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How To Trim Raspberry Bushes For Winter?

How To Trim Raspberry Bushes For Winter?

Raspberries are juicy fruits that burst with flavour to delight our summers. To ensure that these juicy bites continue to capture the summer sunshine year after year, we need to properly care for their source, raspberry bushes. Winters are the ideal time to fulfil this obligation. Winter pruning is essential in raspberry farming as it promotes healthy growth and maximizes the summer’s harvests. It is time we explored the best guide to pruning raspberry bushes in the winter and guaranteeing a bountiful harvest for the next season.

Is there any ideal time for pruning your raspberry bushes, it is time you have a sit-down with Raspberry Bush-trimming Professionals here at Custodia to give you the guidance you need in your bush management journey.

Understanding Your Raspberry Bushes

 Raspberry bushes produce fruit on two distinct types of canes: Each cane has a distinct role in the grand scheme of berry production.

Floricanes (Fruiting Canes): These canes can be considered the veterans of berry production. These seasoned and mature canes can be easily identified by their woody texture, fruited laterals (short side shoots that bore fruit), and potentially peeling bark. They are usually in their second year of berry production, which means they can be discarded to make room for new and more productive shoots.  

Primocanes (New Canes): Let us view them as the newcomers. These green, non-woody canes are the current season’s growth and, at most times, are bursting with potential. They usually only bear fruits in the second year.

Once the floricanes have finished fruiting, they’ve served their purpose and are ready to be pruned. By understanding this two-cane system, winter pruning becomes a strategic intervention. Retiring these old canes allows raspberry bushes to focus their energy on the primocanes and transform them into the next year’s fruiting machines.

Determining if your raspberry bushes should be considered for winter pruning.

Not all varieties of raspberries should undergo winter pruning. In most cases, the bushes needing winter pruning are florican bearing, which means their fruit ripens in the summer months.

Why should you trim raspberry bushes for the winter?

Winter pruning serves a series of purposes in berry production.

Maintain the Health of the Bush: Old and diseased canes may be a recipe for infection in raspberry bushes. Therefore, it is crucial to reduce the canes to minimize these risks. Pruning also gives less cover to pests, and you can easily point them out and eliminate them.  

Increase Yield: Removing old or diseased canes gives the bushes renewed vigor. By leaving only the canes with the potential to bear fruit, competition for water and nutrients is significantly reduced. This results in increased yield in the next summer harvest.

Air Circulation and Light Penetration: Deliberately removing certain canes provides air and light with a direct path to your plant. For these summer-bearing bushes, more sunlight and unrestricted flow of air allow the plants to dry quickly during the rains. Well-dried plants have little to no exposure to fungal diseases, which keeps them healthy and increases yield.

Achieving these benefits requires the input of professionals with the right skills, knowledge and tools for bush trimming. The Winter Home Management Plan by Custodia is equipped with everything you need to have a successful pruning season.

Raspberry Bush

Best Time to Trim Raspberry Bushes

This is determined by the variety of crops you are cultivating. While different crops are pruned at different times, our focus today is on summer-bearing raspberry plants.

The optimal period for pruning these crops is late fall or early winter (Winter pruning). During this period, harvesting is already done, and the product is already in its dormant state. This pruning period is optimal as there is minimum sap loss or stress on the bushes.

Summer-bearing raspberry bushes produce crop once each season. With the plants lasting a month after ripening, which is in early June, winter pruning is optimal as it gives the bushes enough time to recover and be ready for the next flowering season.

Important Tools for Raspberry Pruning

There are a few items you need to consider when preparing for winter pruning.

Protective gear: Whether red, black or purple, most raspberry plants are studded and riddled with sharp thorns. The pruning process, therefore, requires you to employ safety mechanisms to protect your body. You need to consider wearing long pants made from durable materials. You also need a long-sleeved shirt, coat or cardigan together with gardening gloves so as to protect your upper body from injuries. Your winter pruning gloves should have gauntlets that protect your wrists and arms from the painful thorns of raspberry bushes.

