How to Prune Red Currants for a Bumper Crop

Soft fruit, Winter

August 12, 2011

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Winter is the time to be pruning your red currants to ensure you get the best possible crop for next year. Red currants are a delicious soft fruit that is well worth the effort growing. Like most soft fruit they degrade quickly and transport poorly, so anything you buy commercially is likely to be substandard compared to what you have grown at home. Red currants fruit on established fruiting spurs, and there are certain pruning techniques to support the development of these spurs. We are going to run through these here. If you are someone who prefers to what a video on how this is done, pop on over to my page on pruning gooseberries for a short video. Many of the techniques are very similar. The pruning techniques described here apply to white currants as well, but not black currants as these have different growing and fruiting habits.

Prune for a goblet shape.


After the previous growing season, your currants can look pretty wild.

After the previous growing season, your currants can look pretty wild. When pruning a red currant you are aiming for an open goblet shape like a wine glass. There should be a stem of 10-15cm (3-4inches) before the branches start, and then the branches should open out, leaving a space in the middle. Sawfly are a pest of red currants and having the stem at the base, and the open structure discourages these pests. So the first step is to prune off any branches that are coming out of the stem too low.


Before pruning lower shoots.


After pruning the lower shoots.

Prune for fruiting spurs.

The next step is to open out the centre of the bush. This means cutting back any inward growing branches to one to two buds. These trimmed branches will then form fruiting spurs, increasing the crop, but will keep the centre of the bush open.


Inward growing branches


After trimming the inward growing branches

After that trim any other branches that are not forming part of the main structure of the bush (downward or sideways growing branches), back to one to two buds to form fruiting spurs as well.


Trim shoots back to one to two buds to form fruiting spurs


Encourage new growth.

Lastly trim any of the main branches back but one third to just above a bud. Traditional wisdom says this should be an outward facing bud, but I have found that pruning to outward facing buds can end up producing an almost prostrate form of a bush, leaving the fruit easily accessible to slugs and other critters. So if the branch I am pruning is fairly upright I will cut to an outward facing bud, but if it is more horizontal in its growth I will prune to an upward facing bud. If you are not sure about general pruning techniques of cutting just above buds, take a look at my general pruning tips video here. These cuts will stimulate new growth in the summer.

Finish with some fertiliser.

I would finish with a generous dose of blood and bone around the base, plus some wood ash if you have it (for potash – essential for fruiting crops). Then top that with a covering of well rotted manure or compost.


Top the soil with a covering of well rotted manure or compost

Take some cuttings.

As a side note, if you want to make more red currant bushes for your (or someone else’s!) garden, trim the prunings to about 20-25cm (8-10 inches) length and stick them into a corner of the garden. They will easily take and next year in the dormant season, odds are you will have several new plants.


Red currant cuttings on the left, gooseberry on the right.

And that is it! Did you find that helpful? Any points you’d like further clarification on? Let me know by posting a comment below. Thanks!









6 Responses to “How to Prune Red Currants for a Bumper Crop”

  1. patrick stanley says:

    Hi great photos actually easier to follow than video. I have a 20 yr old totally neglected red currant, very very dense branches at the ground, looks like a plate of spaghetti, I am sure that i could cut some out but I am wondering if I should/ can cut the whole thing back to the ground and let it just start over. I know that I would not get fruit for some time but maybe its the best way to go?? thank you very much for your time and any advice you may have

  2. robin says:

    Hi, I find the article very helpful so thank you for writing it. One question I have is when to take the cuttings for propagation? In winter it won’t take and in summer it hurts the plant. So what is the right time? Thank you.

  3. Matt says:

    Hi Robin, I usually just put the offcuts from the pruning and use those as cuttings. We have fairly mild winters though. If you have colder winters maybe take some cuttings in early spring.

  4. Matt says:

    Hi Pat, that may work. I probably wouldn’t go all the way to ground level but leave at least 6 inches of trunk above the ground.

  5. Chrissie says:

    Silly question I know but when you harvest the currents do you need to top and tail them? It would take forever

  6. Matt says:

    No Chrissie, most people don’t.

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