Wild and prolific, salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) ripen through the summer, adding a tangy note to your berry harvest and encouraging birds to visit your garden. In their native range, from California to Alaska, salmonberries grow as an understory shrub. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, they will naturalize in moist, shady areas.
Like raspberries (Rubus idaeus), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, salmonberries grow on long, arching canes. The canes form thickets up to 10 feet tall. In mid-spring, 1 1/2-inch diameter flowers bloom at the outer ends of the canes. From June through August, pale salmon-pink or bright red berries develop and ripen. Salmonberry shrubs drop their leaves in late fall and grow new ones in the spring, but the canes remain from year to year.
Harvest salmonberries as they ripen by pulling the fruit gently from the vine. Salmonberries are extremely fragile when ripe, and mush easily under a heavy hand. Wear protective clothing to harvest them, and warn your children to touch only the berries. While not as thorny as some raspberry bushes, salmonberry bushes do have thorns along the canes. You can let the kids eat the berries right from the vine, or you can use them to make preserves. This wild berry has a lot of hard seeds, so if you're making jams and jellies, it may be a bit overly seedy to get good results.
Birds and Wildlife
Salmonberry shrubs will attract birds to your garden. The thicket-forming canes provide a safe place to build nests, and the ripe berries are a food source for the birds. In spring, when salmonberry shrubs bloom, hummingbirds will sip nectar from the open flowers. Add salmonberries to your native plant garden under taller shrubs and trees where the soil remains naturally moist throughout the year.
Grow salmonberries in part shade where the soil remains damp to wet year-round. This wild berry vine does not suffer from any specific pest problems and grows well with little or no care. Salmonberries are invasive in some areas. In a cultivated area, cut back the vines in the fall after you harvest to keep the plant from taking over the garden. Use clean pruning shears to cut back the canes until the shrub is the general size you want it. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the thorns. After pruning, dip your shears in a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water to sanitize your tools.