Cutting Tools: Winter pruning entails deliberately removing non-productive branches or canes. Cutting tools are essential to create clean cuts and reduce the risk of infection.  Your best tool for snipping through the small lean branches is a pair of pruning shears. For pruning heavier and stronger canes, you need to equip yourself with loppers. These cutting tools are your lifeline in maintaining healthy plants, and as such, they should be disinfected before and after the winter pruning period.

Digging Tools: Winter pruning is primarily about branches and canes but may sometimes require digging. Tools such as a spade or fork should be available to dig up any bushes you consider weak and need replacing.

Step-by-Step Winter Pruning Guide

1. Removing Floricanes

Identify the spent floricanes. Look for the mature canes with signs of fruiting and a woody texture. Using your pruners or loppers, make clean cuts at the base of the cane, where it meets the ground. A clean cut promotes healing and helps prevent disease.

2. Thinning Primocanes (Summer-Fruiting Raspberries)

Thinning primocanes encourages better air circulation, light penetration, and, ultimately, stronger canes with a higher fruit yield. Aim for 3-5 healthy primocanes per plant. Choose the sturdiest, thickest canes for future optimal fruiting. Remove unwanted primocanes by cutting them cleanly at ground level.

Primocane Tip

3. Trimming Primocane Tips (Optional – Summer-Fruiting Raspberries Only)

Tipping primocanes in late summer (before winter dormancy) can encourage lateral branching, translating to more fruiting sites next season. Pinch off the top 2-3 inches of the primocane. Avoid excessive trimming, as this can reduce overall fruit production.

Pruning new shoots

Most raspberry bushes will likely produce new shoots or volunteer plants through the suckers. You have the option to separate the new shoots from the parent plant and either dispose of them, give them away or expand your rows. Pruning new shoots is critical to reducing pressure on your orchard and the competition for moisture and nutrients.

Pruning Newly planted Raspberries.

For summer-bearing raspberries, the optimal planting time is in the winter. The plants should be planted in a bare root form, and the canes need to be pruned back to a bud when they are about 25cm tall. Management of these new plants also continues to mid-summer after new canes are developed. During this time, the old canes are shortened to the ground.

Mistakes to Avoid in Winter Trimming.

Over-Trimming: Removing too many canes can stress the plant, reduce its ability to photosynthesize, and make it vulnerable to pests and diseases. Never remove more than one-third of the canes in a single session.

Improper Cutting Techniques: Avoid making flush cuts or leaving stubs, as these can lead to decay and disease. Make your cuts just outside the branch collar—the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk or another branch.

Ignoring Plant Health: After trimming, pay attention to signs of stress or disease. Symptoms like wilting, yellowing leaves, or unusual growth patterns can indicate problems. If you notice these signs, consult a professional arborist for advice.

Post Trimming Care

While winter pruning is considered the cheat code towards a bumper summer harvest, you need to take action to ensure the post-pruning health of your orchard. The following post-trimming care strategies should be considered.

  1. Proper Disposal of Cuttings: Winter pruning includes the deliberate removal of diseased or pest-infested branches. After the pruning, these branches need adequate disposal to prevent the spread of diseases or pests. Completely isolate the branches from the healthy bushes after pruning. You can, however, compost the pruned branches if you are sure there are no diseases or pests.
  2. Mulching and Soil Care: Winter pruning is not the only way to improve your summer harvest. You should also maximise the water and nutrient intake of your branches as they prepare for the next harvest. Consider mulching around the base of the plants to retain moisture and nutrients and regulate the soil temperature.
  3. Winter Protection: Winter pruning is followed by harsh winters or heavy snowfall. While your bushes might be in a period of dormancy, you need to consider extra protection. Winter protection could entail moulding soil around the base of your plants or loosely tying together the canes for support.


Winter pruning may seem like a chore, but it’s a gift to your raspberry bushes. By removing spent canes and encouraging strong primocane growth, you’re setting the stage for a bountiful harvest next season. Come summer, you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of those delicious, juicy raspberries, a testament to your dedication and care. Ready to get started? Grab your pruners and gloves and give your raspberry bushes the care they deserve this winter.

Contact Us for the best advisory, customized plan, and professional pruning advice to make your winter pruning a success and to achieve a fulfilling summer raspberry harvest.

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