Redcurrant

A Redcurrant bush is an ideal fruit plant to grow in a semi-shaded area of your garden such as under the dappled shade of trees or near a fence that is not too high or solid.

Currant bushes do not need full sun, neither do they need a lot of space and can therefore be grown in a small garden just as well as a large one.

Soil

Red currant plants do like a soil that is rich and moist. If you apply well-rotted manure and ensure you water them well during any periods of dry weather they will do well.

Creating a slightly raised ridge of soil around the perimeter of the plant will ensure that the water does not drift away from its roots and that it will benefit from the watering.

Applying a mulch of manure that is well rotted in the spring of every year, along with some potassium and nitrogen fertiliser will feed the plant well for the coming fruiting season along with ensuring the soil does not readily dry out.

Planting Redcurrant Bushes

Juvenile Currant Bush
Juvenile Red Currants Growing in Shade

To ensure the bushes have enough room to grow to their full potential, you should plant redcurrant bushes at intervals of approximately 1.5 metres apart, and if planting in rows leave about 1.8 metres between the rows.

  • 2 year old plants give a good head start.

  • Your hole should have enough width to support roots spreading out and should be at a depth so the stem’s soil mark is at ground level.

  • Place the bush at the centre of your hole and fill up with soil gradually so as not to damage the roots, gently firming the soil as you go.

  • Water well and spread a layer of manure mulch over the area.

Protecting Red Currant Fruit

Young Currants will Soon Turn Red
Green Redcurrants before they turn red and need protection from birds

To protect your crop of fruit from being eaten by the local bird population before you have had a chance to pick it.

You can use some netting to prevent the birds from being able to access the currants.

There is nothing worse than waiting for the fruit to ripen only to discover the birds have eaten it all on the morning you planned to pick some!

Varieties of Redcurrant

  • 'Jonkheer van Tets' - Early July provides a heavy crop of large red currants
  • 'Junifer' - An abundance of red currants

For an early crop of fruit and a strong plant, a Dutch variety called ‘Jonkheer van Tets’ is a good choice if it is suitable for your zone and climate. Check with your local nursery or supplier for suitability. This species is suitable for a beginner to grow, can be successful in partial shade or full sun, is fully hardy, and a deciduous shrub. A good soil type would be light and moist with good quality drainage. These redcurrant shrubs can grow to a height of approximately one metre with a spread of around 75 centimetres. The fruit should be quite large and of a good flavour, and be ready to pick around the beginning, or early in, July.

Pruning

If you want to get a good crop of redcurrants you will need to prune the shrubs regularly.

After you have planted your shrub, cut back branches that are less than ten centimetres above soil level to the stem. Remove suckers that are growing below soil level. Prune branches to a bud, which is outward facing, to somewhere between half and a third of their length.

When you train your redcurrant bushes, leave the bush open in the centre so that plenty of air and light flows through the branches. This will also make it a lot easier to pick the fruit in the harvest season.

First Year - Prune in winter

  • Remove any shoots that are below ten centimetres/four inches above ground level. Take these off right back to the main stem.
  • Prune other shoots down to around half of their length just above a bud that is outward facing.

Future Years - Prune in winter

  • Completely remove all branches that are old or diseased.
  • Completely remove any branches that are low growing to prevent them from being taken by rodents and pests, and to give more energy to the fruit higher up.
  • From the main branches there will be upward growing leading shoots, prune these to an upward growing bud five to ten centimetres, two to four inches, or up to half their length if you think there is still room for growth. This will promote a healthy plant and growth for the new season.
  • From the main branches there will be side shoots that grew during the last growing season, prune these side shoots down to one or two buds.

Propagation

Cuttings

Between November and February you can take hardwood cuttings from redcurrant bushes. Hardwood cuttings should be around thirty centimetres, twelve inches, long and be taken from the mature wood part of the plant, along with a heel of the growth from the previous year. Plant them in pots, an outdoor bed in a sheltered area, or a cold frame, and protect them until the next year. The cuttings will sprout roots.

Layering

Layering to propagate redcurrants can be done in the autumn or spring.

Take one of the canes that are low growing and gently pull it down to the ground.

Leave it attached to the plant, cover it with soil, and place something on top to make sure it does not spring back up again.

Roots will grow in the soil and when they do you can cut the new plant away from the main plant and replant it somewhere else so it’s not too close to its parent plant.