the fall I take out all last season canes. I get as many raspberries per square foot as humanly possible.


To be clear, this isn’t a question of effort. It would only take half an hour to remove the canes, and i enjoy pruning.

But i also grow epimedium, a small ornamental. And some of them are semi-evergreen, and have ugly dead leaves that they didn’t drop in the spring. And that makes them look less attractive. Here’s what they look like unpruned:

So last year, I carefully pruned all the dead leaves away, shortly before the plants sprouted new growth in the spring. And my reward was that critters (probably rabbits) ate every tender new shoot. They eventually sent up a second flush of leaves, and survived, but i lost every flower.

This year, i carefully removed only the leaves, leaving prickly dry stems behind. And this year, they looked great. The critters left them alone but the dead stems didn’t block my view of the new growth.

And i wondered if the same might be true of my raspberries. I think optimal management of plants varies depending on what sorts of challenges the plants face. Just as you wouldn’t add lime to soil that’s already high pH, I’m not certain you should always prune dead growth when you have high critter pressure.

I’m also replacing my not-very-thorny raspberries with the thorniest, sturdiest high-quality cultivar i could find, in the hopes of discouraging the squirrels from climbing on them and breaking all the canes.

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It looks like the old epimedium growth provides better camouflage than the old raspberry canes.

Cutting off the leaves, but leaving the spikey stems, didn’t obscure the new growth at all, visually. But it did protect it from critter damage.

I’m sure a sufficiently hungry rabbit would have eaten the new growth anyway, but in fact, they didn’t.

(And the did consume a lot of the shoots of my deciduous epimedia, fwiw. It’s not as if i didn’t have bunny pressure this spring.)

Anyway, maybe the old raspberry canes are useless. I was just curious if anyone else has experience with this.

thorns can be valuable !