Commonly grown for their lush foliage, Ribes alpinum, also called "alpine currants," are mound-forming deciduous shrubs that can grow up to 6’ tall. Their striking green foliage changes shades throughout the year, starting as bright green in the spring, dark green in the summer, and a warm yellow in the fall months. While alpine currants produce flowers, they are insignificant and can be hard to spot as they blend in with the foliage. Alpine currants are most infamous for their low-maintenance needs, their ability to adapt to a variety of growing conditions, and their ability to tolerate extreme winter temperatures. They are commonly used in hedges, mass plantings, and for xeriscaping. If you are looking for a foliage shrub that you can plant and forget - look no further than the alpine currant!
|Botanical Name||Ribes alpinum|
|Common Name||Alpine currant, Mountain currant|
|Mature Size||6 feet tall, 6 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||6.1 - 7.8|
|Native Area||Central and Northern Europe|
How to Grow Alpine Currant
Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) is a small deciduous shrub in the gooseberry family that is characterized by trilobed leaves and dense green foliage. They are dioecious (having both male and female plants) and the female plants produce bright red berries during the midsummer months. They are extremely hardy shrubs that require little to no maintenance once they are established. They can tolerate cold temperatures, drought, and are extremely adaptable to various different light and soil conditions. Alpine currants are not suited for growing in containers and are happiest when planted in the ground.
Alpine currants are commonly confused with their sister plant the redcurrant (Ribes rubrum), and while the berries of alpine currants are edible, many find the taste to be unpleasant.
In some parts of the United States, it is illegal to plant species in the Ribes genus as they are alternate hosts for white pine blister rust. Ensure that it is legal to plant Ribes alpinum in your area before adding it to your garden.
Alpine currants are very adaptable shrubs that can survive in various light conditions. However, the shrub will perform best when planted in a location that receives bright, direct sunlight for at least six hours a day. Alpine currants can also survive in full shade, which is characterized as an area receiving four hours or less of light a day.
Moist, well-drained alkaline soils are ideal for alpine currants, although they are able to adapt to a variety of different soil types. If necessary, they can survive in dry, compacted soil as well.
Alpine currants are moderately drought-tolerant but otherwise appreciate regular watering. If you live in a particularly dry region it may be necessary to supplement regular rainfall with additional waterings. Young plants, in particular, require more water and are less drought tolerant than mature shrubs.
Temperature and Humidity
Gardeners in cold regions rejoice! Alpine currants are notorious for being extremely winter hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as -50 °F. They require little winter care but should be checked a couple of times throughout the winter for rabbit damage. If damage is present, construct a small fence around the alpine currant using hardware cloth to protect the plant.
Mature alpine currants do not require fertilization, but young plants can benefit greatly from regular fertilizing. Granular, liquid, or stake fertilizers can be used depending on your preference. Fertilization should occur in the early spring or in late fall. Regardless of which method of fertilization you choose, a fertilizer with high nitrogen content should be used: 21-7-14, 20-10-10, or 16-10-9 are all ideal mixes.
Varieties of Alpine Currant
There are several different cultivators of Alpine Currant. Some of the most popular varieties are as follows:
- Ribes alpinum ‘Aureum’
- Ribes alpinum ‘Europa’
- Ribes alpinum ‘Spreg’
- Ribes alpinum ‘Green Mound’
- Ribes alpinum ‘Compacta’
- Ribes alpinum ‘Pumila’
Pruning Alpine Currant
Alpine currants appreciate regular pruning to keep the plant healthy and shapely. As the plant matures, more heavy pruning is required to help increase the longevity of the shrub. Renewal pruning can be done every year in the spring on a mature alpine currant. Renewal pruning involves removing one to five of the largest branches of the shrub down to the ground each spring to help encourage new growth.