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GardenSMART :: Distinguishing Between Raspberry Primocanes and Floricanes

Distinguishing Between Raspberry Primocanes and Floricanes

By Mary Ellen Ellis, Gardening Know How
Photographs courtesy of Gardening Know How

Caneberries, or brambles, like raspberries and blackberries, are fun and easy to grow and provide a great harvest of delicious summer fruit. But to manage your caneberries well 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 fruits 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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