How to Grow a Red Currant Bush

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Red currants are an easy-to-grow berry.
Red currants are an easy-to-grow berry. (Image: red currant image by Pali A from Fotolia.com)

Red currant bushes are easy-care, hardy shrubs that produce fruit suitable for pies, jams and other preserves, and wine. They may be grown singly, although it will take three or four bushes to produce enough berries for a family of four. Currants grow quickly and can reach a height of 6 feet, producing up to 12 lb. of fruit. Nonetheless, many gardeners prune them heavily to keep them at a more manageable size.

Things You'll Need

  • Red currant bush
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Water
  • Pruning shears

Select a location. Red currants prefer full sun (at least six hours) each day and do best in well-draining soil that has neutral pH. If you’re unsure of the pH level of your soil, purchase a soil testing kit from a garden center and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Avoid locations that are quite hot.

Purchase bushes from a local nursery in the spring. Red currants need to be at least 6 feet apart, so don’t buy more than you have room for.

Unwrap the roots of the bushes and place them in a bucket of water, if you purchased bare root plants. Allow them to sit in a cool location for about 24 hours.

Dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the bush’s roots, plus a few inches.

Place some compost in the bottom of the hole.

Place the bush in the hole, spreading the roots out.

Fill the hole back up with soil, gently patting down the earth with your feet.

Water well.

If the soil sinks down, add some more around the plant and pat down with your feet.

Cut back the shoots of the bush to about half their length. If any branches produce flowers the first year, cut them back. In addition, if suckers (young branches at the base of the plant) appear, cut them off.

The bushes should produce fruit next season. Protect the berries from the birds by placing netting (available at gardening centers) or a bush cage over them, year round.

Tips & Warnings

  • After the bushes produce berries, prune them, removing dead wood and branches that overlap. Ideally, prune red currants in a goblet shape that allows for better air flow between the branches.
  • Although currants are disease resistant, avoid overwatering red currants, or they may become prone to disease.
  • To keep bushes from competing for water and nutrients with weeds--and to reduce the need for watering--mulch around currant bushes with straw, bark, or other organic mulch.
  • Red currants can be picked in bunches, like grapes, once the fruit is fully red but firm.

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