How to Grow Black, Red, White, Pink, and Yellow Currants
If you are a home gardener and want to grow something that will adorn your garden and at the same time will be useful to you (rather than being just showy), consider currants!
This is a beautiful fruit (and its flowers, too) to look at. Plus, there are many reasons to grow them; firstly, they are extremely easy and hassle-free to grow, so you don't require much knowledge of gardening; secondly, they give you a large yield of a highly nutritious food item; plus, they enhance your garden’s looks with delightful colors, with the main varieties being black, red and white.
You can grow all these varieties at the same time because you need to conduct almost the same maintenance routine for all of them.
The only difference, perhaps, is that while black currants need very basic pruning, red and white varieties need a little more intense pruning, somewhat like gooseberries.
In this article, you will be introduced to currants and will know the basics of how to plant and grow black, red, white, yellow, and pink currants. This will surely encourage you to grow this amazing fruit in your home garden.
Types of Currants
Currants come in multiple species under the genus Ribes. They are sweet and sour flavorful fruits and mainly come in the following varieties (typically classified by their colors).
Black currants (Ribes ussuriense or Ribes nigrum) are known for their strong flavor that makes them perfect for syrups, jellies, and similar food products rather than eating fresh.
However, black currants produced by ‘Boskoop Giant’ and ‘Noir de Bourgogne’ are very tasty too.
Also, fruits by ‘Ben Sarek’ and ‘Titania’ are large and sufficiently sweet to eat fresh if properly ripened. Black currants are partly self-sterile, so it’s better to plant two varieties close to each other.
These are typically used for making juices, jellies, purees, and more.
They, in turn, have varieties like ‘Cascade’ featuring a large and sweet fruit, ‘Red Lake’ having a vigorous species having prolonged periods of blooming and ripening, and ‘Wilder’ with a spreading tendency and extreme productiveness.
Red currants are usually self-pollinating but, in some conditions, benefit from cross-pollinating with another red variety or a white variety.
These have 3 species, R. rubrum, R. petraenum and R. vulgare, and typically have lower acid content than other varieties, so they are good to eat fresh.
The best variety of white currant is almost transparent. White currants also come in categories like ‘White Dutch’ featuring sweet, succulent berries, and ‘White Imperial’ producing a large quantity of small berries with much low tart.
Just like red currants, white currants too are usually self-pollinating but can cross-pollinate with another white variety or a red variety.
Ribes vulgare or pink currant is an intermediate between white and red currants.
It has colorless skin and pink flesh. ‘Gloire des Sablons’ is enjoyed for its large size and productivity, while ‘Pink Champagne’ is known for its highest sweetness among currants.
Another type is ‘Rosasport’, which is also flavorful and suited for eating fresh.
Yellow currants or R. aureum are also called golden currant or buffalo currant.
Another species R. odoratum is also closely related to it. This is perhaps the most drought-tolerant species among currants. Yellow currants highly benefit from cross-pollination.
Propagation of Currants
Here are step-by-step directions for the propagation of currants using cuttings.
Do it in the early morning: You should do the propagation process on an early and cool morning, preferably in June or July, because stems have a high amount of moisture at this time.
Choosing appropriate wood: The best cutting for currants propagation are one-year-old branches - once you identify it, cut a branch about 12 inches long.
There are a few things that help you to distinguish young wood from old wood, e.g., younger wood is lighter in color and should neither be too green nor too woody (a too-green stem will easily bend but won’t break, while a too-woody one will break but won’t bend). It also has tighter buds.
Cut buds: Make a cut on the bottom of your cut stem just under a bud, making a little of an angle. Cut all the buds on the lower 6 inches of the cuttings.
Remove tip: Cut the tip of the stem to eliminate the ‘apical dominance’ of the tip and to compel it to bush out.
Drive it in the soil: Drive the stem 6 inches deep in the soil, up to the point where you cut off all the buds.
Cover the stem with a straw mulch: This is useful, though not essential. A thick layer of straw mulch regulates temperature and protects the stem in winter. So, this pretty much ensures the passing of the winter successfully and the start of leafing in spring. You can let the cuttings do that in that location, and next year, you can plant them wherever you want.
Once you get a plant after propagation, you can plant it at a new spot, with a slight difference for black, red, or white currants.
Of course, many gardeners propagate currants by rooting the cuttings in pots and containers filled with good potting soil. Also, the use of rooting hormone is not necessary but can help.
How to Grow Black Currants?
Firstly we will see how to grow black currants starting with the location…
Choosing the Spot to Plant Black Currants
Black currants can withstand poor drainage more than other similar berries; however, if possible, they should be planted in well-drained soil where there should be ample organic matter added. Also, black currants should be protected from strong winds.
