How to Grow Dewberry (Complete Guide)

Dewberries are the lesser-known cousin of blueberries or raspberries.

They’re NOT as popular as their counterparts. But do offer their bout of benefits.

For instance, they’re super easy to grow. They take care of themselves. So any beginner can grow them easily.

They also are ready for harvest earlier in the season, so if you want seasonal berries all summer long, this is a good addition to your garden.

Let’s dive in and see what dewberries are all about.

Quick care guide: Dewberry

Plant type Perennial
Origin Europe, North America
Scientific name Rubus Flagellares
Other names
Soil type Loamy, rich, fertile, well-draining
Soil pH 5.0-7.0 (slightly acidic)
Sunlight requirement Full sun
Bloom season Spring, summer
Colors Blue, green, white, yellow, purple, red
Max height 2 feet
Max width 4-5 feet
Low temperature -30F
High temperature 85F
Ideal temperature range 50-70F
Humidity Low
Watering requirements Often during first year of growth, spring, and summer
Fertilizer requirements Low
Fertilizer NPK 1-1-1
Days until germination 2-3 weeks
Days until harvest 4-5 years
Days until bloom 4-5 years
Speed of growth Slow
Hardiness zones 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Plant depth 0.25 inches
Plant spacing 5 feet
Plant with None
Don’t plant with Other plants in the same family
Propagation Seeds, transplants
Common pests Aphids, spider mites, dewberry mites, rabbits, white-tailed deer, cane-boring beetles, peach blossom moths, and leaf beetles
Common diseases Downy mildew, root rot, blight, stem rot, fruit rot, fungus
Indoor plant No
Outdoor plant Yes
Grown in container Yes
Flowering plant Yes
Beginner friendly Yes
Care level Low (very easy)
Uses Decoration, edible, indoor plant, recipes, jams, preserves, cakes, desserts

What’s a dewberry?

Dewberries are the lesser-known berry. These are in the Rubus genus and Roscaecae family. They’re found in the US, EU, and CAN.

Note that They’re often mistaken as blackberries or mulberries, even though they’re not the same.

Dewberries grow all over the US and develop fruits in a bush, rather than upwards like blackberries.

They’re slightly more acidic than blackberries and can be used for pretty much the same purposes as jams or pies.

These are NOT considered true berries, but they are fruiting berries. Dewberries are hardy and require little care. They’re perennial so you can harvest fruits every year.

What do they taste like?

Dewberries are sour and slightly more acidic compared to their blueberry or raspberry cousins.

They make a good fruit to grow for those that want the ease of care and don’t have all day to tend to their plants.

Even though they’re sour, they can still be used for pies, desserts, jams, etc. It’s a unique taste. Use it to mix up boring tastes.

Are they easy to grow?

Yes, they’re extremely easy to care for and good for beginners. If you’ve never grown berry plants before, dewberries are a good choice.

Are they edible?

Yes, dewberries are edible. But if you have sensitivities or allergies, you should consult with your care provider first. They’re also NOT suitable for dogs or cats because of their high sugar content.

They taste exactly like blackberries or raspberries (but not gooseberries or honeyberries) and can be hard to differentiate from similar fruits. They have a tart taste to them that gives you a kick in the mouth.

Depending on what cultivar you’re growing, where you’re located, and how you care for them, the taste will vary.

Even something as simple as harvesting earlier or later will affect the taste of the berries. In this guide, you’ll learn how to get the sweetest berries possible.

Note that if you find dewberry in the wild, there’s bound to be poison ivy nearby. These plant are usually found nearby each other in native regions.

Dewberry vs. blackberry vs. mulberry

Dewberries are shrubby compared to blackberries. They’re not as popular because they’re sour even if ripe. But if you like sour berries, you’re in the right place.

They’re also purple in coloration, sometimes pinkish just like raspberries. They grow as a trailing berry plant with slender thorns on hairy stems.

Dewberries grow only about 2 feet at max height and are ready to harvest in early May.

Compared to blackberries or mulberries, dewberries generally are slightly more acidic, sour, and ready for harvest sooner. They’re shorter, shrubbier, and the seeds are larger than blackberries.

Types of dewberries

There are a few dozen species of dewberries, but only a few of them can be propagated here in the US.

Some of the most popular types are:

  • Aberdeen
  • Swamp
  • Northern
  • Pacific
  • Upland

There are also European dewberries that have a different taste, size, texture, etc.

