Whitecurrants are easy to grow in sun or light shade and can be trained into various space-saving and attractive shapes, and even grown in containers. They produce pale berries in mid-summer, with a refreshing, tart flavour – great for jellies and jams, or in desserts mixed with other soft fruit.
Their ability to crop in light shade is a big bonus, meaning you can make productive use of a north-facing wall. When space is tight, whitecurrants can be trained as single or multi-stemmed cordons flat against a wall or fence. Or grow them as free-standing bushes, 1–1.5m (3¼–5ft) tall and wide, for a heavier crop. They can also be grown as standards – with a bushy head on a tall stem – which allows room for smaller plants around the base.
The small pearl-like currants ripen in long trusses from mid-summer onwards and have a refreshing tart flavour that is sweeter when grown in a sunny spot. They are usually cooked in mixed-fruit puddings, made into jelly or used as an attractive garnish for summer desserts.
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Whitecurrants are extremely versatile, growing in sun or light shade, so they can cope in most growing sites. They are ideal for gardens of any size too, as they can be grown as open-centred bushes or as space-saving trained forms flat against a wall or fence.
There are several varieties to choose from, including two – ‘Blanka’ and ‘White Grape’ – with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in RHS trials and are recommended by RHS experts.
Whitecurrants look particularly attractive when grown alongside redcurrants, with their contrasting fruit colour. Pinkcurrants are also occasionally available, to add to the colour range. All three are grown in the same way, which makes looking after them very straightforward.
What and where to buy
Whitecurrants are sold in two forms: bare-root (as the name suggests, with the roots bare of any soil) or in containers. Bare-root plants are generally only available from fruit nurseries, usually by mail order, and only during the dormant season, from November to March.
Containerised plants are more widely available for most of the year, from garden centres and online retailers, but are more expensive than bare-root plants.
When buying plants to grow as a bushes, select two- to three-year-old plants with a well-balanced head of three to five main branches and a clear stem of 10–15cm (4–6in).
For cordon training buy a one-year-old cuttings or partly-trained plants from a specialist fruit suppliers. It is also possible to convert a young one or two-year-old bush trained plant. Select one with a strong upright growing shoot. Cordons can be trained either single or multi-stemmed and can be planted closer together than bushes, allowing you to grow several varieties in a small space, or a mix of white- and redcurrants, for added decorative appeal
Standards are grafted or budded plants with clear ‘trunk’ of 1–1.2m (3½–4ft) high and bushy ‘head’. They are generally only available from specialist suppliers.
You may occasionally find pinkcurrants for sale – just like whitecurrants, these are a form of redcurrant, but with paler, blushing fruits, and are grown in exactly the same way.
Always buy certified stock to avoid virus problems.
They crop best in full sun, but will also grow in light shade. They are a useful fruit to grow against a north-facing wall, although the currants will ripen later than in sun and be less sweet
They like a sheltered site, out of strong winds, but avoid planting in frost pockets as late frosts can damage the flowers and reduce the crop. See our guide to positioning fruit bushes
Trained forms such as cordons and fans need support, so are best planted against a fence or wall fitted with horizontal wires spaced at 40–60cm (16–24in) intervals from the ground, with tall vertical canes fixed to the wires to support the main stems. Supports should be put in place before or when planting
Plant bare-root whitecurrants between November and March, but avoid periods when the ground is frozen or very wet. Container-grown whitecurrants can be planted all year round, but will establish better if planted in autumn to early spring.
Planting in the ground
Whitecurrants like moist, well-drained soil, but will grow in a range of soil conditions.
Before planting, clear the ground of weeds and dig in a generous amount of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Then add a high potassium fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or fish, blood and bone at the rate of 85g (3oz) per square metre/yard.
Planting is very simple – just follow our step-by-step guide to planting a shrub.
Space bushes 1.5–1.8m (5–6ft) apart and cordons 38–45cm (15–18in) apart.
Planting in containers
Choose a container that is 45–50cm (18–20in) in diameter, and use a soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3 or a peat-free multi-purpose compost with added grit (one-third by volume) to improve drainage.
Established whitecurrants generally need little maintenance, apart from pruning and feeding. When growing in containers, plants need some additional attention, including regular watering and repotting.
Newly planted whitecurrants should be regularly watered in their first spring and summer
Established plants in the ground seldom need watering, except in dry spells, especially while fruiting
Whitecurrants in containers should be watered regularly throughout the growing season, as the limited amount of compost dries out more quickly than open ground
With whitecurrants in containers, ensure excess winter rain can drain easily out of the holes in the base of the pot by raising it up on ‘feet’ or bricks. Waterlogged conditions can cause the roots to rot.
Apply a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted farmyard manure after feeding in spring (see below). Spread a layer about 5cm (2in) thick over the root zone, but leave a gap around the base of the stem. Mulching helps to hold moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth.
With whitecurrants in the ground:
In early spring, feed with a high potassium fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4 or fish, blood and bone – scatter one and a half handfuls per square metre/yard around the base
With whitecurrants in containers:
From late winter to early spring, apply a general liquid fertiliser every fortnight
In summer, while plants are flowering and fruiting, apply a high potassium liquid feed
Every spring, scrape off the top few centimetres of compost and top up with a mix of fresh potting compost and controlled-release fertiliser granules.
Repot container-grown whitecurrants every two or three years in late winter:
Remove the plant from its pot and trim back some of the roots
Tease away as much of the old compost as you can
Using fresh John Innes No. 3 compost, pot it back into the same container or a slightly larger one
Firm the new compost around the roots to get rid of any air pockets and water well
To make new whitecurrant plants for free, take hardwood cuttings in winter. Use the prunings from young plants, but not from older plants, as these may carry disease.
See our guide to taking hardwood cuttings:
Pruning and Training
Whitecurrants are best pruned twice a year, in summer and winter, to keep them in good shape and fruiting well. They produce currants on old wood and at the base of new wood, just like gooseberries, and are pruned in the same way.
The most popular shapes for training whitecurrants are:
Bush – these are open-centred goblet-shaped bushes with about five well-spaced branches. They need more room than cordons, but produce more fruit
Cordon – these can be either single-stemmed or multi-stemmed, grown against a support, and take up little ground space
For details of how to prune all trained forms of whitecurrant – bushes, cordons, standards and fans – see our pruning guide. The methods for whitecurrants are the same as for redcurrants.
Redcurrants and whitecurrants: pruning and training
Also check out our video guides and use the same processes for whitecurrants:
Harvest the fruit of modern whitecurrant varieties, such as the ‘Blanka’ and ‘White Grape’, by cutting the whole bunch of fruit as they turn white. On older varieties, the currants at the top of the bunch ripen first, so the fruit should be picked individually.
Eat fresh whitecurrants within a few days of harvesting. Alternatively, they can be frozen or made into jams, jellies and desserts.
Whitecurrants are generally trouble-free, although it‘s worth protecting the crop from birds using netting or a fruit cage – see our guide to protecting crops from birds.
Other pests to look out for include aphids, currant blister aphid, capsid bug, woolly vine or currant scale and gooseberry sawfly. The fruit fly spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is likely to become an increasing problem.
Also check for diseases such as grey mould and coral spot.
In spring, if freezing weather is forecast while plants are flowering, cover them with horticultural fleece over night to protect from frost damage, which would reduce the crop.
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