Not all blackberries are the same. Pick the wrong one, and you’ll scramble for years trying to figure out what’s wrong.
Is it the soil? Is it sunlight? Well, it may very well be the type of blackberry you planted!
Fortunately, there are all kinds of blackberry varieties to choose from, so if you’re thinking about growing your own blackberries, you have a wealth of options at your disposal.
Before I break down the best blackberry varieties for you to consider, there are a few fundamental pieces of information that you need to know.
There are basically three main blackberry varieties or groups: thorny erect blackberries, thornless erect blackberries, and thornless trailing blackberries.
First, the difference between trailing and erect blackberries. Trailing blackberries are those that possess long canes that must be trellised for support. Erect blackberries, on the other hand, grow in bushes that are more or less self-supporting.
You will also be given a choice between thorny and thornless blackberries. Thorny blackberries are always erect.
These blackberries grow vigorously but, as you can imagine, have thorns that you will have to contend with when you harvest.
Thornless blackberries are semi-erect and usually grow close to the ground, just like a vine. As the plants grow year after year, the canes will grow in a more upright fashion.
Again, the major benefit of thornless blackberries is that they do not possess irritating thorns.
Despite these differences, it’s important to note that all blackberries are perennials. This means that the roots survive year after year.
The top of the plant, though, is biennial, producing canes that grow foliage for one year, bear fruit the next year, and die.
Don’t be downtrodden, though, because each year, the plant will send up brand-new canes to replace the ones from the past season.
As long as you fertilize and prune your blackberry plants properly, you’ll have fresh canes each and every year to get a new bounty of delicious fruit.
|Navajo||6a – 10b|
|Darrow||5 – 10|
|Kiowa||5 – 9|
|Black Satin||5 – 11|
|Illini Hardy||4 – 8|
|Chester||5 – 9|
|Prime Ark 45||5 – 9|
|Doyle||3 – 10|
|Prime Jan||4 – 8|
|Loch Ness||5 – 9|
|Apache||6 – 9|
|Natchez||4 – 9|
|Triple Crown||5 – 9|
Darrow, developed by Cornell University in New York, is an erect blackberry variety that produces vigorous, winter-hardy canes.
This plant is one of the best late-season producers but its fruits aren’t quite as regular as those of other varieties.
They might be oblong or glossy but they’ll all have good quality. They are somewhat acidic and produce all the way into the early fall months.
One of my favorite varieties of blackberry, Arapaho was first developed by the University of Arkansas and produces firm berries with small, minimal seeds.
It pushes out fruit very early in the season, though admittedly not for long. It fruits briefly albeit vigorously, with all of its fruits produced in less than four weeks.
This thornless blackberry is a vigorous grower and is resistant to orange rust, a common blackberry disease.
Kiowa is a thorny erect blackberry variety that produces exceptionally large fruits on large canes.
You’ll have a longer harvest period with smaller harvests for each individual session – you can harvest fruits from this plant for up to six weeks in most cases.
Black Satin matures late in the season, producing firm berries that are tart and somewhat acidic.
Although these thornless fruits aren’t the best for eating fresh, they are perfect for baking (including pies, muffins, jellies, and jams).
They grow in a semi-erect fashion and are resistant to a disease known as anthracnose.
Developed by the University of Illinois, this plant produces medium-sized, great-tasting fruits. They are somewhat acidic until they’re ripe, though, so you need to time your harvests from this plant quite carefully.
Most of the fruit will be ready for harvest late in the season. This is another erect thorny variety of blackberries.
It is winter-hardy and produces suckers from the crown. It’s also prized for its resilience to Phytophthora root rot, a common issue that blackberry producers have to contend with.
Chester is a late-ripening cultivar of blackberry that can be somewhat difficult to pick, despite the fact that the plants are thornless. They really hang on to the plant!
However, Chester is known for producing fruits that are great for storage as they don’t break down much over time.
With this plant, you’ll get ample yields of moderately-sized fruits with decent flavor. The fruits are a gorgeous dark color and are also quite firm, even when you are growing Chester plants in hot weather.
The canes are semi-erect and considered some of the hardiest out of all thornless cultivars.
Shawnee is another prolific producer, pushing out high yields over a longer period and going late into the season.
A thorny erect variety, this plant produces good-quality fruits. However, some people have noted that the fruits can be somewhat soft and squishy.
That said, it’s one of the best for commercial growers as it can produce up to 13,000 pounds of fruit per acre when grown in the right climate and managed correctly!
Despite the wordiness of this blackberry cultivar’s name, it’s actually quite easy to grow.
It produces large berries that aren’t that acidic, though their colors can be somewhat dull. The canes grow vigorously and are winter-hardy.
This variety is resistant to powdery mildew, anthracnose, and Septoria leaf spot, making it one of the most disease-resistant blueberry varieties you will find.
Prime Ark 45 is a primocane fruiting variety. This means that it produces fruits on the first year’s canes, something that is unique among blackberry plants.
