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May 26 / Jeff

Growing Blackberries in Arizona

Every May, I always look forward to one of the most successful crops in my backyard. Amazingly enough, the blackberry thrives well here. Of course, you have to give it proper soil, nutrients, and plenty of water. But in the end, it’s all worth the effort and investment.


I have tried several varieties of blackberries, including Apache, Brazos, Black Satin, and Roseborough. Out of those, the Roseborough does the best, growing canes 6-8′ tall and producing tons of huge 1+” fruits. Some are almost as big as a golf ball! The only drawback is the numerous thorns that get in the way during maintenance and harvesting tasks. So, in exchange for some sweat and blood (literally), I get rewarded with this:

I should also mention that I have a small row of boysenberries that also thrive very well in this hot weather. The fruit is not as large as the blackberry, but the flavor is much more complex. These also ripen during the same time as the blackberry:

The funny thing is most people have heard of the boysenberry, but have you actually ever seen fresh boysenberries at your local supermarket? Probably not. In fact, i’ll bet you a large sum of money you have never seen them before. Why? These are extremely fragile when picked off the plant. In fact, I usually end up accidentally squeezing about 25% of them during harvest time. Can you imagine a farmer trying to pick hundreds of acres of these by hand and spending extra care in not damaging them? Good luck. If you’re interested in trying a fresh boysenberry, drop me a line during the month of May and i’ll be happy to share. I have plenty to go around!


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  1. Austin / Feb 20 2016

    Hey I just moved to Phoenix Arizona and looking to start a nice garden.

    First, do you grow other things besides Blackberrys/boysenberry? which btw grew in the summer in Minnesota and where amazing. if so what kind of edibles do you recommend to grow in Arizona?

    Second, would you recommend doing a above or below ground garden if so any recommendations on how to keep it at a low cost?

    Third, do you grow gmo free? If so could you give me a few places that happen to be completely natural and gmo free?

    Fourth, the bark scorpion seems to be a pretty big problem around where I’m currently located. it’s a home that hasn’t had anyone in it for while and the back yard is pretty grown in with weeds it has a underground sprinkler system as well but I’m wondering will growing a garden attract more scorpions because of the plants attracting insects if so do you know any way you could naturaly deter them?

    • Jeff / Apr 18 2016

      Hi Austin,
      1. I also grow blueberries (challenging), strawberries (moderately easy), as well as other tree fruits (easy). Pretty much all tree fruits will grow here. It’s just a matter of finding the correct variety.
      2. Both methods work. I like above ground since it looks nicer and it’s easier to maintain. The most expensive component of a vegetable garden is the soil. You can look for bulk compost from places like Singh Farms in Scottsdale.
      3. I don’t plant anything that has been genetically modified. I typically try to find heirloom varieties. A couple of favorite spots to buy plants/seeds – and
      4. Bark scorpions will live where they have water and food (insects). So naturally by having a garden, you will have a potential issue. The best advice is to keep your garden area clean. They like to hide underneath rocks and piles of debris. I hear cedar oil is a repellent.

  2. Cz / Mar 12 2016

    Any luck growing blueberries or cherries?

    • Jeff / Apr 18 2016

      Hi Cz,
      Blueberries – Yes, but only southern highbush varieties like Sunshine Blue, Sharpblue, and Misty. And even then, you have to get the soil correct (low pH of about 5-5.5) and plant it where it gets protection from the hot summer sun. Also, make sure the soil stays consistently moist.
      Cherries – Supposedly there are 2 varieties that will produce cherries here. Minnie Royal and Royal Lee. They both have low chilling hour requirements and they need to pollinate each other. I planted some this year and will see how they perform.

  3. Mindy / Apr 22 2016

    Hi Jeff! Love your blog and your shop at the GFM 🙂 How do boysenberries do in full on blazing AZ sun in the summer? I have blackberries from you that seem to thrive in that climate but wondering if boysenberries are the same?

    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Mindy,
      Thanks for the feedback! Boysenberries actually need a lot more shade than blackberries. So it’s best to plant them where they get morning sun and afternoon shade.

