Monday, February 6, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Groundcover Raspberry

Groundcover Raspberries (like this Rubus pentalobus) are great additions to any garden.

Common Name: Groundcover Raspberries
Scientific Name: 
  • Rubus nepalensis (Nepalese Raspberries)
  • Rubus pentalobus/rolfei/calycinoides (Creeping Bramble)
  • Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble/Groundcover Raspberry)
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Groundcover Raspberries are not as large, but just as flavorful, as their full-sized relatives.

Groundcover Raspberries are low-growing and evergreen. 

I consider any of the low-growing, shade tolerant Rubus species to be Groundcover Raspberries. They come from around the world, and they all produce raspberry-like fruit. They tolerate light to medium foot traffic well. They are great nectar plants for beneficial insects, especially honeybees. These plants are growing quickly in popularity as more and more people hear about them, and they will be a major groundcover species in my Forest Garden.

There are a variety of fruit colors with Groundcover Raspberries, Rubus pentalobus are orange.

There are a variety of flower designs depending on the species.

Primary Uses:
  • Fresh eating – just like small raspberries
  • Preserves (jams, jellies)

Secondary Uses:
  • Groundcover
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Wildlife food, especially birds, in Summer
  • Leaves make a mild tea
  • Frozen fresh
  • Dehydrated

Yields are not high, but any food production from a ground cover plant is great!

Yield: This is a ground cover plant which means that many individual plants are used in a single planting area, and as such there are no good yield numbers recorded; however, yields are not very high.
Harvesting: Summer (July-September)
Storage: Use fresh. Can be frozen (individually on a cookie sheet is best, then stored in a freeze bag). Can be dehydrated. Use within a few days at most.

Great use of Rubus pentalobus around structures in a garden.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-7
AHS Heat Zone: None recorded
Chill Requirement: None recorded, but likely produces better with some chilling.

Plant Type: Small Perennial Shrub
Leaf Type: Evergreen
Forest Garden Use: Groundcover
Cultivars/Varieties: A number of species and varieties available

Pollination: Some are Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile but most will only produce with cross-pollination from another or similar plans
Flowering: June-August depending on the species and latitude

Life Span:
Years to Begin Bearing: 1-2 years
Years to Maximum Bearing: 2-3 years
Years of Useful Life: 6-10 years

There are many closely related Groundcover Raspberry species that can only be found locally.
This is Rubus lasiococcus native to the Pacific Northwest.

  • Rubus nepalensis (Nepalese Raspberries) – 1 foot (0.3 meter) high and widely spreading
  • Rubus pentalobus/rolfei/calycinoides (Creeping Bramble) – 4 inches (0.1 meter) high and widely spreading
  • Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble/Groundcover Raspberry) – 2 feet (0.6 meter) tall and widely spreading

Roots: Shallow and flat, suckering roots – widely spreading
Growth Rate: Medium to Fast

Stems can root which makes propagation rather easy.

Light: Prefers full sun to light shade
Shade: Tolerates light to full shade
Moisture: Medium (Rubus tricolor Chinese Bramble, is quite drought tolerant, but it yields less)
pH: most species prefer fairly neutral soil (6.1 - 7.0), but can handle a wide variety

Special Considerations for Growing: 
These are rather vigorous plants. They tolerate light to medium foot traffic. Some areas can become weedy, so it makes sense to grow other goundcover plants with groundcover raspberries (Mint is a great choice).
Rubus pentalobus/rolfei/calycinoides (Creeping Bramble) – space plantings 1-3 feet apart
Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble/Groundcover Raspberry) – space plantings 3-5 feet apart

Usually by detaching rooting stems… meaning that as taller stems grow up tall, they will eventually bend over and touch the ground. When this happens, these stems will take root. The bent over stem can be cut when roots have formed, and another individual plant is ready to replant to another location. These plants can be easily layered into pots by pinning taller stems into a small pot of soil.
Plants can propagate through seeds, but need some cold stratification.

Minimal.  Occasional weeding may be necessary. May need to cut back, or mow back, when it grows into areas that we don’t want it to grow… this is not a matter of if, but when.

May be slowly and locally invasive if not kept in check… regular mowing on paths works quite well.


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  4. Hi
    Thanks for the read. I sent you an email but I'm not sure it will get through so I thought I would ask some questions here. I run a youth project in Lostwithiel, Cornwall and we are about to plant up 300 Blueberry bushes and start our orchard project off. I want to try to get some plants in the base of the Blueberries to prevent weeds and read about ground cover Raspberries. But, Blueberries need ericaceous soil. Will the Raspberries take to this or have you a suggestion for different ground cover please? Maybe a Herb like Thyme? Any help would be much appreciated and if you fancy a visit to Cornwall ever you would be most welcome to come and take a look.

  5. Does anyone know of a source in the US for Nepalese Raspberries?

  6. Nepalese yellow raspberries its an awesome berry I wanna have and enjoy for life. Can anyone give me a sample of the fruit of this berry

  7. Don't you have an open territory in your arranging that is simply asking for some scope? Maybe you have a slant that needs a quickly developing, wonderful, plant to hold it together. Possibly you have another arbor or trellis that you would love to see secured in verdant green. Plant used as a ground cover

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