How To Grow Black Currants and Red Currants In Containers
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.
Obtaining Currant Plants
For container growing, one can buy certified plants of desired varieties from the garden centers, or one can grow his own plants by rooting young branches/cuttings.
To grow currants from cuttings, 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.
Take suitable pots and fill them with good potting soil and drive the cuttings in the soil in such a way that only two buds appear above the soil and water the soil regularly.
And that’s it.
Note: using rooting hormone can help, but it is not an absolute requirement.
Growing Black Currants in Containers
The container for black currants should be at least 2 – 2.5 feet (24-30 inches, 60-75 cm) wide and 20-24 inches (50–60 cm) deep.
Smaller containers can be used too, just one would have to water and fertilize more often and would have to limit the size of the plants.
On the other hand, smaller containers are easily moved around the garden, while larger containers must be positioned on the wheeled platform/stand.
Currants tolerate soil with the 4-7 pH range, but they grow best in soil with pH in the 6.0-6.5 range.
Before filling the container, be sure that there are enough drainage holes on the bottom - currants like moist soil, but they don't like "soggy feet."
Place a 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick layer of gravel or stones over the bottom and fill the container with good potting soil and add organic fertilizers like aged manure, compost, worm castings, and similar.
Also, adding balanced NPK fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 with a gradual release of nutrients can feed the plants for months to come - just be sure not to over-feed the plants.
However, regular generous feeding and constant moisture, especially during the warmer months, are essential to ensure the healthy growth of the young plants.
Recommended Black Currant Varieties
Ben Sarek is supposed to be the best variety for growing in a container. This is because it is compact, and ideal to be grown in a container. Moreover, it needs less pruning.
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.
Watering is also an important component in producing exhibition-standard fruits. An abundant amount of water at the 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. Three tall canes should be set with equal distance between them in the pot. The fact is that black currant 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's 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 black currants 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, the new pot should be of the same dimensions or slightly larger).
The 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 filled with a combination of good potting soil and organic fertilizers.
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 rooted cuttings will need regular watering till their roots establish well.
You can let them stay in the container for many weeks before planting them in open ground, provided you water 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.
All currants have relatively shallow rooting, so a 20-inch (50 cm) deep container is sufficient. However, width is more important and should be around 2-2.5 feet (24-30 inches, 60-75 cm).
A container of this size is also large enough for growing other currants, including white, yellow, and pink currants.
There is a very small difference in the taste of most varieties of red currants, but when it comes to producing fruits, the number of currants, and the size of the bush, there is a considerable difference.
Rovada is a variety that produces fruits in July to early August (so, skips frost), grows and spreads up to 4 feet (1.2 m) upon maturity, and has 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 good disease resistance.
Red currants are indeed an easy plant to grow and need very little aftercare.
Pruning the plants while growing them in containers should be done according to the basic rules. Maintaining the top portion of the plant restricted will ease the workload on the roots, which is very important for plants grown in 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 - note: it is recommended not to prune till the plant is three or more years old. If you prune before that, you may prune away productive wood.
After three years and every year thereafter, prune out all stems that are more than three years old to ground level.
Don’t prune first-year branches. You should prune away side shoots of stems that are two years old to two buds from the main wood; thus, new growth in the next year will be encouraged, and will produce fruit next year.
If any stem has dropped or is touching or about to touch the ground, it 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.
Keep the soil in the container weed-free. Hand weeding and mulching are preferable to hoeing since currant roots are shallow, and are damaged easily.
Mulching also serves the purpose of protecting the soil from wind and sun, preserving moisture. Also, as the mulch decomposes, it refeeds the plants and keeps the soil slightly acidic.
Spread the mulch above the topsoil, once in March and again in October or when suitable for the gardener.
Soil for Redcurrants
Currants grow well on various types of soil, except excessively acidic or alkaline soil.
The ideal pH of soil for currants should be between 6.0 and 6.5. You should keep in mind that saline soils or soils with poor drainage are bad for currants.
Therefore let the soil in the pot contain an ample amount of organic matter to keep pH around 6.0-6.5, and if needed, add some sand to help the drainage – the soil should be moist and well aerated, not saturated with water.
Currants are prone to the following diseases.
- Powdery Mildew: This is a fungal disease that creates a powder-like patina on the leaves. Leaves are twisted, flowering stops and buds are deformed. Naturally, the 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, treatment can be given to the plant. Be careful and stop the spread of the disease by cutting off and disposing of the affected parts.
- Currant Anthracnose: Currant anthracnose often occurs in hot and dry climates in the form of brown spots on leaves. These spots spread quickly to affect the entire plant making leaves fall and plants die. As soon as you notice it, you should apply a suitable fungicide.
- Currant Rust: A fungus occurring in summer, currant rust is a currants 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 certified plants. If the currants are planted in the garden soil, 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 a 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 moist soil rich in organic matter, with good drainage, and keep the pots in sunny positions and protected from strong winds.
And enjoy your fruits before the birds get them :)