Ribes (Flowering Currant)

Ribes in Flower

A species of evergreen/deciduous flowering and fruiting shrubs. Ornamental forms are some of the earliest flowering spring shrubs and very easy to grow.

Family: Grossulariaceae (gooseberry)
Botanical Name: Ribes (rie-beez)
Common Names: flowering currant, red-flowered currant

Foliage: simple, palmately lobed, deciduous or evergreen leaves, typically three-lobed. Most forms are deciduous in the UK.

Flowers: small tubular or bell-shaped racemes of flowers. In shades of pink or white.

Flowering Period: spring and summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Can be grown in a north, south, east or west-facing aspect, in either a sheltered or exposed location, depending on variety.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Medium sized shrub.

Origin: China and North America.

Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.

Planting and Growing Ribes

Grow in an open sunny position, in any good well drained garden soil. Tolerant of a little light shade for part of the day. Does well in poor soils and town and city gardens.

Plant bare root saplings in the autumn. Container-grown plants can be planted out at any time. Very easy to propagate from cuttings, which makes it a cost effective choice for a deciduous flowering hedge or barrier.

Although attractive during its flowering season, it provides very little interest for the rest of the year, so it is best sited at the back of a border, to be covered up by later-flowering plants. The musty smelling leaves can also be a little offensive - another reason to plant it further back.

Taking Care of Ribes

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Pruning Ribes

Needs to be pruned annually to encourage strong, healthy shoots and improve flowering. Therefore, cut back some of the old wood each year to stimulate fresh growth and remove any dead or diseased stems.

Pests and Diseases

Young growth is susceptible to attack by aphids.

The leaves can be affected by leaf spot and powdery mildews.

Propagating Ribes

Seed can be sown outdoors in late spring, although cultivars will not come true to type.

Easily propagated by hardwood cuttings in winter or by semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.

Popular Varieties of Ribes Grown in the UK

There are quite a number of forms available, in differing shades of pink, yellow and white.

Ribes alpinum has insignificant yellow-green flowers in spring, followed by round red berries. Height to 6ft (1.8m), spread to 4ft (1.2m). Very Hardy. Makes a good hedge in poor soil and shade.

Ribes americanum has racemes of yellow flowers. Excellent autumn leaf colour. Height to 6ft (1.8m).

Ribes laurifolium (laurel-leaved currant) is an attractive dwarf evergreen that does well in a rock garden. It has oval, leathery leaves and lovely yellow-green flowers in late winter. Height to 3ft (1m), spread to 4.5ft (1.5m).

Ribes odoratum (buffalo currant or clove currant) has rich yellow, clove scented flowers. Height and spread to 8ft (2.5).

Ribes sanguineum is the most common species. It has tassels of pink pungent flowers in spring. Height to 7ft (2.1m).

Ribes sanguineum 'Pulborough Scarlet' is an excellent cultivar with short hanging trails of bright rose-coloured flowers. Height and spread to 8ft (2.4m).

Ribes speciosum (fuchsia-flowered currant) is a deciduous wall shrub with small, drooping, tubular red flowers, bearing long red stamens, in spring. Height to 6ft (1.8). Slightly tender so will need wall protection in colder areas.

Ribes x gordonianum (Gordon's Currant) has coppery red tassels on the outside and yellow inside in May.