If your garden lies low and is prone to frost, prevent frost pockets wherever possible. There are two things you can do – either select varieties that are frost resistant (the new ‘Ben’ varieties) or cover plants with frost guard fleece that will protect flowers because for getting fruits, there should be flowers in the first place.
Planting the Black Currants
Before planting a black currant bush, it’s extremely important to prepare the soil.
In the case of black currants, it’s advisable to amend the soil at least four weeks before You start planting, or preferably in the fall.
Dig over an area of around two sq feet. Any perennial weed should be completely removed, and the spot should be filled with plenty of (around two buckets) aged manure, worm castings, and organic compost.
Planting Bare Root Currants
Bare root varieties of blackcurrants are planted by October-November (or February-March) (unlike potted plants that can be planted any time of the year). Spacing between plants in the row should be 5 feet (~150 cm).
When you dig a hole, keep in mind that it should be at least double the size of the root ball, normally around 1.5x1.5 feet.
Take care to spread the roots when you put the plant in the hole. Stem should go around 6 cm (2.5 inches) deeper than originally it was so that individual stems can come out from the soil instead of a single trunk.
Deeper planting will allow many new shoots to emerge from the base, which will ultimately develop into new branches that will bear fruits.
Before filling the hole with the soil, mix a little more aged manure, organic compost, or worm castings in the soil. In the end, water the planted currant - the water will also help settle the soil around the plant's roots.
Right after planting, you should prune each shoot to a bud around 5cm (2 inches) above the ground.
Actually, this pruning is the second phase of the deep planting procedure - this is hard pruning and will hold up fruiting until the next year since fruits are borne on stems that have grown the previous year. You will have to wait for a jam, but your bush will be nicely grown in the long run.
It’s recommended to prune annually anywhere from November to March. Actually, March is more recommended because if there are any wounds, they will be cured quickly while the bush wakes up from its dormancy in April. Winter pruning (not just currant, but of any fruit) leaves the raw cut open to the elements as the plant cannot heal itself.
You just remember that the fruit will be best if produced on young wood; hence any old wood must be cleared on an annual basis. This will keep your plant in its most productive condition.
To identify old wood, remember that it is darker in color, while young wood is pale. It is also thicker than young wood and so quite easy to find. While removing the old wood, cut it as close to the bottom of the plant as possible.
Also, all remaining buds should be outward-facing buds which will enable new shoots to grow outwards and not inward. This is because the new shoot emerges from the bud closest to your cut and grows in the same direction as that of the bud.
You should also cut out wood that is looking weak or unhealthy. Also, horizontal or low branches that are going away from the plant should be cut so as to make the bush easily harvestable and also to prevent low-growing fruits because they get spoiled due to contact with the soil.
How to Grow Red, White, Yellow, and Pink Currants
As mentioned before, the growing conditions required by red, white, yellow, and pink currants are almost the same as that of blackcurrants, i.e., when planting red and white currants, the gardener should make a two sq ft hole that should be filled with the soil mixed with well-rotten manure, organic compost and/or worm castings.
Spacing too is the same, i.e., 5 ft(~150 cm) between plants; however, red and white currants can be grown even as single (1.5 ft spacing), double (3 ft spacing), or triple (4 ft spacing) cordon plants. This is the most common method as it is also the simplest method and gives the highest yield.
Red and white currants are not very tolerant to shade and waterlogging and hence should be planted in full sun in the well-drained ground. It will also require protection from frost in April with sacking or fleece wrapped over the plants.
There is a slight difference even in planting red, white, yellow, and pink currants from the black currants. While black currant is planted 2 inches deeper than it was originally, red, white, yellow, and pink currants are planted at the same level.
So, you can see the transformation from darker to paler wood on the stem marking the old soil level. The reason for this difference is that in the case of a black currant plant, we desire more shoots emerging from the base of the plant, whereas, in the case of red and white currant plants, we desire a single stem having an open shape of bush on top.
In the case of pruning red and white currant, you will have to take out any suckers from the soil at the base of the plant. Suckers are new stems emerging from the base of the root ball or main stem.
Cut back all the remaining branches roughly to half of their lengths. Cut close to an up-facing bud because that will stimulate upward growth instead of outward.
An open ‘goblet’ is an ideal shape of the bush of red and white currant, with a solitary main stem and a vacant space within the bush that would let light and air in.
This shape of open bush and thin foliage at the base has another benefit of controlling sawfly caterpillars because they are not very fond of being exposed.
Sawfly is dangerous and can ruin a good healthy bush extremely quickly, so you should be careful. An open bush allows you to spot them easily, and you can pick them off right after spotting them to avoid further damage.
To get the goblet shape, cut any stems developing inside the bush and also any lateral branches heading toward the center. Remove also any dying or dead wood since it’s unproductive. The best quality fruits also grow on last year’s wood; hence any branches older than three or more years need to be cut too.
