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Red Flowering Currant - Ribes Sanguineum

Firstly to clear up any confusion about the common name of Red Flowering Currant - Ribes sanguineum - there is also the fruiting bush Redcurrant. Same family Ribes but it is a very differentplant, though of course with similarities.

For this section we talk about the flowering  shrub the Red Flowering Currant, which as the name suggests is a mass of red, pink or white flowers, depending upon choice of variety. There are a few other shrubs known as Flowering Currants; all listed at the bottom.

Sanguineum depending upon definition Sanguine can be cheerful, optimistic, reddish or pink. All definitions fit as far as Red Flowering Currant is concerned, but of course to add a little conduction as is often the case with gardening nomenclature there are also white varieties of this predominantly red flowered shrub.

The flowering currants often have a few sprays of currant-like fruit clusters, but are not generally found to be too tasty. If it is fruit you want for making the jellies and jams, then ensure that you actually get the fruiting not flowering types.

What Are Red Flowering Currants?

Flower cluster of Red Flowering Currant

Red Flowering Currants are large deciduous shrubs with flowers in the spring which seem to envelop the whole plant. The flower clusters droop and consist of many small individual tubular bell flowers within the Ribes sanguineum is one of the first of the red flowering plants to be noticed in the spring - mainly because of the masses of red flowers from top to bottom of the shrub. (Other early red flowering shrubs are a little more subtle, with individual blooms to be found. Not so the Red Flowering Currant for it is unashamedly brash!)

 It is generally a care-free plant growing in all manner of garden soils, though preferably well drained.These shrubs are totally winter hardy, though do tend to suffer a little temporary leaf scorch in hot summers. The deciduous foliage turns rusty yellow before leaf-fall, but not spectacularly so.

Height and Spread of Flowering Currants are dependent upon position and whatever pruning regime. Left un-pruned, it grows to height and spread of 2m+. It is a good filling or screening shrub and does not normally sucker or otherwise spread.

Where to plant and use Red Flowering Currants?

The short answer is simply, wherever you have space for it in full, partial sun, or in a semi woodland situation where it will brighten up dappled shade areas in spring just after the Forsythias. So it is a good continuation shrub. Once it has finished flowering, it has little to offer other than the 3-4 lobed medium sized leaves.

Ribes sanguineum can be used at the rear of shrub borders, as specimen plants, in mixed borders and also as attractive hedges medium or large. It is not generally suited to growing in containers.

When Does Flowering Currant flower?

Flowering currants start budding in late march and then into full bloom in April through May. Our own record in the April Flowertime section has it as being in flower for 12th April. After the main flowering periods the flowers fade and generally look a little untidy for a week or so soon covered up by the growing light green foliage.

How to care for Red Flowering Currants.

White flowering currant

This shrub is relatively trouble-free and often left to its own devices to get through life. But a little care and attention will be rewarded with more flowers, tidier growth and plentiful green foliage throughout summer through to fall.

If subjected to the recommended pruning regime, then feeding by way of bonemeal or general organic mulch is a good idea. Otherwise in normal garden soil there is rarely a need for additional feed.

Watering in the hottest, driest periods is beneficial, but this should mean a good drench rather than a light sprinkle. I have rarely had to water this palnt on the various soils in which I have grown it.

Pests and Diseases of Flowering Currants.

Can be affected by honey fungus in those areas where this is prevalent.

Greenfly aphids enjoy a feast on the newer foliage.

Powdery mildew on foliage is sometimes a problem, together with relatively harmless though unsightly leaf spots.

The scent of the shrub particularly when in flower does not always appeal often confused as being cats urine!

Propagation of Ribes

Very simple with hardwood cutting simply inserted into the ground in a sheltered place, but will also root quite quickly from softwood and semi-ripe cuttings.

Good varieties of Flowering Currants

  • Red Ribes sanguineum Pulborough Scarlet AGM; R. s. King Edward V11 dark red flowers and upright growing.
  • White Ribes sanguineum Tydemans White
  • Gold Foliage - Ribes sanguineum Brocklebankii has lime green, turning gold, foliage with light pink flower cluster. Slower growing than any of the above.

Pruning Ribes - Flowering Currant - How and when to prune.

Pruning Ribes

The Ribes flower early in the Spring - just after Forsythia.

Whilst the Ribes do not actually need pruning to flower well, if the shrub has been planted in the wrong place and outgrown its position, then you will need to prune the Ribes to a/ get it back into proportion, and b/ regular pruning to ensure that it does not again outgrow its position.

How and When to Prune Flowering Currants - Ribes

Ribes Pulborough Scarlet - one of the finest of all Flowering Currants. Pruning is at a specific time for this and other Ribes. Details of how to prune are set out below.

With a large overgrown Ribes shrub, the best course of action may well be to prune it hard - down to ground level or near! That course of action can be carried out at virtually any time of year, but if you prune it too late, then it will not flower the following spring, so, the earlier the better - March or April at latest.

This will give it a full growing season when it can again grow into space - but in a more controlled manner.

Ribes - Flowering Currants, flower early in spring on flower buds that are grown in the previous growing season. It needs a full season to grow these flower stems and buds ready for the following spring. If the Ribes 'suffer' a late pruning, then the flower buds for the next year will be lost.

Pruning Ribes is necessary immediately after they have finished flowering. The pruning can either be a general trim back to shape - but bear in mind that growth will be quite rapid after pruning, so a light prune might not be enough. Prune right back into the bush.

A two year old Ribes being given the hard pruning treatment.
Pruning Ribes complete - just stand back and watch it grow. Prune it like this every year.

The other way in which to grow a spectacular Ribes shrub, is to cut the Ribes back very hard each year - right after flowering! Cut out all the previous years flowered branches to a point to suit - 30cms from the ground is great!

Picture on the left shows one year old growth about to be tackled - Right after flowers have faded. Right side image shows the finished job. Off at 60cms from ground! 24th April 2008

If you prune back in this manner every year, you will firstly contain the shrub to a reasonable size, but - more important - the plant will grow long upright cane type branches during the year, which will then be clothed top to bottom in large flower clusters the following spring - quite spectacular!

After just two weeks, the pruning ribes operation brings results - with around 15cm of new growth.

Less than 2 weeks later (7th May 2008, we have new growth which is already 6in (15cm) long, and will carry on growing through the summer to make long flowering, upright canes some 1.5m (5ft) long. These will flower the following spring. This type of pruning gives spectacular results to this otherwise slightly unkempt habit of this group of shrubs.

Two weeks further - 24th May - sees the new growths at 12in (30cm). And there is a further 5 months growth yet before autumn dormancy!



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