raspberry fruits ripening at the end of a cane

Raspberry Primocanes and Floricanes

by | Sep 17, 2023

You know that feeling of seeing some natural phenomenon you’ve only read about actually happening in front of your eyes? It’s pretty cool, right? Today’s post is a personal anecdote that demonstrates this very feeling, and it’s about growing raspberries in our backyard garden.

This Spring, we decided to plant four different bare root raspberry varieties in our garden. Before embarking on this adventure, I had done some reading about the growth habit, needs, and life cycle of raspberries in the garden, and yet nothing really prepared me for the actual process of growing raspberries. Mainly, identifying the differences between raspberry primocanes and floricanes (and seeing them in action) is making a huge difference in how I approach growing them.

Planting Raspberries in Zone 10b

First things first, my experience level with raspberries is beginner. Ultimately, my plan was to plant the new bare root raspberries wherever I could find the space (believe me, not an easy task) and observe their performance so I could make any necessary changes for next year. Eventually, I found four different areas in the yard to try growing the raspberries and was really looking forward to seeing if anything really clicked!

I know many of you are interested in learning which raspberry varieties grow well here in Southern California. And, while I’ll happily share how the raspberry varieties we bought are performing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I’m beginning to think that variety might not matter as much in this case. Rather, understanding the growth cycle of raspberries and identifying canes (primocanes and floricanes) is probably more essential to growing them successfully.

Raspberry Primocanes and Floricanes

So, let’s talk about raspberry primocanes and floricanes. “Primo”– meaning first or primary— refers to the primocanes that first rise out of the ground. To be clear, these canes literally pop out of the ground from the base of the raspberry plant during the growing season. Primocanes are green, tender, and are the new branches that protrude out of the ground.

“Flori”—meaning flowering canes—refers to the canes that were previously primocanes and have now turned into more woody, brown canes. These brown, older canes are essentially one-year old growth (or the primocanes from last year), and will flower to produce fruit.

Knowing and identifying raspberry primocanes and floricanes will help you know a) where to expect fruit each year and b) how to prune your raspberry plant. Now, if you are currently growing raspberries in Southern California, I implore you to head outside when you can and take a peek at your raspberry plants. Can you identify the primocanes and floricanes? Personally, I didn’t really understand what the literature described until I was staring at my own raspberry plants.

side by side comparison of a raspberry primocane and a raspberry floricane

While not the best quality photos, the left photo shows the raspberry primocanes emerging from the ground. Notice how the primocane is green and tender in appearance. On the right is a older, woody floricane. You’ll see that there is fruiting growth coming off the floricane in this example.

Growing raspberries from bare roots

When you order bare root raspberries, they come as single, brown sticks. Knowing about primocane and floricanes, one can assume these brown sticks are the floricanes—or the older raspberry growth.  This past Spring (2023), I decided to order a variety pack of raspberry bare roots from Burpee. This sample pack included the following raspberries: Fall Gold, Heritage, Jewel, and Killarney. Personally, the idea of having different colors of raspberries in the mix appealed to me because I’m someone who eats with their eyes. Whenever I’m planning the garden I like to select a rainbow of colors—often  imagining my harvest baskets and approaching it from a creative perspective. Anyone else?

After sharing the arrival of our bare root raspberries over on Instagram, I got a few people contacting me to ask if I was planning to grow raspberries in the ground here in SoCal. “Yes!” I replied, only to be really surprised that the common response that followed was “keep an eye out because raspberries grow insanely fast and aggressively!” In fact, one fellow gardener downright told me I was brave to plant them in the ground! Who knew that raspberries could grow so well in our Southern California climate? Admittedly, as the months rolled by, I did notice that the canes emerging from the ground seemed quite aggressive. Honestly, should this really have surprised me? We grow boysenberries and black berries as well—all contained in large containers or raised bed areas—-and they still grow out of control! Raspberries do indeed send up canes from their root system much like other berries and I can see how they could get out of control. Time will tell!

raspberry bare roots shipped as a bundle

Earlier this Spring, this bundle of raspberry bare roots arrived on my doorstep. Don’t they just look like sticks?!

