Currant Pruning – How To Prune A Currant Bush

Currant Pruning – How To Prune A Currant Bush

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Currants are tiny berries in the genus Ribes. There are both red and black currants, and the sweet fruits are commonly used in baked goods or preserves as well as dried for many uses. Currant pruning is one of the key maintenance chores related to cultivation of the berry. Information on how to prune currants will help you preserve the form of the plant and ensure more blooms and a bigger harvest. Pruning currant bushes is an annual process that should be done when the bush is dormant.

How to Prune a Currant Bush

Currant stems naturally grow from the ground and form a low growing bush. The question of how to prune a currant bush can be answered with just a few steps. Fruit production in the home requires that the gardener learn how to trim currant bushes. Pruning currant bushes is necessary to keep the form of the plant, remove any diseased material and, most of all, to keep the plant’s interior open. Currant pruning is a quick annual chore and part of regular maintenance.

Head back one-year-old shoots to the next growing point to force branching. The next growing point can be identified by the slight swelling in the wood, and in early spring it may even show a bit of green peeking out. Cuts are made ¼ inch (6 mm.) before the growth point to preserve the bud.

After the plant is four years old you will begin removing any canes that are older than three years old. Currant pruning requires the removal of the oldest wood annually in very early spring. Fruits are produced on three-year-old wood, which needs to be preserved.

Broken and dead wood are removed annually and some thinning needs to take place to enhance air and light penetration.

How to Prune Currants to Train Them

Currants should also be trained after planting. They need fairly severe pruning to cause the plant to form evenly spaced branches that allow air and sunlight in but are nice and strong for fruit production. At planting, cut all the canes back to four or six buds. This is called heading back and is always done to a healthy bud.

The practice forces the canes to form more canes with healthy buds. The best way on how to prune currants is by using sharp implements that will make clean cuts and won’t invite pathogens. Very little pruning is needed after this for the first four years except for removal of broken and dead wood.

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How to Prune Alpine Currant Hedges

Alpine currant, or Ribes alpinum, shrubs are mounding, dense and compact, making them ideal bushes for a hedge. The alpine currant is very hardy, tolerating winter temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit and is drought-tolerant. The shrub is widely adaptable, but it does require regular pruning to keep its shape and maintain its health. Pruning alpine currant hedges is easy, however, as long as you use the right technique and do your pruning at the right time of year.

Prune your alpine currant hedge in early spring, before new growth begins. You can prune the hedge again in mid-summer if needed.

Cut away all dead, diseased, crossing and intersectional branches first. The alpine currant is a dense shrub, so make sure you remove as much interior bulk as you can.

  • Alpine currant, or Ribes alpinum, shrubs are mounding, dense and compact, making them ideal bushes for a hedge.
  • The alpine currant is a dense shrub, so make sure you remove as much interior bulk as you can.

Allow the central leader, or trunk, to grow without pruning it until the alpine currant reaches its desired height. Then, you can trim back new growth to within two inches of the last pruning.

Trim your alpine currant hedges to give them a rounded appearance. This is better than a boxy shape, as the alpine currant has a naturally rounded shape.

Trim back any twigs or stems that are protruding from the main body of the alpine currant shrub. Cut back to a leaf node or bud when trimming. Angle the cut so that it slopes upward.

  • Allow the central leader, or trunk, to grow without pruning it until the alpine currant reaches its desired height.

Right after planting a bare-root young alpine currant shrub, prune it to within six inches of the ground.

While pruning your alpine currant hedges, step back from the hedge periodically to inspect your work. Make sure that you’re achieving the desired shape and not missing any wayward growth that’s sticking out of the hedge.

Never prune your alpine currant hedges so that the top of the hedge is wider than the bottom. This will cause the top foliage to block sunlight from reaching the bottom branches and produce a “leggy” appearance.

How to prune Gooseberry Bushes and Currants

Andrew - May 1, 2018 June 9, 2020

How to prune gooseberry bushes and currant bushes. Pruning fruit bushes can seem complicated but is, in fact, very simple. Many people are nervous about the process so leave fruit unpruned which will result in progressively lower yields as the plant ages. The thing you need to remember is no matter how badly you prune you will not ruin your fruit plant beyond repair and can still get it back to top condition over a season or two. After a few seasons you will become an expert at what to prune out and what to leave and will enjoy caring for your fruit even more. Even if you only do the most basic maintenance and cut out any 4 year old branches you will vastly increase the productivity of the gooseberry bush or currant bush.

