How to Transplant Wild Blackberries


Blackberries can dress up so many food dishes, from jams to pies. If you find wild blackberries in your back field, you can transplant them to the backyard to make tending and harvesting easier. Basically, transplanting a wild plant is the same as transplanting any plant, as long as you replicate the growing conditions where you found the specimen. If it was producing abundantly, it is because it had the ideal conditions (soil, sunlight, water, and nutrients) to thrive. If you find blackberries growing elsewhere, make sure you have the landowner's permission before you dig up any plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Pots
  • Dirt
  • Fertilizer (manure, compost)
  • Root growth product
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing

Transplanting Blackberries

  • Select the site where you wish to plant. To condition the soil, apply organic matter during the summer or fall before you plant. Applying manure at two to three bushels per 100 feet can be effective. Otherwise, use compost, leaves, straw, peat moss, or sawdust. The optimum soil pH level is between 5.5 and 7.

    Blackberries need full sun for optimum fruit production, although they will survive in partial shade.

    The area should have very good drainage and good soil. If you have clay soil, you will need to amend the soil to give it better drainage.

    Blackberries can get quite large and unruly. They may take over an area if they are not pruned and tended well. You need a large dedicated space for them to grow effectively.

    They usually live up to 20 years or more, so consider this when choosing your planting spot.

    All blackberries should have a simple trellis of wire supports strung between posts; however, the erect varieties may be grown without a support system. You might want to install the trellis prior to planting so it does not disturb the plants later.

  • Locate the blackberries you wish to transplant. Blackberries come in two types: erect and trailing. Erect blackberries have stiff, arching canes and are more cold-hardy. They do not need as much support. The trailing ones need sturdy support. Trailing blackberries are sometimes called dewberries.

    It is best to transplant in early spring or just before leaves fall in autumn. You may also transplant in winter when the plants are dormant. Do not transplant in summer. If they are small to medium-sized, you may want to dig up the whole plant. Smaller transplants will actually grow faster and thrive better than larger ones.

  • Water the ground around the bush one day before digging as thoroughly as possible to help loosen the soil. The day you dig, water again. Using your shovel, start digging about 1 1/2 to 2 feet away from the bush in a wide circle all the way around the bush. You want to get as much of the root system as you can while cutting the roots as little as possible. Dig all the way around and then start going downward and inward to get under the plant. Do this all the way around until you have finally freed it from the soil. Blackberries are very hardy. Even if you cut some of the roots, the plants will still grow. The roots you leave behind will probably sprout a new plant.

    If you do not want to dig up the whole plant, dig up some roots from the berry vines you want to transplant. Cut the roots to about six inches long.

  • Do not shake the plant roots to remove the dirt. Keep as much native dirt with the roots as possible when transferring to your pot. This can help ensure a successful transplant and will lessen shock to the plant. Once you have it in the pot, cover the roots with additional native soil. Pack it down around the roots and water thoroughly.

    If you dug up roots and made cuttings, stick those into the pot and cover with dirt. Water thoroughly.

  • Transport the potted plant (or roots) to your garden. Dig a hole large and wide enough to accommodate the roots, with some extra room to spare. Plant it about as deep as you found it growing in the wild. The root system is generally in the top six inches of soil and they grow wide, not deep.

  • To transplant potted blackberries, tip your pot over and, keeping as much of the dirt with the roots as possible, remove the plant and place it very gently into the hole you have dug in an upright position. Now add your amended soil and some native soil (from where you got the plant) into the hole to fill it completely up. Pack the soil into the hole around the plant, and water thoroughly.

    For the root cuttings, plant them horizontally, from two to four inches deep, and water thoroughly.

    If you are planting several blackberries, space the trailing cultivars between 4 to 10 feet apart in a row. Space erect cultivars four to six feet apart in the row. Try to leave 8 to 10 feet between rows, if possible.

    Cut the canes on new plantings to six inches after you plant them. If the plant produces fruit the first season, it will weaken the plants, so is is best to wait until the following year to obtain a bigger harvest.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tip layering is the best way to transplant trailing cultivars. Cover tips of canes with soil (either in a pot buried in the ground beside the plant or directly into the ground), no deeper than six inches. Do this in the late summer or early fall. The next spring, cut the rooted tips from the cane and transplant them. Save the seeds from the berries and plant those. It is much easier than digging up a mature bush. Do not over-water blackberries. They thrive in well-drained soil and too much water will kill them. Blackberry canes are biennial. The cane that grows this year produces next year's fruit.
  • *Snakes, hornets and other critters often take cover under blackberries. Be mindful of this before working with the plants.

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