Many home landscapes have difficult sites, such as hot, dry, erodible slopes or ditches where soil moisture fluctuates from very wet to very dry.
Few plants can tolerate conditions such as these, but creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus) not only survives there but also thrives.
Creeping raspberry (named a Gold Medal plant in 2005) is a fast-growing evergreen ground cover imported from Taiwan. It grows 3 to 6 inches tall and spreads 3 to 6 feet in all directions. As the name implies, it creeps along the ground by forming runners, much like strawberries, which root at their nodes and establish new colonies.
It's aggressive, but creeping raspberry isn't invasive. It doesn't climb trees or smother nearby shrubs. You can easily control it with mechanical edging.
Creeping raspberry has coarse, puckered leaves with deep veins. They're about 1.5 inches across and have three to five lobes. In the spring and summer, the leaves are shiny, dark green above the gray-green below. They turn burgundy during the fall and winter.
Its white, midsummer flowers get lost in the foliage. Tiny raspberry fruits follow the flowers in late summer. The fruits are edible and tasty, but they're tiny, so don't expect an abundant harvest. Fruiting isn't one of the plant's strong points.
Plant creeping raspberry plants 4 to 6 feet apart to allow them plenty of room to spread. A full-sun site is best, although plants will adapt to partial shade. Don't plant them in wet soils or areas that might get too much irrigation. Wet soil or overhead irrigation will make the plants look ragged.
Creeping raspberry does well in all of Georgia and South Carolina. It has excellent pest resistance and deer tolerance, redeeming qualities for many of you.
If a harsh winter leaves the foliage a little rough, a light trimming with the lawn mower in mid-March will urge a new growth flush.
To help it establish fast, apply a granular fertilizer such as 16-4-8 in the spring. Apply it when the foliage is dry, then sweep or rake excess granules off the leaves and water to wash off any residual fertilizer.
Creeping raspberry can be propagated by separating a rooted runner from the mother plant. This makes it an ideal plant to take to plant swaps.
Creeping raspberry is not just for ditches or slopes. It looks particularly nice in a raised bed or planter if you let it cascade over a wall or container.
Sid Mullis is the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office in Richmond County. Call (706) 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Control summer lawn weeds now through late May before they get large and temperatures get too high to apply herbicides safely.
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