  4. Dana Koellen / Apr 23 2016

    I’m thinking of growing some black berries next year ! I just want 2 plant I’m going to plant them in a area by my back yard wall in a planter 2.5 ft wide by 10 ft long ! They will get sun from sun up to 3pm. Two plants should be good enough for that size ? And were do suggest getting them from and what variety ? Thanks. ! Dana Koellen,

    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Dana,
      2 plants will fill in that spot after a couple of years. Blackberries are almost like a weed if given good soil and plenty of water. My favorite variety for the Phoenix area is ‘Rosborough’. It is extremely thorny, but it handles our climate well and produces huge, sweet berries. I am testing a thornless variety now called ‘Ouachita’, but the berries seem to be on the small side. Other than that, it also grows well in our climate.

  5. Kathleen Leonard / Apr 28 2016

    Did you plant your blackberries in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade? I have been thinking about planting some, just did not know how much sunlight they prefer.


    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Kathleen,
      Yes, blackberries do best when they get morning sun and afternoon shade, as they need protection from the hot afternoon sun in the summer. They actually don’t need a lot of sunlight and do well in shade.

  6. John Bonfield / Jun 4 2016

    I have a thriving blackberry plant, of unknown variety. ( It was suppose to be thornless, but it isn’t. I suspect strongly that it is a Rosenburg).

    I just finished my harvest, and I am going to remove the floricanes this week. I was surprised to see that there is new bud on the Primacanes. This second round of budding did not happen last year. My understanding is that the normal procedure is to top the primacanes when removing the flioricanes, but since this would remove all the new bud, I am not sure what will happen. Will these primacanes also bear fruit next year, or should I wait until this second crop matures and remove them as well? Will it send up a new (third!) batch of primacanes for next year? This extra crop has thrown me a curveball I didn’t expect.

    • Jeff / Oct 26 2016

      Hi John,
      That is particularly odd, since primacanes do not typically bud until the following year. When pruning, I just remove the floricanes and leave the primacanes to continue growing. I am curious to see what would happen next year if the primacanes bear fruit this year.

  7. Teresa / Sep 9 2016

    Hi Jeff, I would like to grow some berries and veggies in a small greenhouse. Since they will be in a greenhouse environment when do I plant? I can move plants into house during summer and size up to 10′ is ok.

    • Jeff / Oct 26 2016

      Hi Teresa,
      If the greenhouse is climate controlled all year round, you have more flexibility in timing. I would continue to grow summer vegetables during the spring/summer season and fall vegetables during the fall/winter season. For berries, it depends on what you’re growing. However, keep in mind berries do need some cold temperatures during the winter (chill hours) in order to produce fruit.

  8. Christine Sellers / Oct 25 2016

    I have been unsuccessfully growing, blackberries and blueberries, however i keep trying, my grandchildren love them, and they love working in the garden, i would like to take you up on your offer to share if i may please. Is may yhe only month to transplant them if so i will contact you then

    • Jeff / Oct 26 2016

      Hi Christine,
      Don’t feel too bad, as it’s somewhat challenging to successfully grow blueberries and blackberries out here. The key is to find the right varieties. I do have ‘Rosborough’ blackberry plants for sale in 1 gallon pots for $10 each. If you’re interested, please send me an e-mail at and we can work out the details.

  9. Jennifer / Nov 20 2016

    I’m interested in growing a blackberry plant in a container on the balcony of my condo. It faces the East and the only sun is in the morning for a couple hours. Is this possible? When should I plant?

    • Jeff / Nov 21 2016

      Hi Jennifer,
      Since blackberry plants have roots that travel horizontally, it’s best to plant these in the ground. However, I have grown them in large containers. I would use a pot that is at least 30″ in diameter and 18″ deep. The key is to keep the soil moist. If it dries out, the plant will first wilt and then you have about a day before it starts taking permanent damage. East morning sun is sufficient.

  10. Annie Pratt / Jan 6 2017

    I’m looking for blackberry plants or seeds that would grow in the Phx desert area. We’d love to add them to our garden. Do you sell these or know anywhere that does? Thanks so much!

    • Jeff / Aug 2 2017

      Hi Annie,
      Yes, I do sell blackberry plants, specifically the Rosborough variety in 1 gallon pots for $10 each. They are very thorny, but produce tons of large, sweet berries, even in our climate. Please send me an e-mail for more info.

