Fruit GrowingGrowing Tutorials

How to Grow Blackcurrants & Redcurrants

How to grow currants

Homegrown red currants

Currants are an excellent fruit for the home gardener as they a relatively trouble free and produce large crops of highly nutritious fruit. Currants are divided into black, red and white types with many varieties to choose from. In general blackcurrants tend to be cooked as they are quite tart raw but redcurrants and white currants are more likely to be used fresh.

Growing currantsInterestingly although the 3 types look very similar their maintenance is a little different with blackcurrants requiring very basic pruning while red and white currants are treated more like gooseberries with a more intensive pruning regime.

The following article is intended to give you the basics including planting and maintenance of currants and should enable you to begin growing this easy and rewarding fruit. If you need any more help with your growing please don’t hesitate in getting in touch with the Quickcrop team, we’re always happy to help.

How to grow blackcurrants

blackcurrant bush in allotmentWhere to plant blackcurrants
Blackcurrants are able to tolerate poor drainage better than other soft fruits but ideally they will prefer a well drained soil with plenty of organic matter added and shelter from strong winds.

Avoid frost pockets where possible, if your garden is low lying and prone to frost either choose frost resistant varieties (All the modern ‘Ben’ varieties) or cover with frost protection fleece in April to protect the flowers. No flowers means no fruit.

dig in manure to improve soilPlanting blackcurrants
Preparing your site for any fruit bush is important as unlike vegetables once they are planted they stay in the same spot meaning you only get one chance to attend to the soil.

It is recommend to prepare your soil about 4 weeks before planting by digging over a 2ft square area, removing any perennial weeds and adding a generous quantity (2 buckets) of well rotted manure. Removing deep rooted weeds is important because if they come up around the stems they will be impossible to remove, I have this issue with some of my raspberries and it drives me nuts!

In this case we are looking at planting bare root varieties; for potted plants the process is pretty much the same, just tease out the roots a little before planting. Bare root currants are planted in October-November (Feb-March also) but potted plants can be put in at any time of year. Spacing between bushes is 5ft (150cm) between both rows and plants.

2ft hole for fruit bushDig a hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball, usually about 1.5 ft in diameter and spread the roots out in the hole. The stem should be planted about 2.5 inches (6cm) deeper than it was originally so separate stems emerge from the soil rather than a single trunk. Deep planting with help numerous new shoots to develop from the base which will eventually become new fruit bearing branches.

Mix some more well rotted manure in with the soil before back filling a little at a time treading gently as you go to firm the ground. Finally water the planting hole well, soaking will also help settle the soil around the plant roots.

Hard pruning blackcurrantsPruning blackcurrants
Initial Pruning –
Immediately after planting prune all shoots to a bud approx 2 inches (5cm) above the soil surface. This hard pruning is the secondary stage of the deep planting process and has the same effect of increasing the number of fruiting stems.

Hard pruning will delay fruiting until the following year as fruit is borne on stems grown the previous year, it will delay your jam but you’ll have a better bush in the long run.

Yearly Pruning – Recommended pruning season is between November and March, personally I like to delay until March as any wounds will heal quickly when the bush comes out of dormancy in April. I’m not a big fan of Winter pruning of any fruit as the raw cut is left exposed to the elements with the plant unable heal itself.

Prune old wood from blackcurrantsThe thing to remember is the best fruit is produced on young wood so any old wood should be removed on a yearly basis to keep your bush at its most productive. Old wood is darker in colour than pale young wood with thicker stems so is relatively easy to spot. Cut out any old wood as close as you can to the base of the plant using a horizontal cut to stop rainwater collecting on the wound.

Make all cuts at outward facing buds with will cause new growth to grow outwards instead of in. The reason for this is that the new growth comes from the bud nearest your cut and will grow in the direction that bud is facing.

Remove any weak or diseased looking wood and any low or horizontal branches growing away from the plant to make the bush easier to harvest and to avoid low fruit being spoiled by contact with the ground.