I have laid some basic pruning techniques below starting with the most important. Are you ready? Let’s get going…..

Firstly, get yourself a good pair of bypass secateurs. You want to be able to make a nice clean cut without crushing or tearing wood to encourage a quick healing process. We recommend the Swiss made ‘Felco’ range. In this article I use their no.4 secateurs and their no.200 expert loppers both of which are excellent tools very well suited for this job.

When to prune – Fruit bushes are pruned when they are dormant, in the Northern Hemisphere this is between October and early March. It is best to prune just before the plants come out of dormancy which allows them to heal quickly with the vigourous new growth of Spring. In the case of gooseberry bushes it is a good idea to delay until the buds are just beginning to open. This is because the spines on an unpruned bush will help deter bullfinches who like to eat the buds.

The shape of the bush – The ideal shape of a pruned fruit bush is a goblet shape with an open centre. Evenly spaced branches should face away from the middle of the bush and not compete with each other for available sunlight. We want as much light as possible to reach and ripen the fruit.

Step 1 – Cut out any branches that are 4 years or older. As we have said, the best fruit, both in quantity and flavour, is produced on 2 and 3 year old wood. 1 year old branches don’t produce fruit and as they age past 3 years their productivity will decline. In simple terms no part of your fruit bush should ever be over 4 years old, the complete structure is constantly being renewed by annual pruning. Gooseberries and red or white currants are pruned in the same way. Blackcurrants are pruned in a similar way but fruit on 1 and 2 year old wood.

At any yearly pruning session only remove approx 1/3 of the total number of branches. Remove the entire branch right down to its base. Removing the complete branch will cause new branches to grow from the base of the bush. Trimming branches between buds or side shoots will result in vigourous growth of small branches that will thicken the bush and block out valuable sunlight.

Look for any large branches that are crowding the center of the bush and remove them completely. If the bush is an open shape already select the oldest branches. You should be able to identify old branches as they are darker in colour and are likely to have peeling bark. Again cut right back to the point of origin. You are better to use a good set of loppers for this task as mature branches can be too thick to allow a clean cut with a secateurs.

Step 2 – Remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood. As with the 4 year old wood it is better to remove entire branches or side shoots. If you are cutting out a small branch do so at the point it meets its parent branch.

Dead wood is easy to spot as it will be brittle and will have no buds. Damaged wood tends to happen where 2 branches are rubbing, you may see rough bark or areas where bark has rubbed away altogether. Diseased wood will have rough, raised areas of broken bark.

Step 3 – Remove any branches growing into the center of the bush. We want our nice open goblet shape so cut away any branches growing towards the inside of the bush and blocking out light. The other advantages of this open habit is it gives good ventilation which reduces the chances of mildew and also makes the bushes much easier to harvest.

Step 4 – Remove any suckers , these are single, upriht shoots growing out of the soil from around the main stem. They are cut back to the point where they emerge from the soil. We are also looking for branches that are growing on top of each other as the lower branch will be in shadow and won’t produce the best fruit. It is usually best to remove the lower one as higher fruit is easier to pick but this will also be dictated by the age of the branches. Retain the younger of the two.

Step 5 – Lastly, if we need to, we can adjust the size of fruit the bush produces. If your bushes are yielding lots of small berries and you want bigger fruit you can cut back the side shoots to 2 buds from the start of last year’s growth. If you are pruning black currants avoid this step as fruit is also produced on 1 year old wood so we don’t want to remove any of it.

You can identify last years growth by the change in colour from wood that has grown the previous year 1 year old wood tends to be a light grey colour while the older bark is more brown. Cut back to 2 buds above the this join making sure to cut just above an outward facing bud so the resulting growth grows away from the center of the bush.

Make your cut just above and at a slant away from the bud you have selected. A slanted cut away from the bud channels water away and avoids rotting the bud. Cut too close to the bud (literally at the point where it emerges from the bark) and it will die, leave too much wood above the bud and it will die back leading to possible infection.

