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Propagating a Berry & Fruit Garden

You’ve taken the plunge and bought a couple berry plants from a local nursery or home improvement store. If you’re lucky then you will have had some fruit the first year and now you’re thinking about how to get more next year. One of the easiest (and most inexpensive!) ways to get new fruit & berry plants is by propagating them yourself.

Different plants do best with different methods. Some send runners, some do well with soft or hardwood cuttings, some use root cuttings and still others can be best propagated with layering. These are techniques that I’ll explain below.

Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the easiest plants to propagate. In fact, it’s hard to prevent most varieties from spreading. The strawberry crown (pictured below) sends out shoots called runners that become new plants.

Strawberry propagation anatomy

If you have a strawberry bed, then the runners will root themselves and you really don’t have to do any work at all! I started with a strawberry in a pot. When it shot out runners, I put them into smaller pots and weighed them down with a u-shaped wire or rock so that they would touch the soil in the pot and grow roots. My second season I went from three strawberry plants to about fifteen this way!

Strawberry runners in pots

Once the strawberry runners have rooted, which you can check with a very gentle tug, you can cut the stolon to separate it from the mother plant. Treat it just like the original strawberry you bought from the store!

Red Raspberries

Raspberries, like strawberries, make it hard not to get new plants. Red and yellow raspberries (they are the same) send up suckers along their root system. If the sucker is far enough from the main plant, you can easily use a shovel to dig it up and disconnect it from the main root system, then replant it elsewhere. You can see all the suckers around the main plant in this photo:

Raspberry suckers around main plant

Currants and Jostaberries

Currants and jostaberries (a currant and gooseberry cross) are very easy to propagate, but unlike strawberries or raspberries they require some effort on your part. During the dormant season (when there are no leaves) you can take hardwood cuttings. They should be about 15-20 cm (6-8 in) in length and about the width of a pencil, taken from the last season’s growth but not anything that looks too weak or green. Here’s a great idea of what hardwood cuttings from various plants look like:

Hardwood cuttings

Once you have your cuttings, you can stick them in potting mix or sand with at least a couple buds below the surface, water them and keep them in a humid environment for a few weeks. I’ve had success using plastic bags or upside-down glass jars placed over the cutting to keep it humid. Before you know it they will have roots.

Black currant cutting in a pot White currant cutting in a pot Jostaberry cutting in a pot

If you like, you can also wound the base of the cuttings, which means to scratch off the outer layer of bark to expose the light green cambium layer from which new roots will sprout. Rooting hormone may also be used but is definitely not required - just dip the cut end into the hormone before planting.

Wounded hardwood cutting

Gooseberries

Gooseberries can be propagated via hardwood cuttings just like currants above, however you will have a better chance of success if you use layering techniques instead. Both tip and stool layering work well and are easy.

Gooseberry tip layering

Tip layering involves taking a branch of the bush, bending it over and putting its tip into the ground an inch or two. If needed, weigh it down with a u-shaped wire or rock to keep it in place. When the plant is actively growing, it will produce roots and new shoots at the buried tip, at which point it can be snipped from the parent plant.

Stool layering involves building up a mound of dirt around the base of the plant. During the growing season each branch will grow roots since it is now surrounded by soil, and at the end of the season can be cut from the mother plant and replanted.

Blackberries and Black Raspberries

Blackberries and black raspberries (sometimes called blackcaps) don’t send up many suckers like red raspberries. However, they can easily be propagated by tip layering similar to the gooseberries discussed above.

Simply bend over a cane to put the tip of active growth an inch or two in the ground. If needed, weigh it down with a u-shaped wire or rock to keep it in place. Before you know it you’ll see a new shoot and roots forming below that shoot. After roots are formed you can cut it from the mother plant.

Blackberry tip layering

Happy Propagating!

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to propagate your berries and other fruit to get a big happy garden full of goodness.

I will try to update this post with new information and photos as I propagate my plants. Keep in mind that some plants are patented and require a license to propagate.