When the first flowering bushes unfold their yellow, white or soft pink blaze of color in spring, a blood-red dab of color sometimes flares up between them, drawing everyone’s attention. It is the ornamental currant with its deep red flower clusters that is also preparing to announce spring with all its might. Although their small black berries are not poisonous, they play a rather subordinate role in the blood currant because they lack any aroma. But it enchants with an elegant habit, which is characterized by an upright, loose growth with slightly curved branches up to a height of 200 cm. Since the Ribes sanguineum also spread a spicy scent, they are very popular with many gardeners.


The blood currant, which comes from North America, is familiar with harsh weather conditions due to its origin, so that it is completely hardy even in the local latitudes. It therefore makes no extravagant demands on its location:

  • Sunny to partially shaded position.
  • The plant is happy with normal garden soil.
  • Well-drained, slightly moist soil without waterlogging.

If the ornamental currant is planted in a sheltered place, such as in front of a house wall, it will present its numerous red inflorescences as early as March in mild weather, which are particularly effective against such an even background.


If the Ribes sanguineum feels comfortable in the place it has been allocated, the further care required is hardly significant:

  • Water regularly in the first year.
  • Natural rain is sufficient for adult shrubs.
  • Watering is only done in the event of a prolonged drought.
  • Horn shavings as nitrogen fertilization promote flower growth.
  • Regularly incorporate good garden compost into the soil.
  • Alternatively, use coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer.
  • Leaf or bark mulch keeps the soil moist and warm.

After flowering, which lasts until May or June, the small, black berries appear, but their taste cannot be compared with the aroma of red currants. As a result, experienced gardeners do not harvest these fruits, but leave them on the bush so that the birds in the garden can enjoy them. Once these useful guests are on site, they will also take care of any pests that may be present on other plants.

To cut

It is not absolutely necessary to cut back the bloodcurrant. Nevertheless, most hobby gardeners reach for secateurs for this member of the gooseberry family, because a targeted cut promotes the willingness of the shrub to bloom and maintains its vitality. The best time to do this is the days and weeks after flowering. The bushy, loose silhouette of the ornamental currant should not be impaired by the cut, because it is precisely the nonchalance of the appearance that underlines the special character of this flowering shrub. As a result, cutting is limited to the following work steps:

  • Shorten shoots that are too long by a third or half at most.
  • Always cut just above an outward-facing eye.
  • Cut dry branches at the base without leaving stubs.
  • Completely remove inward branches.
  • Cut off one of the crossing shoots.
  • Radically eliminate water shoots at the base.
  • Do not tolerate any competition with the main shoot that is directed steeply upwards.

The aim of pruning after flowering is primarily that all parts of the flowering shrub can be reached by the light. The ornamental currant will thank you next spring with an even richer inflorescence than before. If this maintenance pruning or at least the annual thinning out is missed, strength, vitality and flowering will continue to decrease. Experience has shown that a radical rejuvenation pruning of the bloodcurrant is unsuccessful, so that in such a case it is more advisable to plant a new variety.


Garden lovers who want to settle more specimens of this bright red herald of spring can choose from various methods of propagation:


On a frost-free day in winter, a healthy, annual branch 15 cm to 20 cm long is cut off the ornamental currant. This cutting is divided into so many pieces that each has a bud at the top and bottom. To avoid confusion later, the cut is made at a slight angle at the lower end of the stick and straight at the upper end.

At least half of each cutting is placed in a pot with potting soil. Ideally, the insertion hole is pre-drilled with a pencil or a pricking stick so that the sensitive capillaries of the shoot are not damaged. Placed in a cool, frost-proof place in the light shade, the sticks now have enough time throughout the winter to develop their own strong root system.

Of course, they must not dry out during this phase, which the experienced hobby gardener knows how to prevent by regular watering. By the following spring, the cuttings are usually mature enough to be planted in their final location in the garden.


Like most flowering shrubs, the blood currant is also ideal for uncomplicated propagation with the help of reducers:

  • In summer, pull down a healthy, one-year-old shoot.
  • Cover it with earth and stones in a channel previously dug with a spade.
  • The tip of the shoot still has to look out of the ground.
  • Spray the sinker regularly with willow water.
  • Cut the shoot off the mother plant the following spring.
  • Plant two-thirds in a new location.

The rooting of the sinker is accelerated if it is lightly scratched in two or three places with a razor blade before it is positioned in the gully. It is very important to always spray the sinker only lightly with water or willow water. The soil would be washed away with the watering can or even the garden hose and the chance of successful rooting would be gone as a result.

