Bulletin #2172, Raspberry and Blackberry Varieties for Maine

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Developed by David Handley, Extension Professor and Cooperating Professor of Horticulture

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Getting Planting Stock

Always start with high-quality planting stock. Poor plant material guarantees a poor planting. Order your plants from a reputable source, and look for nurseries that sell plants from certified virus-free stock. Then you can be sure that the plants have been tested and found free of common viruses. Virus-free plants have the best growth and productivity and will live longer.

Order your plants in the fall and early winter for spring planting to avoid running into limited supplies. (Fall planting is not recommended in Maine.) Ask for a shipping date based on the date you plan to plant.

If you order raspberry plants from other countries, such as Canada, import permits are required. The plants may also have to undergo a post-entry quarantine. For more details on importing raspberry plants, contact the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at 28 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0028, or by phone at 207.287.7602.

For details on growing methods, please consult University of Maine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #2066, Growing Raspberries and Blackberries.

Types of Brambles

The type of brambles and varieties you choose to plant depends upon your site and your markets. Red raspberries are the hardiest type of bramble, but not all varieties can withstand extremely cold temperatures. Be sure to select only varieties described as “very hardy.”

Nearly all summer-bearing varieties of red raspberries will suffer bud damage when temperatures drop below -20°F. Everbearing types are often mowed to the ground every spring, so sensitivity to cold temperatures is less important. However, in northern Maine, the growing season may not be long enough to ripen their fall crop. The variety ‘Heritage,’ for example, may bear the fall primocane (or first-year cane) crop too late to avoid frost injury in northern sites. These areas must be planted with earlier ripening varieties such as ‘Polana’ or ‘Autumn Bliss.’

The variety you choose will affect the length of your harvest season. If you select an early ripening variety, a mid-season, a late-season, and a primocane-fruiting type, you can harvest berries from the end of the strawberry season to the first hard autumn frost. If you’re more interested in a concentrated season, plant varieties that have similar ripening periods.

Purple and black raspberries do not withstand cold temperatures as well as some red raspberry varieties. Most will winter-kill to the snowline if temperatures drop to -15°F. This is why there are few commercial plantings in Maine. These types of berries are also more prone to certain viral and fungal infections and need extra care.

It’s important to test varieties on new sites. Despite glowing reviews from a nursery, a variety may not do well because of the particular qualities of your site (for instance, poor drainage, a short season, or low temperatures), or may not meet your customer demand. Try new varieties in small test plots before planting them on a large scale.

Types of Planting and Growing Stock

Nurseries use several methods of propagation for bramble plants. You can choose one of the following types of plant material.

  • Dormant suckers or “handles” are canes with one season of growth. They are dug after becoming dormant in the fall and stored until shipping. This is a common transplant type for red raspberries.
  • Tip-layered canes are the most common type of purple and black raspberry transplants. The growing tips of the plants are covered with soil in summer, causing them to root. These are separated from the cane after dormancy and stored until shipping.
  • Tissue-cultured plants start in a test tube. Growing tips of plants are cut from a virus-indexed source under sterile laboratory conditions and placed in growth chambers. This small cluster of cells gets several treatments, which cause it to form small plantlets. These plantlets are placed in sterile rooting media and grown out in greenhouses. The small plants are sold in transplant trays, and you can buy them either growing or dormant, depending upon the supplier and grower. This method, although more costly, results in more uniform and disease-free plants than other propagation methods.

Choosing Varieties

VIDEO: Different Varieties of Raspberries, Part 1 (YouTube)
VIDEO: Different Varieties of Raspberries, Part 2 (YouTube)

Select varieties based on their intended use (such as pick-your-own, freezing, or fresh market), hardiness, productivity, disease susceptibility, fruit quality, and time of ripening. The best varieties for home gardens include ‘Boyne,’ ‘Killarney,’ ‘Reveille’, and ‘Nova’ for red raspberries; ‘Polana’ and ‘Autumn Bliss’ for everbearing varieties; ‘Royalty’ for purple varieties; ‘Jewel’ for black raspberries; and ‘Illini’ for blackberries.

Red raspberries, summer-bearing

Algonquin: From British Columbia. Ripens mid to late season. Only moderately hardy, spineless, with upright, compact growth. Good quality fruit. Resistant to mosaic virus.

