Clove bush, also known as clove currant (Ribes odoratum), is native to North America and thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. It is a deciduous shrub that bears fragrant yellow flowers in spring and edible black berries in the middle of summer, with reddish-purple leaves in the fall. The clove bush is related to the black and red currant and is a snap to care for.
Sunlight, Moisture and Fertilizer
Clove bush needs full sun to produce an abundance of berries, but the shrub will grow in partial shade as well. It is also quite drought-tolerant but requires consistently moist soil during the blooming period if you are growing the shrub for its fruit. Bear in mind that hot sun and wind may dry the soil quicker than usual so you may need to water more often during those periods. The clove bush doesn’t need fertilizer.
Clove bush adapts to a wide variety of soils but tends to produce best when it is grown in soil that is rich in organic materials. To get a clove bush off to a healthy start, amend the soil with compost before planting. As it grows, provide it with a layer of mulch over the root zone. The mulch breaks down gradually, adding additional nutrients to the soil. The clove bush also grows in a broad soil pH range, from 5.5 to 8.0.
The clove bush has a tendency to spread and become leggy. You can leave it in its natural growth state or prune if a more controlled appearance is desired. Remove suckers -- growth from the soil around the main cane -- to the ground. Pruning the branches helps promote fruit production, say specialists with the National Home Gardening Club. If it becomes overgrown and isn’t producing as well as it once did, cut it back to within 6 inches of the soil in the fall.
Clove bush can be propagated with seeds or by using cuttings. Seeds require a three-month cold stratification period, says horticulturist Michael Dirr in his book "The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation." Accomplish this by wrapping the clove bush seeds in moist peat moss and then placing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Cuttings should be taken in late December, and they’ll produce roots within a month.
Clove bush attracts butterflies, so caterpillars could be a problem. If you must remove them, do so by hand. Currant aphids (Cryptomyzus ribis) suck the sap from the clove bush and can be managed with insecticidal soap sprays. San Jose scale (Aspidiotus perniciosus) is an insect that looks like a dark-colored bump on the twigs and branches of the plant. Not only do these pests suck the juices from woody parts of the clove bush, they also inject a toxin and can devastate fruit production. Use a horticultural oil spray to manage infestations. Apply the spray in February, as the buds swell.
When the weather is damp and humid, clove bush becomes susceptible to powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca mors-uvae). When the pathogen attacks the fruit it is evidenced by gray splotches, making the fruit appear rotten, and leaves take on a powdery appearance. Use horticultural oil during the dormant season to prevent powdery mildew. Anthracnose, a leaf spot disease, is also common during periods of wet weather. Caused by Drepanopeziza ribis, a fungal pathogen, anthracnose causes defoliation and berry drop. Remove garden debris from the soil around the clove bush in winter and treat it with a fungicide labeled for use on plants in the Ribes genus.
- National Home Gardening Club: Clove Currant
- North Dakota State University: Golden or Clove Currant
- Colorado State University Extension: Aphids on Shade Trees and Ornamentals
- University of California Integrated Pest Management Program: San Jose Scale
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Powdery Mildew
- Purdue University Extension: Powdery Mildew
- Penn State University: Gooseberries and Currants
- The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation; Michael A. Dirr, et al.; 2006
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