Seasonal Care
Keep the soil around the base of the plant relatively weed free, this is better done by mulching and hand weeding rather than hoeing as roots are shallow and easily damaged. Mulching is also the ideal way to feed your blackcurrants with a thick layer of well rotted manure and/or garden compost providing all the nutrients required.

red currant bushHow to grow red and white currants
The growing conditions for red and white currants are the same as blackcurrants above with a 2ft square area of soil to be prepared with well rotted manure.

Spacing is the same at 5ft between plants for bushes but red and white currants can also be grown as single, double or triple cordon plants with spacings of 1.5, 3 and 4 foot respectively. In this case we are focusing on bush growing as it is the easiest, has the highest yield and is the most common method.

Red and white currants are less tolerant of waterlogging and shade so should be planted in well drained soil in full sun. Protection from frost is also required in April with fleece or sacking draped over the plants for protection.

Planting red and white currants
Unlike blackcurrants which are planted 2 inches lower than they were originally, red and white currants are put in at the same level. You should be able to see a transition from darker to lighter wood on the main stem which marks the old soil level.

Pruned red currant bush shapeThe reason for the different methods is with a blackcurrant we want more shoots coming from the base of the bush while with a red and white currant we want a single stem with an open bush shape on the top.

Pruning red and white currants
Initial Pruning –
Remove any suckers from the base of the plant. A sucker is a new stem growing up from the base of the main stem or root ball. Cut back the rest of the branches to approximately half of their length, cut at an upward facing bud to encourage growth upwards rather than outwards.

Yearly Pruning – The ideal bush shape is an open ‘goblet’ with a single main stem and an open space inside the bush to allow light in and to aid air circulation. The open bush with sparse foliage at the base also helps control sawfly caterpillars as they don’t like open positions. Sawfly can decimate a healthy bush incredibly quickly so worth keeping an eye out for; I had them on my currants a couple of years ago but I find you can quite easily keep populations down by picking off the caterpillars when you see them, an open bush makes this much easier.

Red currant bush covered in nettingTo achieve the goblet shape prune out any stems growing up inside the bush and any lateral branches growing in towards the centre. Also remove any dead or dying wood as it is unproductive and can be a starting point for disease. Currants also produce the best quality fruit on the previous years wood so any branches 3 or more years old will also need to be removed.

Next remove any low or ‘hanging branches’ growing outward from around the base for the plant as they will impede access at harvest time and result in spoiled lower fruit.

Seasonal Care
Seasonal care is the same as that for blackcurrants.

  1. Nina Rasmussen

    My red currants had several mature stems coming out of ground and I read they would be better with one 7 or 8″ trunk so I cut them all down but one stem. Yours seem to have several branches coming off at ground level. Now I don’t know what to do because they really don’t have that many branches and I can’t see how I can prune them so I will have new branches coming on each year. I would like to know how to correct the problem I have created, or if it is even possible.

    1. admin

      Hi Nina. Thank you for your message and apologies for the late reply. Firstly, don’t panic, the currants will be fine. New stem will come up around the base of the plant which can be pruned as normal. You will not have a large harvest this year but you should do very well the following year when fruit will be produced on the wood grown this year. I would not be too concerned about having a single stem, just remove any 3 year or older wood and remove any branches congesting the centre of the bush. Every year cut any new growth back by half its length to keep the bush tidy and productive. I hope this helps. Andrew

  2. evelyn buckle

    On my blackcurrents , coming from the fruiting wood is a lush growth of
    shoots. Is it OK to to remove these shoots or do I leave it alone? Is this new growth taking energy which would otherwise go into fruit production?


  3. Barbara Haywood

    I have had my Black and Red Currants in for about 4 years now. I have never had flowers. Why would this be the case. The bushes are healthy.

    1. admin

      Hi Barbara

      Thank you for your question. That is odd and a question that requires more questions to try to figure it out. Where are your bushes located in the garden? Are you in an area prone to heavy late frosts?


