Sweeter than their more famous family members of red currants, white currants are rarely found in local nurseries. For this reason, you’re going to want to grow your own to fully experience their exquisite berries. The berries are white to cream in color and some will appear to be nearly yellow when they’re fully ripened. They prefer a cool climate and will do very well in the Northern regions of the United States.
How To Plant Your White Currants
Choose a site that is in full sun. You can also grow your white currants against a shady wall that faces north, however, this will result in a lower quality flavor. Choose a site that is sheltered and blocked from any wind. Make sure that there aren’t any frost pockets either.
Choose plants that are hardy and well trained. They should be about two to three-year-old bare roots. These are best planted from November to March. Plant them in well-drained soil that is slightly neutral at about pH 6.7. Spread plants out at about 5 feet apart to ensure that there is plenty of room for them to grow.
You can also use container plants, however, keep in mind that they will establish best if they are planted during the autumn or winter months.
If you’re short on space, you can choose a single specimen or more and grow it in an open-centered goblet style bush as long as you leave 8 to 10 branches that are well spaced out above the short stump.
During dry weather be sure to water currants well. Long-established plants will rarely require watering. Potted bushes should have compost and not be allowed to dry out.
Carefully hoe or weed between plants in order to keep weeds at bay.
If the white currants are potted ensure that the pots aren’t over watered. Place containers on a pedestal or feet to ensure that the excess water can drain via drainage holes in the bottoms of containers.
Potted white currants will require liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks during late winter to early spring.
In the spring make sure to remove the top few inches of compost and gently break up the top of the soil while mixing in some fresh compost.
This is an ideal time to add in some fertilizer granules.
Potted plants should be reported about every three years. This can be done by putting them into a larger pot, or by removing from the current pot and putting in new soil and removing one-third of the roots as well as the compost.
Spread granular fertilizer around the plan after re-potting. Fertilizer should be at about 2 ounces per square yard or 2 inches of soil. Keep soil light.
How To Properly Prune Your White Currants
It’s important to understand that the fruit of the white currant is grown on the old wood. That means that you’ll have to be mindful of where you’re pruning. You don’t want to prune away the old wood or you’ll be losing your currants.
Always prune away the diseased or “elderly” wood during the winter months. Keep in mind you want the oldest of the old in the wood not last years. Prune new growth back in the early summer to help keep the plants shaped and compact.
In the early spring months remove leaders to the outward facing buds unless the branches begin to bend in which case you’ll want to cut the upward facing buds on the plant. Keep the established cordons pruned back as well. Cut the newer growth on the vertical stem by one-quarter of the previous year’s growth. Cut to within one bud of the newer growth during the summer months.
Sawfly: These pale green larvae look much like a caterpillar. They rapidly devour the plant and can often reduce a bush to a bare stem. They typically attack in the mid to late spring months. There may be up to three generations per year so keep an eye out for them.
The solution for sawfly: If they do attack, you’ll see the larvae. Remove these by hand and dispose of them. Spray the plant with a pesticide that contains pyrethrum or thiacloprid when you see the larvae.
Birds: Pigeons especially love white currants, however, don’t be surprised if other species of birds enjoy them as well. Birds will eat the seeds, the seedlings as well as the leaves, buds and anything else that they can get to.
The solution for birds: If birds become an issue, you’ll want to cover your plants with a fleece or some kind of netting. Consider adding a scarecrow and some other means in which you can frighten the birds off. A spinner or reflective surface will often help to frighten them away.
When To Harvest White Currants
When the fruit is firm and juicy it’s ready to be harvested. This is usually in the mid to late summer months of late June and early July.
Avoid picking individually as they are easily crushed. Instead, cut entire trusses and use them right away or store them in the refrigerator for a day or so. You can also freeze the trusses for using later.
White currants are far sweeter than their relatives the red currant. There are three main varieties of white currants.
You’ll find these grown and sold in many gardening centers. The best way to get them is to grow your own. You can select from the following varieties:
Blanka: These are very tasty and very high yielding.
White Grape or AGM: These are delicious and have a very strong upright growing plant.
‘Versailles Blanche’ (syn ‘White Versailles’): These are large and very sweet tasting. They boast a yellow fruit.