Boyne: From Manitoba. Ripens early and has excellent winter hardiness. Plants are spiny and produce many suckers. The fruit is small to medium in size, somewhat dark and soft, but with fair flavor and good freezing quality. Susceptible to anthracnose. Typically yields very well. Highly recommended for colder sites.

Canby: From Oregon. Ripens mid-season, only moderate hardiness. Plants are tall, nearly thornless, and moderately productive. The fruit is medium to large, firm, bright red, with excellent flavor. Buds may winter-kill in cold climates.

Encore: From New York. Ripens late. Hardy, vigorous plants. Large fruit with good quality.

Festival: From Ontario. Ripens mid-season, hardy, very productive. Short plants with few spines. The fruit is medium-sized, bright red, firm, with good flavor. Very susceptible to rust, but less susceptible to mosaic virus and spur blight.

Killarney: From Manitoba. Sibling of ‘Boyne.’ Early ripening, slightly behind ‘Boyne.’ Plants are very hardy, spiny, produce many suckers, and are susceptible to mildew. Plants are short to medium. The fruit is medium-sized, but very bright red. The flavor and freezing quality are good, but berries may soften in warm weather. Susceptible to anthracnose. Highly recommended for colder sites.

Latham: From Minnesota. Mid-season ripening, very hardy. Plants are vigorous with few spines. Small fruit with good color, but crumbly with only fair flavor. Ripens over a long period of time. Less susceptible to viruses than some varieties. Recommended for colder sites.

Lauren: From Maryland. Only moderately hardy. Tall, vigorous plants with good quality, large fruit, high yielding. Recommended for trial only in southern Maine.

Newburgh: From New York. Mid-season ripening, hardy. Plants tall but not highly vigorous. Some spines. Partially resistant to common cane diseases and root rot. Fruits are medium in size, light red, with good flavor. Maybe crumbly, and tend to ripen unevenly.

Nova: From Nova Scotia. Very hardy plants with good vigor and few thorns. This variety appears to be resistant to most common cane diseases. Fruit ripens mid-season, is medium-sized, firm, bright red, and somewhat acidic.

Prelude: From New York. Hardy, with moderate vigor. Early ripening. The fruit is medium-sized with fair to good quality. May produce a late fall crop on one-year canes (primocanes).

Regency: Mid-season ripening, hardy. Vigorous, moderately thorny canes. Good yields of medium-sized fruit.

Reveille: From Maryland. Early ripening, very hardy. Plants are vigorous, producing many suckers. High yielding. Fruits are medium to large with good flavor but very soft. Poor shipping and freezing quality.

Taylor: From New York. Late ripening, moderately hardy. Plants are vigorous with some spines. Very susceptible to mosaic virus, leaf spot, and fungal diseases. The fruit is medium to large with excellent flavor, good color, and firmness.

Titan: From New York. Mid- to late-season ripening, only moderate hardiness. Large canes with few spines, suckers emerge mostly from the crown (i.e. slow spreading). Susceptible to crown gall and Phytophthora root rot. Fruits are very large and dull red, with a mild flavor. Difficult to pick unless fully ripe.

Red raspberries, everbearing (primocane-fruiting)

Amity: From Oregon. Fall (primocane) crop ripens early in mid-season for everbearing types. Moderately vigorous canes with spreading habit, very few spines. Some resistance to cane diseases and root rots. The fruit is medium-sized, firm, with good color and mild flavor.

Autumn Bliss: From East Malling, England. Early-ripening primocane crop (late August, about two weeks earlier than ‘Heritage’). Moderately vigorous canes with few spines. Productive. The fruit is large and highly flavorful.

Autumn Britten: From East Malling, England. Early-ripening primocane crop, slightly later than ‘Autumn Bliss’ and with more vigorous canes. Productive. The fruit is firm and flavorful.

Caroline: From Maryland. Mid- to late-ripening fall crop, may be too late for northern Maine. Tall, vigorous plants, with medium to large good-flavored fruit. Productive.

Fall Red: From New Hampshire. Early-ripening primocane crop. The medium to short canes are vigorous and produce many suckers. Moderately spiny. Fruit size is medium. Good flavor, but soft. Recommended for most sites in Maine.

Heritage: From New York. Primocane crop ripens relatively late, too late for all but southern Maine. Tall, rugged canes with prominent thorns. Very high yielding. Fruit size is medium, with good color, flavor, and firmness. This variety is not recommended for regions with a short growing season (frost before September 30 or cool summer temperatures).