    1. admin

      Hi Liz

      Yes, you can plant red and black currants in the same area. The two plants are pruned differently but have the same requirements as regards site and soil.
      I hope this helps


    1. Andrew

      Hi Robert. Red currants have larger pips than blackcurrants. The pips are still pretty small though and won’t do you any harm!
      I hope this helps.

  4. Heather

    I have been given a mature, bare rooted red currant bush with 5 main branches, height above ground would be around 45cm. Is it worth planting or would I be better buying a new one?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Heather
      Yes, definitely worth planting. Currants are hardy plants and will recover very well. I have 3 very productive currant plants which came out of my Mothers garden at a similar age and size and they are doing great.

  5. Tabitha

    Hello Andrew

    I’ve run out of space for my final blackcurrant bush (bare-root one year-old), and I’ve just recently planted it against a fence to grow as a cordon. However, I’ve read that this type of bush doesn’t do very well as a cordon – is that correct? If this is not correct, then how do I train it as a cordon? Thank you!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Tabitha

      Thank you for your question. You are correct, blackcurrants are not suitable to train as a cordons (red and white currants are but black have a different growth habit). I don’t know how much room you have for it to grow out from the fence but you may be able to leave the bush where it is. You can keep your currant tidy with yearly pruning and still have a very productive bush.

      I hope this helps


  6. Jane

    I have a red currant which was planted about 3 years ago and is now very lush with much new growth this year. Fruit has been sparse. I have never pruned it. Can I prune now as it has finished fruiting and if so how?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Jane

      I wait until the plant is dormant before pruning, you might as well let the leaves do their work for this year and grow the root system. I am surprised you haven’t had much fruit if the plant is 3 years old and growing well. Are you sure fruit isn’t being eaten by birds?

  7. Cher flaherty

    I planted some blackcurrent cuttings and have many plants producing well. One 3 year plant has red berries on it this year. I believe it’s the first year fruiting. They are sweeter and more delicate. How does this happen? Do the black currents mutate?

  8. Bob

    I have two current bushes which fruit profusion but the berries are neither red or white. They are predominantly white with a slight pink tinge. Can anyone suggest what they are.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Bob
      There are varieties of pink currant e.g. ‘Champagne’, you must have one of these. Count yourself lucky, they are beautiful looking and tasting fruit!
      I hope this helps

  9. Tony Smith


    I have a redcurrant and a whitecurrant bush and this year (and to a lesser extent last year) the fruit on the strings hasn’t developed all the way down and a lot of the strings are dead towards the end with no fruit. Any idea what might be causing this die back?


    1. Andrew

      Hi Tony
      Given the weather this Summer it is likely the bushes dropped some fruit due to lack of moisture in the soil. Are you currants growing in the ground or in a pot?

  10. Melanie

    I have a pair of black and white currant bushes that I’ve had for quite a while (6-7 years at least), but I’ve never pruned them. How much should I remove off the plants? Should I tackle them as soon as they’re dormant and leaf-less, or wait until March/April as you suggest above? Thanks!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Melanie
      I would wait until March and then prune out a third of the bush removing the oldest looking branches. Avery year from now on remove any wood that is 4 years old or older. This will ensure your bush is kept at optimum production as the best fruit is always produced on 2-3 year old wood.
      I hope this helps.

  11. Cass

    Good evening Andrew, I planted one red c. one white c. and two black c. bushes two years ago, they have all done extremely well but out grown the six by six fruit cage I erected, Is it possible to turn the b. and w. currant into double or single cordons at this stage and if so how would you suggest I go about pruning them back.
    Kind regards, Cass

    1. Andrew

      Hi Cass
      Yes, you can train you currants into cordons over a period of 2 or 3 years. Bear in mind that the best fruit comes from 2-3 year old wood, anything older will give progressively lower yields depending on age. I would prune back half of the wood right down to the ground and train any new growth to the cordons you have built next year. The cordon wood will fruit the following year with the half you didn’t prune providing fruit next year. Going forward you will need to keep pruning out and replacing old wood, you can’t just train the bush as a cordon and leave it be or yields will be reduced as the canes age.
      I hope this helps.

