Growing currants is usually done in the open ground and maybe because of this, growing them in containers rarely comes to one’s mind; but still, they can be grown in containers, too.
Growing them in containers have many advantages, especially in smaller gardens and in colder climate. Currants can be very decorative plants and growing them in containers help the gardener to place them on the best spot. Also, growing them inside during really cold winters help the currants start the growing season earlier and prevent the damage from the frost.
For container growing, one can buy certified plants from the garden centers or one can grow his own plants. Select strong stems grown in the current season - their width should be about that of a pencil. Cut 10 inches (25 cm) long pieces and remove any immature wood from the top of the cutting right above the bud. Plant the cuttings in such a way that only two buds appear above the soil and water the soil. And that’s it.
Growing Blackcurrants in Containers
Container for blackcurrants should be at least be 2 – 2.5 feet (60 - 75cm) wide and 20 - 24 inches (50 – 60 cm) deep. Smaller containers can be used too, just one would have to water more often and would have to limit the size of the plants. Also, smaller containers are easily moved around the garden, while larger containers must be positioned on the wheeled platform/stand.
Container’s bottom should have a number of drainage holes as good drainage is important. Place a 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick layer of gravel or stones over the bottom and fill the container with the soil rich in organic matter like well-rotted manure, compost and similar. Also adding well balanced NPK fertilizer with gradual release of nutrients can help the plants. Just be sure not to over-feed the plants.
However, a regular generous feeding and constant moisture, especially during the warmer months, is essential to ensure a healthy growth of the young plants.
Ben Sarek is supposed to be the best variety for growing in a container. This is because it is compact, ideal to be grown in the container. Moreover, it needs less pruning.
Varieties to Choose for Bigger Fruits
If you are passionate about bigger fruits, you can choose Big Ben, Ben Conan and Goliath, or even Laxtons Giant. The first two will give you real satisfactory results in terms of big fruits, almost twice the size of the standard fruit. They are easy to produce, reliable and frost resistant too.
Fertile soil helps further grow bigger fruits. Also the individual trusses should be thinned and also overall truss quantity should be reduced. On individual level, the trusses should not be let bear more than 3 to 4 fruits each. In this way, you can further maximize the size of individual fruits.
Watering is also an important component in producing exhibition standard fruits. Abundant amount of water at correct times given consistently is essential; inconsistency in watering may give rise to split skins of fruits. On the other hand currants don’t like ‘wet feet’.
You will have to prune each plant. 3 tall canes should be set with equal distance between them in the pot. The fact is that blackcurrant fruit develops flowers best on the second year’s wood and not much on older wood. Therefore you should aim at encouraging some new canes each year which will produce fruits in their next season. After the first year of planting, many (7-8) new strong shoots should be grown by the summer end. You should not prune them in the first winter; leave them to produce fruit in the following summer. Just remove weak growths if there are any, by cutting them to 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the soil.
When you grow blackcurrants in pots, you should keep them in good large containers for four to five years to grow and produce well. After this, you should repot the plant (you need not change the pot; if you change it, let the new pot be slightly larger). Ideal time for that is winter.
While repotting, you can remove some of the old soil stuck to the roots. Then cut all the growth back to the base and let the plant restart and rejuvenate in the same pot with fresh new manure. After this the plant can continue in the same pot for the next four to five years.
Growing Red Currants in Containers
If you want to plant red currants in containers, you can do that any time of the year. However during the first summer, the plants will need regular watering till their roots establish well. You can let them stay in the container for many weeks before planting in open ground, provided you want them regularly; however, it’s better to plant them in the ground as soon as possible.
Or you can grow them in larger containers, permanently.
The weather while planting red currants in the pot should be dry and warm. To make conditions more favorable, mulch the top of the soil with wood chips, bark or a similar material, and of course, water regularly.
All currants are typically shallow rooting and so, a 20 inch (50 cm) deep container is sufficient. However, width is more important and should be around 2 feet (60 cm). The larger the container, the less often you will require to water the plant. Also, larger containers are harder to move around the garden.