Jaclyn: From Maryland. Early-ripening fall crop. Vigorous canes produce long, dark red fruit, which may be difficult to pick. The flavor is good.

Joan J: From England. Early ripening (about the same as ‘Autumn Bliss’). Vigorous, thornless canes produce large, somewhat dark red fruit with good firmness and quality.

Polana: Very early-ripening, vigorous, short, productive canes. Attractive small to medium-sized fruit, but many misshapen and difficult to pick. Flavor only fair. Recommended for northern areas with short growing seasons.

Redwing: From Minnesota. Primocane crop ripens earlier than ‘Heritage’ in some years and sites. Canes not vigorous, with moderate spines. Moderately productive with large fruit size. The flavor is fair to good, but fruits tend to be soft.

Yellow raspberries, everbearing (primocane-fruiting)

Anne: From Maryland. Fall crop ripens slightly before ‘Heritage,’ and may be too late for northern regions. Canes are tall and moderately vigorous. Fruit are pale yellow, large, with very good flavor.

Fall Gold: From New Hampshire. Primocane crop ripens relatively early. Canes are hardy and very vigorous, producing many suckers. The fruit is medium-sized, yellow with a pink blush, soft, but with excellent flavor.

Kiwigold: From New Zealand. Derived from ‘Heritage.’ Slightly earlier than ‘Heritage;’ may be too late for northern regions. Vigorous canes, thorny, fairly tall, and productive. The fruit is yellow with dark orange to pink blush and good flavor.

Purple raspberries, summer-bearing

In general, purple raspberries are not adequately hardy to be commercially viable in most of Maine.

Brandywine: From New York. Ripens later than most red varieties. Canes very tall with prominent thorns; suckers from crown only, will not fill in. Susceptible to crown gall, but partially resistant to many other diseases. Fruits are large, reddish purple, and quite tart. Best used in jams or jellies.

Royalty: From New York. Ripens late. Very productive canes are tall and vigorous, with thorns. Immune to the large raspberry aphid, which decreases the likelihood of virus infection, but plants are susceptible to Phytophthora root rot and crown gall. Fruit are large, reddish purple, irregular. Fruit tends to be soft, but flavorful when eaten fresh.

Black raspberries

Black raspberries may winter-kill to the snowline if temperatures drop to -10°F and winds are dry. They are also quite susceptible to virus infections, Verticillium, anthracnose, and rust. They are not considered commercially viable for Maine.

Bristol: From New York. Canes are vigorous but susceptible to disease. Medium to large fruit of good quality, with good yield.

Blackhawk: From Iowa. Vigorous plants, relatively hardy and productive. The fruit is medium-large, glossy, with good flavor.

Jewel: From New York. Mid-season ripening. Possibly the hardiest black raspberry variety. Plants are vigorous, erect, and productive. Appears to have somewhat more disease resistance than other varieties. The fruit is firm and glossy with good quality.

Mac Black: From Michigan. Late ripening. Vigorous, erect canes. Medium to large fruit, soft, with good flavor.

Blackberries, thornless

Thornless blackberries have vigorous canes that must be staked or trellised. They are not hardy below -10°F and are not commercially viable for Maine. They ripen later than most red raspberries.

Chester: Late-season ripening, possibly hardier than other varieties. Resistant to cane blight. The fruit is of high quality, although it tends to be tart.

Triple Crown: Early-midseason ripening. Vigorous, semi-erect canes. The fruit is large with good flavor.

Blackberries, thorny (erect)

Erect blackberries have tall, rugged canes with prominent thorns. Although the fruit is somewhat sweeter than thornless blackberries, the plants give similar yields and are equally sensitive to low temperatures. They are not recommended for commercial production in Maine. Virus infections are common in blackberries and may cause poor winter survival, and sterility, resulting in no fruit.

Darrow: From New York. Hardy. Canes are vigorous with large thorns. Good yields with long harvest season. Fruit are large and glossy, excellent quality.

Illini: From Illinois. Hardy, very thorny blackberry with large, attractive fruit. Not as flavorful as ‘Darrow,’ but more productive.

Fort Kent King: Propagated from an established population in northern Maine. Considered very hardy. Canes are somewhat arching and thorny. Plants spread vigorously. Fruit are small to medium-sized with fair flavor. Not widely available.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 1995, 2009

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