Beautiful varieties

Various varieties of the ornamental currant have been bred, of which some popular specimens are presented below:

Zierjohannisbeere ‚King Edward VII‘ (Ribes sanguineum ‚King Edward VII‘)

  • the classic for the home garden
  • Growth height 150 cm to 200 cm
  • Growth width up to 150 cm
  • Flowering period from late March to late May/early June
  • rich red flower clusters up to 8 cm long
  • bushy, upright form with arching branches
  • perfectly hardy

Blutjohannisbeere ‘Atrorubens’ (Ribes sanguineum ‘Atrorubens’)

  • loose, casual demeanor
  • Growth height up to 200 cm
  • Growth width up to 150 cm
  • bright red flowers
  • Flowering time April to May
  • deep green, rounded leaves
  • ideal for flowering hedges

Zierjohannisbeere ‚Snowflame‘ (Ribes sanguineum ‚Snowflame‘)

  • unusual rarity
  • forms bicolored flowers in white and red
  • Growth height up to 200 cm
  • spreads an intoxicating scent
  • ideal eye-catcher in the bucket on the balcony
  • so far only available in limited numbers

Zierjohannisbeere ‚Pulborough Scarlet‘ (Ribes sanguineum ‚Pulborough Scarlet‘)

  • extremely fast-growing variety
  • Growth height 200 cm to 250 cm
  • blood red flowers with a white eye
  • Flowering time April to May
  • medium-sized leaves in lobed form
  • perfectly hardy

Zierjohannisbeere ‚White Icicle‘ (Ribes sanguineum ‚White Icicle‘)

  • the only variety with white flowers so far
  • Growth height 150 cm to 200 cm
  • decorative, heart-shaped leaves
  • after flowering, deep black berries appear
  • grows tighter and less loose
  • no winter protection required

All the varieties presented are suitable as solitary plants, in groups and as flowering hedges. Although the ornamental currant sheds its foliage in winter, it still provides acceptable privacy because of its dense growth.

diseases and pests

The bloodcurrant is one of the hardiest flowering shrubs Mother Nature has to offer. If there are still problems with flowering and growth, the causes can usually be found in non-parasitic areas:

growth depression
If the leaves turn yellow and dry up and the flowers don’t appear at all, the water balance of the plant is often out of balance. A lack of water is just as harmful as an excess of water. When it is dry, it is more advantageous to water thoroughly a few times than to water more often in small doses. A thick layer of mulch also prevents dehydration. However, if there is a risk of waterlogging at the chosen location, this is already prevented during planting by drainage in the planting hole made of gravel, coarse sand or crushed shards of clay. A wet location that dries slowly in spring should generally be avoided. Likewise, the settlement of ornamental currants in the immediate vicinity of old trees,

Nutrient deficiency
The bloodcurrant requires a balanced supply of nutrients consisting of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you want to enjoy this highlight among the early bloomers for a long time, you should carry out a soil test before planting. A test set is available in specialist shops or on the Internet for less than 5 euros and provides precise information as to whether the garden soil should be enriched.

Damage caused by de-icing salts
If the ornamental currant is used as a hedge plant to demarcate the property, there is a risk that de-icing salts used in its vicinity will penetrate the ground and cause damage even years later. At first glance, the leaf damage is similar to that caused by drought. If this cause can be ruled out, only a complete, profound soil exchange or clearing of the flowering bushes will help.

Weather damage
Since the ornamental currant is rarely covered, it is defenseless against hailstorms and downpours. In such a case, injuries are inflicted on the bush, which provide fungi and pests with ample opportunity for an attack, so the experienced hobby gardener checks his flowering bushes after a storm. All parts that show damage are removed to prevent weakening of the otherwise vigorous plant.

The blood currant is resistant to fungi and pests with very few exceptions:

Leaf fall disease
If numerous brownish spots appear on the leaves, which spread and flow together, the harmful fungus Drepanopeziza ribis has struck. It spreads diligently, especially in wet weather. In this case, cutting back into the healthy wood and removing all diseased leaves, including the foliage, helps. After all, annual thinning of the flowering bushes is the most effective method of prevention.

Currant bladder aphid (Cryptomyzus ribis)
This pest affects not only the real currant, but also the ornamental forms. The squadrons of lice spread out on the underside of the leaves and suck out the plant sap. However, the bloodcurrant does not get into serious difficulties as a result. If the infestation gets out of hand, the use of rapeseed oil sprays, which are permitted for the home garden, is helpful.

Decorative underplanting and companion plants

As dominant as the ornamental currant with its blood-red inflorescences may appear, there are still some beautiful neighbors that harmonize wonderfully with their delicate colors:

Picturesque impressions are created that are pleasing to the eye, especially when spring-blooming cushion perennials are combined with blood currants as underplanting. The blue cushion belongs in this group, as well as the alyssum or the goose cress.

Whoever wants to spice up the otherwise delicately colored spring plantings in the garden is well advised to use bloodcurrants. In mild locations, the hardy shrub presents its deep red inflorescences as early as March, which last until June. If the site conditions are right, the ornamental currant is otherwise pleasantly easy to care for, as long as the annual cutting and thinning out is not neglected. Then the loosely grown flowering shrub brings an exciting element to the traditional garden design of spring for many years.

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