Although uniquely flavored and incredibly useful, blackberries are hard to find in supermarkets. If you are hoping for a blackberry pie or jam jars, your best bet is to grow your own patch of these rambling bramble berries…

…but you have to make sure you purchase the right cultivar. The majority of commercially-sold blackberry cultivars are NOT hardy to zones 4 and colder.

Can you find a cold-hardy blackberry cultivar? Absolutely! But before you buy, you should consider a few basic questions:

  1. Do you feel safer growing primocane or floricane blackberries? (For cold gardening zones, it matters!)
  2. Do you prefer a thornless or thorny variety? (Spoiler alert… it’s tough to find a cold-hardy thornless blackberry)
  3. Do you prefer standard or dwarfing varieties of blackberry canes?

These are questions that come down to your gardening preferences, your growing environment, and the amount of time you have to work with and care for your berry canes.

For those gardeners who aren’t sure what options are available, let me introduce the concept of dwarf blackberries: A thornless, compact, cold-tolerant blackberry option!

What are Dwarf BlackBerry Bushes?

This is a relatively new addition to the nursery market – at least for the nurseries I shop in!

Bushel and Berry has put out a dwarfing blackberry variety called “Baby Cakes” that is advertised as a thornless, zone-4 hardy mini-blackberry cane.

(What is Bushel and Berry? They provide miniature versions of blackberry bushes, blueberries, raspberries, and more. You should really check out the rest of the Bushel and Berry dwarf fruit plant collection. Very cool stuff!)

I picked up one of these dwarf blackberry plants when I first saw them in stores – and then for good measure, I ordered a second one from a second online nursery vendor, just to make sure I was getting a good “sample” of what the cultivar offered.

The “specs” on the Baby Cakes blackberry plant, as listed by Bushel and Berry, are as follows:

  • Height: 3-4 feet at maturity (rounded)
  • Requires full sun
  • Large fruit, summer-fall season

What are the Benefits of Growing Dwarf Blackberries?

I like dwarf blackberries because they are easier to contain and care for. Most blackberry canes are enormous, sprawling, trailing canes that are extremely thorny and almost invasive. 

In stark contrast, the Baby Cakes dwarf blackberry is thornless and easy to grow in a container (I have mine in a raised bed that is shallow enough that my standard blackberries wouldn’t tolerate it for long). 

Overall, the fruit output is significantly smaller due to the smaller size of the canes, but the hassle of growing a dwarf blackberry is almost nonexistent.

PERSONAL OPINION ONLY: In my world, I consider a side benefit of the smaller plant to be better resistance to winter weather. I‘ve always found that smaller plants that mature closer to the ground will do better at avoiding damaging, bitter-cold January winds, and are more likely to be blanketed by an insulating snow cover, rather than exposed to frigid temperatures all winter. I know, my opinion probably doesn’t count as scientific evidence… but in my world, I do find that smaller, dwarf berry bushes such as the Baby Cakes will give an extra boost to winter hardiness.

Are Dwarf Blackberry Canes Cold-Hardy?

Bushel and Berry advertises the cultivar as cold-hardy to zone 4, which is about as far north as I have ever seen a blackberry advertised to!

So far, mine have lived up to this standard – however, I will say that I have them planted in a fairly sheltered area, under the eaves of my barn where they don’t get hit by the freezing winds whipping off empty snow-covered cornfields.

It’s possible that this extra work I put in to plant these berry canes under sheltered, microclimate conditions have effectively bumped their growing zone up to zone 5.

However, even zone 5 is pretty reasonable for a blackberry. It’s not unusual to find blackberry canes that are only cold-hardy to zone 6.

Do Dwarf Blackberry Canes Produce Full-Sized Fruit?

The fruit on Bushel & Berry’s dwarfing blackberry is of very good quality.

The fruit isn’t huge, but it’s larger than the fruit of wild blackberry plants (at least in my area). Don’t expect a gigantic berry like you might harvest from a Kiowa blackberry plant. However, the Baby Cakes dwarf blackberry fruit is of reasonable size, and certainly nothing that disappointed me when I first saw it.

Additionally, the dwarf canes have produced 2 crops for me in a single season. This is a big plus in my book! Your weather might have an impact on whether or not you are able to harvest two crops, but it’s something to hope for!

Because the canes are smaller than a standard blackberry, the Baby Cakes blackberry does produce a much smaller crop than you might expect. However, you wouldn’t expect ostrich eggs from a chicken. Give the canes a few years to settle in and you should harvest a decent amount of berries once the cane stand has thickened up a bit with new growth.

(Oh, and in case you are wondering… no, these blackberries are genuinely black. No white blackberries on this bush!)

What Other Bramble Berry Options Are There?

Not ready to spring for a dwarf blackberry? No worries. There are many other bramble berries out there that are a safer bet in cold climates. 

If you are looking for a truly hassle-free and wildly hardy bramble berry cane, I would suggest looking into growing raspberries of any color: red, black, gold or purple.

(Of the four, you will probably find the best cold-hardiness among the red raspberries. Black, gold, and purple varieties are often most susceptible to cold temperatures. The Caroline red raspberry is my favorite, but it’s a primocane, so grow what works for you.)


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