Fall Bearing versus Summer Bearing Raspberries

If you’re sitting here wondering why I keep throwing terms at you, trust me, I’ll get to the point! As I said, I learned all these terms from reading about growing raspberries, but it still didn’t make much sense to me until I was actually trying to grow raspberries myself! Here’s the brief rundown:

Fall-bearing (also known as “everbearing”) raspberries will fruit at the ends of primocanes at the end of Summer/Fall each year and again on their floricanes the following Summer.

Summer-bearing raspberries will fruit on floricanes (the primocanes from the previous year) in early Summer.

After planting the raspberries in the ground, I had accepted that we might not get any raspberries this year. The raspberry labels did not clearly identify if the raspberries I purchased were “fall bearing” or “summer bearing.” Furthermore, upon doing a quick google search, I found discrepancies between different sites for some of the raspberries. It was quite frustrating! Therefore, I decided it was time to just “wing it” and see what happened this year. As it turns out, once I learned the difference between raspberry primocanes and floricanes, I could figure these facts out for myself! Ha!

Here’s a little rundown for each raspberry variety we grew this year:

My Raspberry Variety Overview

After I planted the raspberries, all these glorious primocanes emerged from the ground. The ‘Jewel’ raspberry produced the most primocanes, but I suspect that’s because of the location. We planted our ‘jewel’ raspberry in a mostly full sun area. The primocanes grew extremely long and plentiful this year, but zero fruit was produced. Therefore, I’m concluding that the ‘jewel’ variety is a summer-bearing raspberry. I’ll needto care for those primocanes so they will fruit the following Summer (as floricanes).

Another raspberry that grew strong this year was ‘heritage.’ One of the primocanes I let grow really long (almost 4 feet long) and it gave us a delicious batch of fruit at the end (see photo). The fruit produced by ‘Heritage’ was delicious! Also, since it fruited at the end of a primocane, I could tell that ‘heritage’ is a fall-bearing raspberry. Unfortunately, we had some irrigation issues this Summer, so two of my heritage bare roots didn’t make it and the remaining one is not as prolific as I’d like. This winter, I plan to fix those issues.

The ‘fall gold’ raspberry is supposed to be fall-bearing, but I put it in too much shade, so the primocanes are very tiny and not super healthy. I did get a few berries off the ‘fall gold’ in Summer from the floricane canes. Sadly, due to being in too much shade, the berries were not sweet. In fact, they were really gross and bland.

The last raspberry variety I tried is ‘killarney.’ Can I say how impressed I am with this variety of raspberry? It’s so good! Not only have we gotten some deliciously sweet fruits from ‘killarney’ this Summer, but it also is growing in 3 gallon containers! Now, growing this raspberry in containers was not the plan, but I ran out of spaces to put my bare root raspberries. Regardless, ‘killarney’ impressed me with it’s ability to produce great fruit despite being in a pot. After reading about raspberry primocanes and floricanes, I took a closer look at ‘killarney’ this Summer and noted that the fruit was only coming off of the brown floricane sticks that came in the mail—it’s a summer-bearing raspberry!

red raspberry variety 'heritage' fruiting at end of Summer

This was a primocane of the ‘heritage’ raspberry recently. As you can see, it’s fruiting at the end of the primocane. These raspberries were sweet and delicious!