How to propagate dewberries

Dewberry growing in the garden.
Can you see the differences that dewberries exhibit? (By Ivar Leidus – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are two main ways to propagate dewberries in the home garden: from seed or cuttings.

Starting from seed takes more time, but you can control nearly all the variables.

Seed starting may result in hybrids or different types of berries in the same seed packet. Starting from cuttings will always result in the same berry as the original plant.

So it’s really up to you to decide what kind of berry patch you want. If you’re impatient and don’t have time to deal with germination, then using cuttings is easiest. Starting from seed will take time, but it’s rewarding to see those first sports emerge!

If you can’t find any local nursery that sells dewberry plants or seeds, you can order them online. There are plenty of retailers that stock it if they’re in season.

From seed

If you want to start from seed, you should expect nothing until 4-5 years later.

Yes, dewberries take some time until they’re ready to eat. But if you’re in it for the long haul, then yeah, it’s something to consider.

Take the seeds and plant them in a seed starter. Place 1-2 seeds per compartment 0.25″ deep. Water then cover with a humidity dome. They should sprout within 2-3 weeks.

When they grow their first pair of leaves, remove them from the household. Start hardening them off by exposing them to the outdoors for a few hours each day.

After one week, move them to the yard.

From cuttings (seedlings)

Planting from cuttings is the quick way to a harvest. Since dewberry takes time to harvest from seed, using cuttings is a shortcut.

Start by digging a hole that’s as wide as the root ball of the dewberry plant. It should be relatively deep, typically around 12 inches.

The root ball should be inserted, then backfilled with rich soil. You can add any soil compost or additives/amendments if you wish. The soil doesn’t need to be compressed.

Caring for dewberry

Blue dewberries.
Dewberries? Delicious.

Here are some general guidelines on caring for dewberry.

Depending on the strain you’re growing, where you are, and how you grow it, it all changes the flavor of it.

These tips should get you a good idea of what’s involved in growing and caring for dewberries.

Hardiness zone

Dewberry grows best in hardiness zones 5-10. If you’re in these zones, you should be OK in regards to temperature so you don’t need to worry about it.

But if you’re outside of the zone, you’ll need to use mulch or compost to keep them warm over the winter. In the US, they’re grown natively in zones 5-8.

Soil

Use well-draining, high-quality, rich soil.

The soil should be nutrient-dense so it can supply all the necessary food for your dewberries to eat. They’re heavy feeders, so if you don’t know the supply your soil column has, you should do a soil test.

Dewberries are hardy and won’t need much care other than regular watering, pruning, fertilizing, staking, and your favorite part- HARVESTING.

pH

Dewberry prefers acidic soil that ranges between 5-7.

If your soil is alkaline or neutral, you can naturally lower the pH with soil amendments like limestone or use acidic pH straight from the bag.

Spacing

Space each plant at least 5 feet apart.

Plant them in rows to save space and maximize yield per share foot. They need plenty of space horizontally or else they’ll become crowded.

This will make it foliage dense and could promote mildew, rot, or fungus. It also reduces completion between each shrub because they all get plenty of soil nutrients to eat.

Depth

Plant each seedling 12 inches deep. Plant seeds 0.25 inches deep. The seedlings should get plenty of space for roots to run.

Sunlight

Dewberry is not a tidy bush. You’ll need a lot of space to accommodate it.

Plant in a space that provides plenty of sunlight per day. They grow in full sun and will need at least 8 hours of sunlight per day.

If you’re in the right hardiness zone, you shouldn’t have a problem with the amount of light it’s getting.

If you’re in a higher zone, partial sunlight may be more suitable so you don’t scorch it with those beams of UV. Provide 8 hours or more of sunlight per day.

Dewberry grows to lie crazy once you get it going. The roots will grow from the base of the plant outwards. This is why they need proper spacing.

Watering

Retain soil moisture frequently on a schedule.

Don’t overwater, but don’t let it dry out either. Add a layer of mulch to help control the temperature, reduce watering, and limit weeds. It also helps control the temperature and insulates it.

Ensure adequate sunlight and avoid planting in waterlogged areas because they will make the feet wet.

Fertilizing

Fertilize dewberries when they’ve become established.

They can be fed a high-quality, balanced fertilizer for berries or citrus plants.

Feed as directed when they’re a few inches in height (4-5 inches). Fertilizer isn’t always necessary but will help produce larger berries and increase yield.

These shrubs are heavy feeders and will appreciate it. Other than that, they’re low maintenance.

Mulching

Supplementing with a layer of mulch can help insulate the roots against spikes in temperature.

