The Best Blackberry Varieties

by Becky
Published: Updated:

Determining the best blackberry varieties is a matter of opinion and experience. I personally have grown many blackberry varieties and have a bit of an obsession with them! You will not go wrong if you plant these. Here are the top 3 best blackberry varieties to grow. These are in order from lowest to greatest with #1 being the best of the best.

Best blackberry varieties

Note that I do live in Arkansas, so each variety I’ve tested comes from the breeding work of the University of Arkansas. Most growers of blackberries across the country grow varieties from the U of A because they have excellent qualities. 

There are three main types of blackberries: trailing, erect, and semi-erect. The best blackberry varieties I mention below are all erect types.

#3 Prime- Ark Freedom

Prime- Ark Freedom makes the list of best blackberry varieties for two reasons. First, it is a primocane bearing blackberry.

Normally blackberries bear fruit on the floricane, or second year cane. With Prime- Ark Freedom, you get to harvest at two different times in the growing season! They fruit early in the season (in my area around early July) on the floricanes and late in the season (October for my zone 6b area) on the primocanes.

This allows for a longer season of fresh blackberries.

The second reason Prime- Ark Freedom makes the top 3 best blackberries is because it is thornless. A blackberry that is thornless and primocane bearing is a great combination! The flavor is good. Not as good as Ouachita and Ponca, but it’s a quality blackberry.

My personal experience: I experienced some cold injury with this variety on the floricanes last year. Thankfully because they are primocane bearing as well, we were still able to get a harvest.

They are a flavorful berry.

  • Grows best in Zones 5-9
  • Thornless

#2 Ouachita

Ouachita is an award winning and top selling blackberry and for good reason. The flavor is sweet. Additionally, Ouachita is a firm berry and it will last a long time after picking, making it a good choice for market growers and home gardeners alike. 

Another winning characteristic of Ouachita is that it is very productive and has good disease resistance. 

My personal experience: This variety has fantastic production. If you get a ripe berry they are sweet and delicious! 

  • Grows best in zones: 6-8
  • Thornless

#1 Sweet Ark. Ponca 

Ponca is a new release from the University of Arkansas. It is the sweetest of all the blackberry varieties and also the most forgiving. 

Usually when you pick a blackberry and it’s not quite ready it’s sour. Ponca is even sweet when it’s picked before it’s fully mature. 

The sweet flavor is retained even in rainy conditions. All the sweetness of Ponca is combined with a very disease resistant plant. It would be hard to beat this one!

Pense Berry Farm gives a little more detail of it’s growing habit:

Yield potential is high and plants demonstrate excellent health. The canes have a unique architecture with reduced leaf internode length that provides potential advantages in cane tipping management.

If you could only plant one type of blackberry, I highly recommend Ponca. It is a very new variety and definitely worth growing. I can’t say enough good things about it!

My personal experience: I was sold with my first bite of a Ponca berry. After that first initial sweetness, I tasted a fruity, aromatic flavor. The canes are strong and disease free. Production was not as good as Ouachita this year but the flavor made up for it.

  • Grows best in Zones: 6-9 , (inserting my personal experience here: I am in zone 6 and did have some cold injury to my Ponca blackberries after abnormally low temperatures -11ºF hit our area. It did not kill the plant but did significantly reduce yield this year.)
  • Thornless

What about the Best Sour Blackberry Varieties?

If you like a more classic sour blackberry with sweetness only when it’s dead ripe, I recommend Kiowa. The only negative of this variety is it’s very thorny. But the blackberries are HUGE and delicious. Perfect for blackberry jam.

This is a Kiowa Blackberry

Where to Buy Blackberry Plants | Best Blackberry Varieties

I buy my blackberry plants from Pense Berry Farm. The plants, whether from canes or grown as small plugs, are healthy and explode with growth in their first season. 

I have always been very happy with the end results. 

The customer service at Pense Berry Farm could use a slight bit of improvement. You get to pick your own ship date. Sometimes they ship on time, and sometimes they are late. I didn’t get any emails with updates about my order status. 

But if I email about a late shipment they are always responsive and kind. I do always get my order, eventually. It is a small family business and local to me in Arkansas. 

I once ordered blackberries from a larger, well known fruit nursery in the Northern US that I will not name here and their blackberries were small, weak, and stayed that way. I was surprised at how poorly the blackberries from that nursery did compared to the ones I purchased from Pense.

Pense nursery has excellent blackberry plants! 

I am not an affiliate or sponsored by this company to say this. All opinions are my own!

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Check out my post on how to prune blackberries.

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Brenda Baker December 28, 2023 - 9:05 pm

Thank you for your plant recommendations. We are looking to purchase raspberry plants this year and wonder if you have any favorites or recommendations on those as well.

theseasonalhomestead December 31, 2023 - 2:51 am

Yes! I tried several raspberry varieties and we really love Joan J and Anne. I am going to be purchasing more to test this year like Himbo-Top and Double Gold so I will definitely update you on how they compare. I think you will be very happy with Joan J as a raspberry. It’s delicious and incredibly productive!

Tori March 30, 2024 - 10:29 pm

Around here in Tennessee wild blackberries are prolific. Invasive almost. I was excited a few years back about the huge harvest we were looking forward to, when an acquaintance at a homeschool group asked what I did about the larva. Ummmmm, say what?! She showed me a picture of some jam that had been put up and sold at a church auction and you could see the tiny white worm looking larva inside the jam! She said she saw it in another woman’s blackberry pie. I haven’t trusted eating the local berries since. What can I do to prevent or eradicate the possibility??


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