A Guide to Growing Red and White Currants

Discover how these colorful fruit bushes can make a cheerful and sweet addition to any garden. 

Red Currants

Red Currants

There are a number of new varieties of red currant that grow well in containers. The 'Stanza' variety is a good choice for frost-prone areas.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

With a slightly tart taste, these colorful berries are the basis of many sauces and desserts. White currants are sweeter than red currants but don’t have such an attractive, jewel-like appearance. Both are very easy to grow and can be trained or grown in pots, depending on how much space you have available.

How to Grow

Red and white currants prefer fertile, well-drained, acid soil with a pH of 6.5–7.0. They need a warm, sunny location but will tolerate some shade. Bare root shrubs should be planted in the winter; container-grown shrubs may be planted at any time if well watered. The shrubs are usually grown as bushes on a short stem or "leg" 6 inches tall. Alternatively, they can be trained as fans, cordons, standards or stepovers. Like most soft fruits, they require protection from birds as the fruit starts to develop. Be sure to net all currants before they ripen to prevent birds from stripping the plants bare. 

Feed plants in the spring with a granular fertilizer or well-rotted organic matter. Plant shrubs in containers into a soil-based compost, such as John Innes No. 3. Pick fruit as "strings" when all the berries have turned red and look slightly opaque. Replace netting after each harvest.

Varieties of red currants to try include: ‘Jonkheer van Tets’, ‘Junifer’, ‘Laxton’s No.1’, ‘Red Lake’ and ‘Rovada’. When choosing white currants, consider ‘Blanka’, ’Versailles Blanche’ and ‘White Grape’ varieties.

Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases

Gooseberry sawfly larvae will eat the leaves of plants and can defoliate red currant or gooseberry bushes. Pick off the caterpillars or spray with insecticide. 

Leaf spot disease can also be a problem for currant plants, causing brown spots to appear on leaves. Remove and destroy any that are infected. Be sure to also prevent currant blister aphid, which causes leaves to crinkle at the tips and leave red, blister-like blemishes. It can, however, be tolerated as little damage is done. 

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