The last job after pruning is to improve the soil around the bush and give a slow release feed for the season ahead. Clear any weeds around the base and add a generous spread of well rotted farmyard manure. It is also a good idea to keep the area around your bushes weed and grass free. This can be easily achieved by applying a shallow mulch of lawn clippings. Avoid deep mulches as they exclude oxygen from the soil and can suffocate surface roots.

If you would like to see a video of me pruning a gooseberry bush in my garden please click on the play button below, I hope you find it helpful.

Pruning New Redcurrant Bushes

Bear in mind all the points given above, and aim for building a well shaped, upright growing bowl shaped bush which will probably start on a single stem for about 5in (15cm) from the ground. Best to make any pruning cuts to an outward facing bud we are after a bush which is not crowded out in the middle.

Any new branches which are sagging should be removed in favour of the upright canes. The sagging branches will be weighed down to the ground with the fruit.


Any pruning involves several steps. This is due to the fact that you can’t remove too many shoots if the owner of the summer cottage does not want to completely lose the crop this year.


In one procedure, you can remove up to 1/3 of the green mass, but it is advisable not to bring to this value. In this case, you should adhere to a certain order in the removal of branches.

  1. First of all, you should get rid of dry and broken branches. The infected parts of the plant are also subject to immediate removal.
  2. Then they try to cut too weak and tender shoots, because by the winter they do not have time to become covered with bark and will still freeze. This part of the procedure is carried out in the fall.
  3. If possible, it is necessary to remove deformed shoots, as well as intertwined branches.
  4. In May or June, it is worth getting rid of spinning tops and basal shoots.
  5. In the spring, when sanitary pruning, it is necessary to cut those branches that grow to the center of the bush. They thicken the crown and prevent the berries from ripening.
  6. It is advisable to get rid of branches located horizontally and growing downward, especially if they grow near the surface of the earth. Such shoots spoil the shape of the crown and almost never bear fruit.

All infected, dry and old branches, as well as fallen leaves, should be burned.


The largest yield is brought by 2-, 3-year-old branches of currant. Shoots, over 5 years old in blackcurrant and over 8 years old in red or white berries no longer give. Rejuvenating pruning is primarily aimed at getting rid of old branches and replacing them with new ones.

The procedure includes the following steps.

  1. Begin by removing branches older than 5 years. If it is not possible to get rid of them at one time, the pruning is repeated in the fall or next spring. It is recommended to start from the south side.
  2. If the bush is well formed, then three-year branches are removed. If not, that is, the number of two-year-old shoots is not enough, only a part is cut out, and the next year, repeat the procedure.
  3. At the last stage, annual shoots are shortened in order to stimulate the growth of new ones.

Anti-aging care for red and white currants is carried out according to the same scheme. However, rejuvenation begins 8 years after disembarkation.

If the age of the berry reaches 15 years, then use a more radical procedure.

The sequence is as follows.

  1. A third of the bush is cut to the ground, trying first to remove the oldest branches.
  2. In autumn, the strongest and tallest are selected from new shoots, and the rest are removed.
  3. The next third of the old branches is cut out the following year, while leaving the most powerful and youngest.
  4. In the third year, they destroy all remaining old branches, as well as weak new ones.

Supporting or shaping

This pruning is done to support the shape and structure of the bush. It is carried out as required and includes the following actions.

  1. Most often, branches that grow inward should be removed to maintain shape. This is necessary to lighten the bush, because with great thickening, the berries ripen worse and grow smaller.
  2. The shoots growing horizontally or down are eliminated: they bear little fruit and make the crown heavier.
  3. If there are many fruit-bearing branches, you can remove the shoots that appeared during the summer in autumn.

This shrub has the advantage of flowering abundantly in bunches, and this creates a true “wall of flowers” when planted as a hedge.

But it is also liked just as much when standing isolated in the garden, in shrub beds and even in pots or garden boxes on a terrace or balcony.

It is hardy and grows fast, which makes it an easy shrub to grow that will reward you with quick results.

Hardy to the cold and freezing, it can cope with temperatures dropping down to 5°F (-15°C).

Some remarkable flowering currant varieties

  • Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII’ – late flowers that are bright red.
  • Ribes sanguineum ‘Koja’ – dense vegetation and nice red flowers.

A white-flowered variety also stands out:

  • Ribes sanguineum ‘White icicle’ – big bunches of white flowers.

Watch the video: Pruning My Jostaberry