Transplanting Blackberries to Boost Your Harvest

If there’s one thing you can rely on blackberry bushes (Rubus fruticosus) to do, it’s to spread. So why not take advantage of their natural enthusiasm by transplanting their naturally occurring shoots, or suckers? It’s the quickest and simplest way to propagate brand new plants, and best of all, it’s free. We explore two types of blackberry transplants: root cuttings and tip layering.


Transplanting Root Cuttings

Transplanting root cuttings works best for erect blackberry cultivars, such as:

  • ‘Apache’
  • ‘Arapaho’
  • ‘Prime-Ark Freedom’
  • ‘Osage’
  • ‘Von’

When to Transplant Root Cuttings

Take root cuttings in early spring, between 30 and 45 days before the average last frost date in your part of USDA zones 4 through 9. You’ll be transplanting primocanes — the small, green first-year shoots that won’t fruit until their second summer.

Lifting Blackberry Root Cuttings

To lift the cuttings, you’ll need:

  • Sharp spade or trowel
  • Damp newspapers
  • Container for cuttings
  1. Select a clump with vigorous primocane shoots standing from 6 inches to 1 foot tall. To avoid damaging the blackberry’s main crown, choose a clump at least 1 foot away from it.
  2. Dig straight down in a circle around the cane, 6 inches from its base.
  3. Work the spade or trowel gently beneath the cane to lift its roots and the surrounding soil. To succeed, the cutting should have a horizontal root section 3 or more inches long, with several intact feeder roots.
  4. Remove dead leaves and floricanes from the cutting and wrap it in damp newspaper so the roots stay moist until your transplant it.
  5. Transplant the cutting in a new hole at least 2 feet from your other blackberry plants. To help the roots establish, scrape down the sides of the hole with your spade or trowel. Then tamp the soil lightly around the roots and water thoroughly.

Transplanting by Tip Layering

Use this method for transplanting semi-erect or trailing blackberries, including:

  • ‘Chester’
  • ‘Natchez’
  • ‘Ouachita’
  • ‘Triple Crown’

Tip layer the floricanes of semi-erect or trailing blackberries after they finish fruiting. Select vigorous canes with several healthy leaves.

Bend the tip of a trailing cane to the ground, cover them with 1 inch of soil and secure them with landscape fabric staples. Repeat for semi-erect floricanes, but staple them in place before covering with 2 inches of soil.

Keep the tip layers moist and watch for their new shoots to emerge in early spring. When the shoots are 6 inches high, separate them from the floricanes with all the roots and soil you can manage. Move them to new holes the same depth as their original ones.

Prune the transplanted shoots back to two or three buds. Water them well to settle the soil.