Firstly to clear up any confusion about the common name of Red Flowering Currant - Ribes sanguinem - there is also the fruiting bush – Redcurrant. Same family – Ribes – but it is a very different plant, 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.
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 drooping racemes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 cat’s urine!
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.