There is only a little difference in the taste of most varieties of redcurrants but when it comes to producing fruits, regarding amount and size of bush, there is a considerable difference. Rovada is a variety which produces fruits in July to early August (so, skips frost), grows and spreads up to 4 feet (1.2 m) upon maturity and has a good disease resistance. They can be eaten fresh and also can be made into jellies and jams. Fruits are big, too.
Another good variety is Red Lake which produces fruit in late June to early July and grows and spreads up to 4 feet (1.2 m). It also has a good disease resistance.
Redcurrants are indeed an easy plant to grow and need a very little aftercare. Pruning the plants while growing them in containers should be according to the basic rules. Maintaining the top portion of the plant restricted will ease the work load on the roots, which is very important for plants grown in the smaller containers.
Pruning should be done once a year between December and early March because the plant is dormant during this period. Pruning correctly can help to produce a lot of fruits. Better not to prune till the plant is 3 or more years old. If you make haste to prune before that, you may prune away productive wood.
After 3 years and every year thereafter, prune out all stems that are more than 3 years older to ground level. On a normal well-established redcurrant plant there will be 1-2 such older main branches.
Don’t prune first-year branches. You should prune away side shoots of stems that are two year old to two buds from the main wood; thus new growth in the next year will be encouraged and will produce fruit still next year.
If any stem has drooped or is touching or about to touch the ground should be shortened or pruned completely. Lastly recheck the plant from all sides and remove weak or damaged stems for better health of the plant.
Whether you grow blackcurrant or redcurrant in your container garden, you should keep some things in mind. Here they are.
Keep the soil in the container weed-free. Hand weeding and mulching are more preferable than hoeing since currant roots are shallow, and are likely to get damaged easily. Mulching also serves the purpose of feeding the plant regularly with a thin layer of organic matter which will provide all required nutrients to the plant. Spread the mulch above the top soil, once in March and again in October.
Soil for Redcurrants
Currants grow well on various types of soil, except excessively acidic or alkaline soil. Ideal pH of soil for currants should be between 6.5 and 6.8. You should keep in mind that saline soils or soils with poor drainage is bad for currants. Therefore let the soil in the pot contain ample amount of organic matter to keep pH around 6.5 and if needed add some sand to help the drainage – the soil should be moist and well aerated, not wet.
Currants are prone to the following diseases.
Powdery Mildew: This is a fungal disease which creates a powder-like patina on the leaves. Leaves are twisted, flowering stops and buds are deformed. Naturally plant becomes weak and eventually dies. If you want to keep your plant free from this disease, spray it with a fungicide and refrain from overhead watering. Every winter and early spring, a treatment can be given to the plant. Be careful and stop spread of the disease by cutting off and disposing of the affected parts.
Currant Anthracnose: Currant anthracnose occurs often in hot and dry climate in the form of brown spots on leaves. These spots spread quickly to affect the entire plant making leaves fall and plant die. As soon as you notice it, you should apply a suitable fungicide.
Currant Rust: A fungus occurring in summer, currant rust is a currant disease that manifests itself as yellow spots that later take reddish orange color. The spots are the spores of the fungus. This disease weakens the plant and its leaves. Therefore a good fungicide should be spread right upon noticing the disease.
BCRV (Blackberry Chlorotic Ringspot Virus): BCRV is the most destructive disease. Usually blackcurrant falls prey to it quickly, while redcurrant is affected by it hardly. It mainly occurs in Europe and manifests itself by making a few leaves on stunted plants twisted. This is an incurable disease and you can only prevent it by planting secured samples. Changing plants’ locations every ten years is also advisable.
You should also save your currants from pests. Some common pets are red spiders, coleoptera, caterpillars, aphids and mainly birds. Covering the container with the protective net can help keep the birds away from the fruits.
Long story short – Other currants can be grown in the containers, too.
Grow the currants in the moist soil, rich in organic matter with a good drainage. Keep the pots in sunny positions, protected from strong winds. And enjoy your fruits before the birds get them :)