Red currant is an excellent choice for edible landscaping. This hardy small shrub fits into just about any garden, and it provides delicious red fruit as well. It has a mounded growth habit with many slender branches clothed in small, lobed medium-green leaves. Dangling clusters of greenish yellow flowers bloom in spring and are followed by beautiful bright red, almost translucent, berrylike fruits. Harvest these tart little jewels for yourself or let the birds enjoy them. Red currants look best when grown in group plantings and can also be grown as a low hedge (plant them 2 to 3 feet apart) or as an espalier against a fence.
Common name: Red currant
Botanical name: Ribes rubrum
Plant type: Shrub
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: 3 to 5 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Adaptable to most soil types
• Moisture: Evenly moist but not soggy
• Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch (wood chips, shredded leaves, pine needles, etc.)
• Pruning: For best fruit production, prune annually to remove oldest stems.
• Fertilizer: Apply compost or balanced fertilizer in spring.
Pests and diseases
• Powdery mildew can be a problem. Start by selecting mildew resistant cultivars (all listed below are fairly mildew-resistant).
• Aphids, scale and borers are occasional pests.
• ‘Red Lake’ is a popular and productive variety with upright growth and large fruit.
• ‘Jonkheer van Tets’ is an early ripening cultivar.
• ‘Cherry’ (also known as ‘Cherry Red’) is a popular variety for commercial production in the Northwest.
• ‘Cascade’ has somewhat sweeter fruit (though still on the tart side).
• Red currant can be an alternate host to white pine blister rust; check with local experts to find out if this is a problem in your area.
• For fresh eating, let fruits stay on the plant as long as possible to develop sugars.
• Red currants make beautiful and delicious sauces, jams and jellies.
All in the family
• Red currant is a member of the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae), which contains only two genera—Ribes and Grossularia.
• Gooseberries and currants are included in the genus Ribes.
• White currants (cultivars include ‘Primus’ and ‘White Imperial’) and pink currants (‘Pink Champagne’) are also in the species Ribes rubrum; they just have non-red fruit.
Where to buy
• Raintree Nursery, 800-391-8892, www.raintreenursery.com
• W. Atlee Burpee Co., 800-888-1447, www.burpee.com