Red currant, how to grow delicious currants

red currant ribes

Red currant produces marvelous small currant berries in summer.

Key facts about Currant

Name – Ribes grossularia
Family – Grossulariaceae
Type – fruit tree

Height – 40/50 in (100/120 cm)
Exposure – full sun

Foliage: deciduous  –  Flowering: end spring  –  Harvest: end summer→mid-fall

Sometimes these are called gooseberries. Planting, pruning and care must all follow good practices to increase the harvest.

Planting red currant bushes

It is a good idea to plant currant bushes in fall or until spring, while avoiding frost spells.

planting red currantIf you’re planting in spring, water more regularly during the first months, because your shrub will need more water to develop its roots over the summer months.

  • To make a hedge, keep a distance of around 3 feet (1 meter) between plants.
  • Choose rather well-lit exposure.

Whatever the exposure, favor rich soil and feel free to add soil conditioner to the ground when planting.

  • Red currant bushes prefer rather well drained soil.
  • Adding manure, organic soil conditioner or compost is a great initiative upon planting.
  • This step is an important one, so refer to our guidance for planting.

Pruning and caring for currant bushes

If properly settled in, caring for currant bushes is quite easy.

How to trim red currant bushes

The right time to prune a red currant bush is towards the end of winter, ideally during the months of February-March. The weather should be rather mild and dry, with no risk of freezing.

Pruning should be quite drastic

Unripe red currant fruit

  • First clear the center of the shrub, because having light penetrate to the center is crucial.
  • Remove branches that are tangled together.
  • Balance the rest of the shrub to give it a nice shape that looks like a bowl.
  • Finally, remove older wood.
  • This means any stems that are over 3 years old, since they aren’t as productive anymore.

Which currant canes to prune – old or new?

Although one-year old branches or canes might bear fruit, they’ll really bear a lot more in the second and third years.

Try to keep around 9 canes on your currant shrub (give or take a few):

  • 3 or 4 new canes of the year,
  • 3 canes that are two years old,
  • and 3 older, three-year old canes. That way you’ll maximize productivity!

With a little practice, you can easily tell the 2 and 3 year-old canes apart: older ones have more wrinkly bark, and the bark color is different, too. Fresh shoots are hard to miss, of course: they look brand new!

Watering of red currant bushes must be regular

Red currant bushes need water to bear fruit well.

Most relevant is to water regularly and spread a layer of mulch at the foot of the shrub to retain soil moisture in summer.

Adding fertilizer is an advantage for currant bushes

Although it isn’t mandatory, adding berry tree fertilizer will significantly increase quantity and quality of your currant.

How to correctly prune currant bushes: a video

Diseases and insects that attack currant bushes

Currants generally resist diseases well, especially if you’ve chosen disease-resistant varieties.

A few sprigs of ripe red currant set on a tree stump.The best way to avoid diseases on your red currant bushes is to provide them with required nutritional needs in spring thanks to compost or soil conditioner such as manure and seaweed.

Preventive treatment with Bordeaux mixture at the end of winter also helps avoid a good deal of fungus.

  • Powdery mildew – white velvet mold develops on all or part of the plant, most especially on leaves
  • Rust – brownish-orange blisters appear on the underside of leaves
  • Aphids – leaves lose their original color and curl themselves into tube shapes
  • Scale insects – Techniques and organic treatments to avoid them

Harvesting currant

Red currant harvestingHarvesting currants depends on the variety and can happen between June and August.

The worst enemy of currant is birds, they can consume an entire harvest in minutes. That is why protecting the currant with a net is required.

You can expect around 4 to 12 lbs (2 to 5 kg) per plant.

  • Wait until fruits are fully ripe to have great quality fruits.

Fruits that are on the inside of the bush need more time to ripen and can be harvested later.

Learn more about currants and their bushes

Red currant berries on a nice pastel painted background.This common fruit shrub is easy to grow.

It is a favorite for its fruits that tickle our tongue buds, eaten fresh or cooked in clafoutis, jams or jellies for breakfast.

Give it the space it needs to grow, plant it in a cool place where the air circulates well.

Thanks to its bushy aspect and the translucent red color of its fruits, it looks very nice and fits in any garden.

Smart tip about red currant bushes

If needed, treat against powdery mildew or black spot disease but be careful to only use organic products, because you’ll be eating the fruits…

Images: dreamstime: Lianem; Pixabay: Danuta Popowicz, Andreas N, svklimkin, Petra Fischer, Ralph