  12. Alan Scurrell

    Hi, is it possible to successfully transplant a well established redcurrant bush of approx 8 years of age. If so when is the best time. It has always produced a good yield so no problems previously. Many thanks, Alan

    1. Andrew

      Pruning normally happens in spring or autumn but it may help to trim some branches in summer, allowing sun and airflow to help the fruit ripen.

  13. Graham

    I have a very old blackcurrant bush on my allotment. The bush is well established and is about 3 m wide by 2 m deep, and 1.5 m high.
    The plot is not ideally sited and slopes downhill towards the north, so it is rather shaded. The Blackcurrant bush is on the high, south end of the plot. The very thick (2-inch diameter) black primary branches grow from ground level, almost horizontal downhill before branching profusely into new growth. It is a complete tangle, and trying to establish any sort of regular ‘goblet’ shape seems nigh on impossible. Am I better off simply cutting all the old wood down to near ground level, and see what happens?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Graham, it would be a good idea to cut back a lot of the old wood, this will stimulate new growth which will bear fruit in two years. Cut out the tangled branches and try and create some space at the heart of the bush. Blackcurrants will appreciate a good prune from time to time.

  14. Trina

    Hi Andrew I have a three year old red current bush growing very well goblet shape in a large terra cotta pot, it’s never flowered or produced fruit yet is very healthy and no disease or caterpillars on it ? Do they not like pots ? Should I plant in the ground ? The pot sits in my patio in full sun and I water it well and feed it ?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Trina
      Sorry for the late reply. Yes, currant bushes will do much better in the ground but I am surprised that it has not flowered at all. Are you pruning it back every year, i.e. cutting the tops for the branches off? Is the pot in a spot which is affected by frost? You may also be overfeeding it as this will cause lots of nice green growth a the expense of flowers and therefore fruit.
      I hope this helps

  15. JOYCE Munroe

    I have a mature red currant bush that has to be moved, do they have a deep root system and what is the best way to move it? This will have to be done before September, any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Joyce
      I have moved mature red currants myself without any problems, I had no loss of fruit despite having to sever some of the roots. As with moving any large shrubby plant try to dig out as big a root ball as possible which as much soil going with it as you can manage. Prepare the new hole to the size of the rootball and give the inside of the hole a sprinkle with blood fish and bone to encourage new root growth. Your chances of a successful move are very good, currants are hardy plants and will take a bit of punishment.
      I hope this helps.

  16. Teresa Forrest

    Good morning Andrew
    I have a collection of old currents which appear to be cordons. They are at least 15-20 years old and about 8 ft tall. We have left any fruits for the birds. But I would like to feed them and prune in March. Any advice on pruning? Or should I just replace them? They were originally planted by a gardener and are closely planted in rows in an old fruit cage.
    Thanks Teresa
    Ps I live on the west coast of Scotland an hour north of Glasgow over looking a sea loch.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Teresa. Sorry for the late reply here, I am afraid I wasn’t keeping an eye on comments. As a rule it is best to remove any wood that is over 4 years old on a currant bush as the older the wood is, the less productive it will become. With cordon grown currants the main stem is retained (there are usually 3 main stems per plant) while the lateral branches are removed. Without having seen the condition of the cordons I would advise removing about half of the lateral branches and and that are growing outwards from the main stem, away from the cordon wires. If you would like to send a photo to andrew@quickcrop.ie I may be able to help more. If it was me, I would try to resurrect the cordons rather than replace, it sounds like more fun!

  17. Ros Usher

    I’m replacing some very old black currant, red currant and gooseberry bushes with new.
    Is it ok to plant in the same area? I’ll add plenty of well rotted manure to the soil and dig out perennial weeds.
    The old bushes were largely dead and covered in lichen.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Ros. How old are the bushes? You may be able to restore them with some pruning. It is generally advised not to plant bushes in the same place but if the old bushes are not diseased you should be fine. As you say, dig in plenty of well rotted manure. I would however ask the question, is the location the best for them? If the previous bushes died and became covered with lichen it may not have been a good spot in the first place. I hope this helps. Andrew

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