If you’re region often has temp swings, you can add a few inches of mulch to help stop the swings. It also helps retain water, stops weeds, and contains organic nutrients for your plants to eat.

Temperature

You’ll be pleased to know that these berries can easily tolerate both extremes of the seasons.

They’re hard to the heat and the cold. They will do fine if you’re planting your dewberries in the proper hardiness zone.

That’s why they exist!

But if you’re growing outside of it, you’ll need to add a few inches of mulch to insulate it during the winter. Ideally, the temperature should be around 60-70F.

Humidity

Humidity shouldn’t be an issue.

Keep humidity low by not overwatering, pruning the leaves, and using well-draining soil. This should help prevent honey fungus and rot.

Trellising/staking

Dewberry needs some kind of rigid support to hold it up.

The berries are heavy when there are a lot of them and then the plant will topple over. You need to use trellises or stakes.

When you notice your berries start to lean, set up a stake system to keep them standing upright. The vines can climb upwards above the older canes.

If you don’t set this up, it’ll put your berries against the soil, which can make them easy targets for bugs.

Pruning

You should prune your plants regularly because if you don’t, the leaves will get too dense. This will make it easier for mildew, rot, and fungus to grow.

You should also prune off excess flowers that you don’t need. This is a waste of energy for the plant.

It’s not hard. Just use common sense- that means wearing your favorite protective gloves because of thorns.

Harvesting

Dewberries will flower around March and the flowers turn into berries.

At first, they’re small and green. You can harvest them to make your own dewberry tea, jam, or jelly. They can be eaten raw or used to make cobbler. Or pie.

The white flowers that come out in March turn into small green berries. In the winter, they change to a dark maroon or purple.

Dewberry pies are also a thing.

They’re ready to go about 6-8 weeks since the last frost. But it varies.

You can make sure the berries are ripe by looking at the color of the berries.

They should be purple or black. Use your favorite gardening gloves because there are sharp thorns.

Avoid crushing them because they stain.

Storage

Upon harvesting, you should use them immediately just like any other berry.

They’ll become squishy, rot, and extra sweet over time.

But who likes mushy berries?

If you have extras, put them in a storage container in your fridge. Use them within 2-3 days. Only harvest what you need, don’t take any extras.

Overwintering

Winterberries generally do fine on their own in the winter time even if it’s cold, since they tolerate a wide variety of temperatures.

Companion planting

Plant dewberries by themselves.

They need all the nutrients they can get and will outcompete neighboring plants for them. They even compete with each other.

So that’s why you need to provide them with enough space between each plant.

Pests

Dewberries are vulnerable to the same bunch of bugs that are found eating blueberries or raspberries. Aphids, spider mites, dewberry mites, rabbits, white-tailed deer, cane-boring beetles, and leaf beetles.

You can often manage a lot of these bugs by pruning, not overwatering, keeping your berry shrub tidy, and not overfeeding with plant foods.

Diseases

Dewberries are prone to rot, mildew, fungus, and other issues that come from excessive water in the soil. Don’t water constantly and let it pool. Prune regularly and use moisture retaining soils.

Recipes

You can substitute dewberries for many desserts, cakes, jams, etc. that you normally would with blueberry.

Pretty much, anything that you make or bake with raspberry can be done with dewberries.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Dewberry cake
  • Dewberry cobbler
  • Dewberry pie 

Common questions about dewberry care

Here are some commonly asked questions about dewberry care.

You may find this info helpful to get some awesome yields.

Where do dewberries grow best?

Dewberries grow best in areas with full sun.

They need at least 8 hours of sunlight per day, so plant them somewhere that receives adequate sunlight. The soil should be fertile, rich, nutritious, well-draining and weed free.

Do they have seeds?

Yes, dewberries contain seeds.

This is how people can grow them from seed in the first place!

But if you’re referring to eating the berries, you don’t need to worry spitting out pits. The seeds are edible just like raspberry seeds.

Where to buy dewberry plants or seeds

You can buy them online or from specialty nurseries. You won’t find them that easily, so you may have to do some research.

Further reading/references

Here are some other references you may find helpful for dewberry TLC:

Enjoy your dewberries

Dewberries freshly picked.
Freshly picked! (By Carrotist2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Now that you know all the basics of growing, caring for, and harvesting dewberries, you can make your own unique dewberry jams, pies, and more.

While they’re not as sweet as blueberries, they’re good for mixing it up and adding some unique flair to your desserts.

What do you think? Do you have any questions? Drop a comment and let me know!

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