Advantages of Fall-Bearing Versus Summer Bearing Raspberries

Apparently, there are some advantages to growing fall-bearing raspberries over summer bearing. First, they fall-bearing raspberries will produce two crops a year—one in Summer on floricanes and one in Fall at the ends of primocanes. Second, you can cut back all canes on a fall-bearing plant in late Winter/early Spring if you choose. This method skips the Summer crop, but you’ll get a Fall crop on primocanes without worrying about pruning the wrong canes. In fact, some growers have said that the fruit set will be heavier if you only let fall-bearing plants fruit in Fall. Lastly, fall-bearing raspberries can actually set a good amount of fruit the first year because they fruit at the ends of their primocanes! I personally witnessed this on our ‘heritage’ raspberry, that produced a HUGE primocane this year with luscious fruit on the end.

As for summer-bearing raspberries, one advantage is early berries. The second advantage is avoiding the spotted wing drosophila fly, which is a pest that can cause little worms in your berries (this isn’t something we have ever dealt with, but in some areas it is a problem). Such an early fruiting can mean less chance for the fly to hatch and lay eggs on that crop. Truthfully, the biggest challenge to growing a summer-bearing raspberry is making sure that the primocanes (which then become the fruiting floricanes) overwinter without dying. Additionally, making sure you don’t prune away the fruiting canes on accident would be another concern with summer-bearing raspberries.

Pruning Raspberries in Late Winter or Early Spring

Can you see why I love being out in the garden and observing my plants? Yes, I learned a lot from reading about raspberry primocanes and floricanes, but it wasn’t until I was observing and interacting with my plants that I really understood what I had read! Especially after reading some conflicting literature, it was nice to draw some of my own conclusions after just one growing season that will help guide me when it comes to pruning these raspberries.

This isn’t going to be a pruning guide, but there are a couple things I plan to do for pruning this coming year:

First, plan to prune your raspberries in late Winter/early Spring. Around the same time you would do the pruning of your deciduous fruit trees as well.

Second, cut back any dead/expired floricanes to the ground. Remember, this only refers to floricanes that produced fruit the previous Summer because they won’t produce anymore fruit in the future.

Third, secure remaining canes (last year’s primocanes that are now floricanes) to a trellis (if using a trellis). Personally, I haven’t decided if I plan to make trellises for my raspberries or let them grow as huge shrubs—this is going to depend on any structural changes we make in the garden this Winter.

Feeling Berry Grateful

Overall, this year has been a great year of learning about berries in the garden. I haven’t talked so much about the various berries we grow (aside from boysenberries and our new strawberry patch), but it’s become more obvious to me that growing your own berries is a worthwhile and not-so-daunting task. Even if you only grow a handful at home, you really savor every single berry and it opens your eyes to  new goals and possibilities.

Plant a California native shade garden


  1. Becky

    I’m in Santa Clarita (zone 9b), and I’m trying to decide when to order and plant my blackberries and raspberries! What would you recommend with the weird weather SoCal has been having? Should I plant them soon, so they have the winter to relax into their beds? Or should I wait til February/March?

    • FreckledCalifornian

      Hi! I’d order them as soon as possible. Most reputable companies will let you order bare root berries but won’t ship them until the proper planting window for your zone. Definitely double check, but that has been my experience. As for when to plant blackberries and raspberries, I plant them anytime during bare root season here (which tends to start in January) so it’s almost time!

  2. George Britton

    Great information – I just ordered a Glencoe Thornless Raspberry Plant (3 pk) that will be arriving in a few days – this will be my first time growing raspberries – I’m planning on growing them in containers, but looking for information on how much room they’ll need and if it’s recommended to grow them on a trellis. Thanks!

    • FreckledCalifornian

      Nice! I’ve never heard of glencoe, so I’d love to hear what you think! The raspberries I grew in a container started out in just one gallons (which are definitely too small). The reason it worked was because they were bare roots, so they started as simply sticks. This year I potted them up into 5 gallon pots and they are popping new shoots out from all around the base. I don’t know the final container size, but at least you know that up-potting can be done as they grow if you’re comfortable with that. As for trellising, I’ve actually heard both sides and I believe it depends on the type of raspberry too. Glencoe’s description says “compact bush” so a trellis probably isn’t necessary. Hope it grows well for you!


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Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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