Also, remove any low and hanging branches that grow outward around the base because they will hinder your access during harvesting.
There are some common factors that can be kept in mind while growing any currant variety. Here are some of them.
Keep removing weeds in the ground around the base of the bush; this can be done by hand weeding and mulching rather than hoeing because roots are not deep and hence, can be damaged easily.
There is another benefit of mulching – it’s a perfect way to feed the plant with a solid layer of garden compost and/or manure containing all the nutrients the plant needs.
Soil For Currants
Currants are not very picky about soil, just be sure to avoid overly alkaline or acidic soil. They can grow in soil with a pH between 4 and 7, but for the best results, the soil should be slightly acidic in the range of 6.0 to 6.5.
Currants don’t like saline soils or those with poor drainage. So, the best soil is the one with plenty of organic matter, which improves drainage and feeds the plants.
Fertilizers For Currants
Remember that more manure is needed for black currants than red currants. Fertilizers should be added while preparing the soil for both planting the young plants and for established plants, preferably in the late autumn and/or late winter.
Depending on the soil type, acidity, drainage, amount of rainfall, etc., one has to add compost/humus, aged manure, even some sand, and some balanced NPK fertilizer, preferably with a gradual release of nutrients.
Organic matter and organic fertilizers can be added during the growing season, just be sure not to till the soil deeply since the root system of the currants is very near the surface.
Note that larger doses of nitrogen can promote the strong growth of plants, but the plants are weak and prone to physical damage and diseases. Also, note that fertilizers with potassium chloride (or other chlorides) should be avoided.
The following are diseases that can commonly occur in currants.
Currant Rust: This is a fungus that occurs in summer in the form of yellow spots turning red-orange. These are actually fungal spores. The plant is weakened due to this disease, and leaf malformation occurs. Apply a fungicide as soon as you see initial symptoms.
Currant Anthracnose: Brown spots appear on leaves in this disease. They spread fast and cover the entire plants upon which leaves fall, and the plant dies. It usually occurs in hot and dry weather. A suitable fungicide should be used immediately.
Powdery Mildew: As the name suggests, it takes place in the form of a powdery patina on leaves and is actually a fungus. It causes deformation of buds, twisting of leaves, and elimination of flowering. Because of this, the plant is weakened and ultimately dies.
To avoid this disease, spray plants with a fungicide and avoid overhead watering. Applying two treatments, one in winter and the other in early spring, can also help. Also, affected parts should be cut and disposed of so as to avoid the spread of the disease to healthy plants.
BCRV (Blackberry Chlorotic Ringspot Virus): This is the most dangerous disease and causes complete destruction. It mainly attacks black currants and rarely red currants. Endemic in Europe, it makes a few leaves on stunted plants appear bent. There is no cure for this disease. The only solution is planting certified disease-free plants. Also, changing the location of plants every ten years may also help.
Pests commonly affecting currants are aphids, red spiders, caterpillars, coleoptera, and birds. Especially birds are a major nuisance for currants, and to prevent them from eating fruits, plants should be covered with nets. Other objects like scarecrows, tapes or CDs, hanging pots, etc. can be used too.
Depending on the cultivars and growing positions, currants are harvested in June, July, and August.
If you want to enjoy ripe fruits straight from plants, it’s best to let them stay on the plant for around three weeks after they get color. Picking the currants at the right moment is sometimes like picking the watermelons – you never know what you have until you try it.
Moisture should be avoided while collecting the fruits since moist fruits lose quality faster. Fruits can be stored for around a week or two in the refrigerator.
Perhaps it’s better to prepare a jam from the currants, either only from currants or in combination with other fruits, for example, a few apple pieces can be added to the jam to reduce tartness and increase thickness.
For more information about currants, feel free to check the following:
One crucial aspect of cultivating healthy currants is understanding companion planting - a traditional method that involves growing certain plants together for mutual benefit.
This method takes advantage of the natural characteristics and relationships between plants to enhance growth, improve soil health, and control pests.
Published: June 15, 2023.
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 has many advantages, especially in smaller gardens and in a colder climates.
Currants can be very decorative plants, and growing them in containers helps the gardener to place them in the best spot. Also, growing them inside during really cold winters help the currants start the growing season earlier and prevent damage from the frost.
Updated: March 10, 2023.
Americans were not able to enjoy the taste and health benefits of currants around thirteen years ago because cultivation of currants was banned in the USA because of some nasty diseases, especially BCRV (Blackberry Chlorotic Ringspot Virus) and WPBR (White Pine Blister Rust). But now the bad days are over...
Currants are the wonderful fruits that are easy to grow whether you grow them in your backyard or in an apartment in containers, great to taste and can be eaten fresh or in the form of jams and jellies. There are multiple colors in currants, like black, red, white, pink and yellow, but black and red currants are apparently the most popular varieties. Here are their health benefits...