Prime Ark 45 fruits late in the season, which is ideal for growers in warm weather but not so much for those in more northern locations.
That said, if you have the climate to do so, Prime Ark 45 is a good choice. You’ll get lots of firm, medium-sized berries on thorny plants.
In fact, growers in places like California and Oregon find that the berries are larger than 6 grams or more when grown in these kinds of climates.
There is also a sub-variety of Prime Ark 45 known as Prime Ark Freedom. This is one of the original thornless primocane blackberry varieties, well-suited for commercial growers as well as home gardens.
If you live in zone 6 or warmer, you’ll get fruit on first year as well as second-year canes, sometimes receiving up to two crops per year.
Native to Texas, this blackberry variety grows well, particularly midseason.
It’s another thornless variety that offers exceptionally high yields and can be grown with ease in a hoop house or high tunnel. It produces large fruits in good numbers about halfway through the peak production season.
Prime Jan is another primocane fruiting variety that also produces late in the season
In some northern climates, it produces as late as October. It is not one of the most popular commercial varieties, as the fruits that it produces are generally considered too soft for shipping.
However, if you’re a home grower, it is perfect. It produces medium-sized berries on semi-erect, thorny canes.
This is also a great option if you plan on trellising your plants.
Like Prime Jan, Prime Jim is a good primocane fruiting variety that produces later in the season (a bit later than Prime Jan, even).
The fruits are a bit firmer but still are best suited for home growers. The canes are semi-erect and need to be trellised.
I love the name of this blackberry variety, native to the United Kingdom, but also the fruit that it produces. With Loch Ness, you’ll get large, glossy black fruits that are of good enough quality for local markets.
Canes are semi-erect and vigorous. Plus, given its native distribution, this plant is also well-adapted for winter weather.
Apache is a thornless variety of blackberry that pushes out cone-shaped fruits with great flavor.
One of the most common blackberry varieties for beginners, Apache ripens halfway through the season and produces fruits that are moderately sized and flavorful on erect, self-supporting canes.
This variety is resistant to orange rust and is also remarkably winter-hardy. It is known as being one of the best blackberry varieties for commercial growers, too, as the plant ripens earlier than many others yet still continues to produce well into the season.
Natchez is one of the earliest ripening thornless blackberry varieties you will find. It has exceptional production potential, pushing out fruits that are large and excellent-tasting.
Canes are semi-erect and do require some trellising to keep them up and off the ground. Natchez has moderate cold hardiness.
This plant is upright and ripens relatively early with fruits that are similar in size to Apache. It’s not necessarily disease-resistant but hasn’t been noted to have any specific problems with disease, either.
Yes, a few bonus blackberry varieties for you to consider!
First on my list? Navaho. Navaho is another cultivar of blackberry developed by the University of Arkansas. This plant produces high yields of fruits that are small, but incredibly flavorful.
The fruit is firm and stores well. You’ll find that the new canes are vigorous growers and need to be prudent or tipped several times throughout the growing season.
Triple Crown is another popular variety of blackberry that produces large and sweet berries that are flavorful and incredibly aromatic.
This plant is thornless, producing canes that are semi-erect, sturdy, and quite vigorous. However, the plants aren’t that cold.
Unless you are able to grow your blackberry plants in a high tunnel, you might want to stick to another variety if you live in a cold climate.
That said, Triple Crown berries are much larger than many other blackberry varieties (even popular commercial varieties!) and they are incredibly flavorful.
You will almost always have large, flavorful blackberries to fill your refrigerator.
Ouachita is a good producer, especially if you are looking for a great thornless variety of blackberry.
This plant produces large yields of medium-sized berries with excellent flavor. It produces erect canes that are not very cold hardy, though, and can easily be damaged by frost or freeze.
With a name that’s hard to pronounce (WAH-shitah, if you’re wondering), this plant is self-supporting if the primocanes are tipped, but trellising is often recommended.
That said, if you live in a warm area, Ouachita might be one to consider. It is disease resistant, known to help prevent orange rust, double blossom/rosette disorder, and anthracnose.
You can start harvesting berries from Ouachita plants relatively early on in the season, too.
Try Several Varieties for Best Results
Can’t decide which kind of blackberry to grow? Grow a few! Like raspberries and strawberries, blackberries are very easy to grow.
Once established, you’ll be able to harvest blackberries every few days from your plants.
Ready to plant? Most blackberry varieties can be planted in the early spring when the canes are dormant.
You can sometimes also plant in the fall, but you’ll want to wait until early spring if you live somewhere that experiences a cold winter.
You don’t need to plant a ton of plants to get good fruit production – unlike some fruits, blackberries and most hybrids are all self-fertile.
However, you might have a hard time convincing yourself not to plant multiple plants. Who can really settle for just one?
With all of these blackberry varieties to choose from, you’ll likely find yourself with an entire field of productive blackberries.
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.