  11. Joe Luma / Jan 25 2017

    What do you use for your blueberry plant mix and where do you purchase it? I attempted blueberries last year unsuccessfully and don’t think I had a good soil mix.

    • Jeff / Aug 2 2017

      Hi Joe,
      I typically do a 50/50 ratio of peat moss and potting soil/compost. The biggest challenge I find with blueberries is keeping the soil consistently moist and keeping them out of the hot sun during the summer. Also, you will have to check the pH periodically, as they must be in the 5.0-6.0 range. Once is creeps above that, they will start showing signs of iron deficiency.

  12. Terri Aragon / Apr 19 2017

    Where can I purchase a boysenberry plant. I live in Gold Canyon AZ. I will contact you in May for some of yours

    • Jeff / Aug 2 2017

      Hi Terri,
      I am currently sold out of boysenberry plants, but will get more for next spring. The best time to plant is either spring or fall. Feel free to send me an e-mail at if you’re interested.

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  14. Karen Lee / Dec 12 2017

    Very happy to find this very informative blog. I live in SW NM, round about
    Lat/Long: 31.875, -107.65 (aka: 31°52’30.0″N 107°39’00.0″W ).
    I have absolutely no gardening experience, but now have plenty of time in retirement to learn and do. I have some acreage that I am planning to dedicate some of it for Gambrel’s Quail and Monarch Butterflies habitats.
    And am in the initial learning and planning phases to begin the landscaping and planting this coming spring 2018.
    Quail love berries, and the monarchs can use the blossoms for getting nectar.
    The soil is sandy dirt, with more sand than soil, and the hard white caliche’ clay about 18-24″ below. I Get good runoff waters from mountains to the east during the monsoon season; and also have a deep well with high output.
    I am planning to plant berries around the perimeter of the habitat.

    Thus, my questions, as a total Know-Nothing to all of this are:
    1. What is the easiest type of berry to start working with for my conditions?
    (My fave for eating myself are Blackberries; least fave are strawberries. From what I have learned so far, the quail and butterflies aren’t so fussy!)
    2. Should I berm up some land a foot or two or three to start seedlings on say in late March, or will they be able to survive the Watershed at surface planting levels by the time the monsoons start in mid-June?
    3. What type of soil amending should I start doing between now, mid-December, and March?

    Thank you so much for Any advice, ideas, suggestions that you may have.
    You have my email (from when I signed up to post a comment!) if that works better to answer.

  15. Pat / Mar 7 2018

    I’m planning on planting some berries and was wondering do they need to be cover during moderate or hard freezes. Thanks I have enjoyed reading our blog, I just found it tonight.Will you e-mail mr answer as I’m not sure i’ll find his again.

  16. Terri Aragon / Mar 19 2018

    This is my first full year and they are blooming like crazy and I can’t wait to eat Blackberries

  17. Kathy Stephen / Mar 29 2018

    I have my boysenberry canes where they get morning sun but also hot afternoon sun so I wind up with a good percentage of the berries dried up. I want to put a shade cloth over them this year and wondered if you have any recommendations since the cloth comes in various UV protections. I live in the desert in western Colorado.

  18. Sue / Aug 22 2018

    I live in southeastern Arizona at about 4500 feet elevation. I am planning to start a blackberry patch with the hope of enough produce to sell in a few years. I would like to know how to prepare my soil to get ready for planting. Also, can I plant in the fall (October or November) or should I wait until spring. Our winters vary from mild to frigid at night. I am interested in purchasing some 1 gallon plants from you. I assume they will take a few years to produce enough to sell, but we also love them. Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.

  19. Mike cloud / Jan 27 2019

    How do I order rosborough plants

  20. ed / Jan 29 2019

    Hi Jeff, is it necessary to plant a second variety of blackberry for cross pollination with the rosborough to insure a good crop?


  21. sue / Apr 27 2019


    Iam trying my hand at blackberries this year. I have a copse of well trimmed mesquite trees ;that I plan to grow them under. If I have success with these 2 plants, I will enlarge my site to a small patch. I live in high desert, southeastern Az. We get cold in winter. Do I need to fertilize and put plant soil in the holes as I plant? Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge.

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