- Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’)
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Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’)
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’
Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’
R. sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ – R. sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ is a vigorous, deciduous shrub that produces racemes of white flowers in spring, followed by blue-black fruits in summer.
Foliage is aromatic.
RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)
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White in Spring
Green in Spring; Green in Summer
How to care
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Where to grow
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’) will reach a height of 2.5m and a spread of 1.5m after 5-10 years.
Cottage/Informal, Hedging/Screens, Low Maintenance
Plant in a sunny position in any soil. This is a vigorous plant and easy to grow.
Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)
Moist but well-drained, Well-drained
Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
North, South, East, West
UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.
Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6
Defra’s Risk register #1
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’)
Common pest name
Japanese fruit scale; Mulberry scale; White peach scale
Scientific pest name
Current status in UK
Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)
Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)
General biosecurity comments
Scale insect which in favourable conditions may kill trees. There have been a number of findings in the UK but some uncertainty about whether the pest is established. Stakeholder organisations may wish to monitory for its presence.
Defra’s Risk register #2
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’)
Cherry rasp leaf (in part) (European); Gooseberry leaf distortion; Lloyd George raspberry yellow blotch disease; Pfeffinger disease of cherry; Redcurrant ringspot; Ringspot diseases of raspberry; strawberry and flowering currant; RRSV; Spoon leaf of redcurrant (Netherlands)
Raspberry ringspot virus
Virus or Viroid
Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)
Pest present in the UK; risk of spread is mitigated by industry certification scheme.
Defra’s Risk register #3
Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ (Flowering currant ‘White Icicle’)
Black ring of tomato; Bouquet of potato; Pseudo-aucuba of potato; Ringspot of bean; Ringspot of beet; Ringspot of lettuce; Yellow vein of celery
Tomato black ring virus
Virus or Viroid
Vector present in the UK and the pest is present with a limited distribution. Current mitigations are effective at reducing the risk of spread.
About this section
Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.
Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here
Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/
About White Flowering Currant (Ribes indecorum) 16 Nurseries Carry This Plant
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Ribes indecorum is a species of currant known by the common names white-flowered currant and white chaparral currant. It is native to the southern California Coast Ranges, Transverse Ranges, and Peninsular Ranges, from around Santa Barbara County in California south into northern Baja California.
It is an erect shrub approaching three meters in maximum height. The stem is fuzzy and glandular in texture. The deciduous leaves are 1 to 4 centimeters long. The thick, wrinkly blades are divided into three to five toothed lobes, and are hairy, glandular, and aromatic. The inflorescence is a loose raceme of 10 to 25 flowers. The flower is roughly tubular with the white or pink-tinged sepals spreading open to reveal smaller whitish petals inside. Flowers bloom in late winter / early spring, and have an exceptionally pleasant fragrance, among the best of any California native.The fruit is a hairy, sticky very attractive berry that can be orange, purple, pink or red, and are under a centimeter wide.
White Flowering Currant is very drought tolerant once established, but still does does best in part shade, or in spots that retain slightly more moisture, such as creek sides, north or east facing slopes, or adjacent to boulders. Best to avoid direct summer water after this plant is established. It’ll go nearly completely summer deciduous, and then spring back to life with the start of the rainy season. Plant Description Plant Type Shrub
Size 5 – 10 ft tall
1 – 2 ft wide
Form Upright Columnar
Growth Rate Moderate
Dormancy Summer Deciduous, Summer Semi-Deciduous, Winter Deciduous
Fragrance Fragrant – Pleasant
Flower Color White, Pink
Flowering Season Winter
Wildlife Supported Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators, small mammals
Butterflies & moths hosted ( 72 likely * ) SHOW ALL *Hoary Comma Polygonia gracilisPolygonia gracilis
*Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Aglais milbertiAglais milberti
*Satyr Comma Polygonia satyrusPolygonia satyrus
*Tailed Copper Lycaena arotaLycaena arota
*Oreas Comma Polygonia oreasPolygonia oreas
*White-lined Sphinx Hyles lineataHyles lineata
*Ceanothus Silkmoth Hyalophora euryalusHyalophora euryalus
Landscaping Information Sun Part Shade, Full Sun
Moisture Low, Very Low
Summer Irrigation Max 1x / month once established
Ease of Care Moderately Easy
Cold Tolerance Tolerates cold to -15° F
Soil Drainage Medium, Slow
Soil Description Rich, loamy soil. Soil PH: 6 – 8
Common uses Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Hummingbird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens
Companion Plants Spiny Redberry, Mission Manzanita, Laurel Sumac, Coast Live Oak, Sugar Bush
Sunset Zones 7, 8, 9, 11, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*
Natural Setting Site Type Dry slopes, often near boulders or creeks, shady slopes or in gullies. Often grows under oak trees, and sometimes under sycamores.
Climate Annual Precipitation: 4.5″ – 41.1″, Summer Precipitation: 0.14″ – 2.94″, Coldest Month: 37.0″ – 57.0″, Hottest Month: 59.1″ – 86.7″, Humidity: 0.64″ – 37.63″, Elevation: 9″ – 7950″
Alternative Names Common Names: White Chaparral Currant, White-flowered Currant, White-flowering Currant, Whiteflower Currant
Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the “About” section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual “normals” at an 800 meter spatial resolution.
Links: Jepson eFlora Taxon Page CalPhotos Wikipedia Calflora
Listen! O, listen!
Here come the hum the golden bees
Underneath full blossomed trees,
At once with glowing fruit and flowers crowned.
~James Russell Lowell, The Sirens
My neighbor and fellow gardener, Margaret has a white flowering Currant (Ribes) shrub near her front door. I think I’ve mentioned her yard in previous posts…anytime I wonder where my bees are foraging I have only to walk up the block to find them somewhere in her garden.
Well it’s March, spring in my hemisphere, and the flowering currants are beginning to bloom in my neighborhood and that’s where I found them today, in her shrub. When it’s fully engulfed in open blooms they are there, in droves. As a passerby, you can hear them. Both of us look forward to the March days that are warm enough to lure the bees out of their hive and into her currant. Today, as I was walking to see if they were in her shrub, she called from her window…”Joan! Your bees are all around the garden!” And they were…on this gorgeous, sunny 50F (10C) degree morning they were in the crocus gathering pollen, in the heath gathering nectar and in her currant. When in bloom, this shrub is beautiful. Personally I think some white flowers are far classier than their colored counterparts and this is one example. The red flowering currant is nice but the white outshines it to my eye. That and I’ve not seen the bees go to the red varieties so perhaps I’m a little biased. However the hummingbirds frequent the red.
There are several Ribes species. Some can take colder winters, some need warm winters. The species hardy and prevalent in the Pacific Northwest is Ribes sanguineum. Her white variety is probably 10-12 feet (3-4m) tall but not as wide, and gets morning sun. Mostly I see the red King Edward VII variety around here, advertised to only reach about 8 feet (2.5m) in height. It is easy to find in bloom in nurseries now. Whichever color you choose the Ribes sanguineum is hardy in zones 4-9. This is a deciduous shrub native to the coastal ranges of California up to British Columbia. Plant them in sun to light shade. They are fairly drought tolerant but do better with moderate water. If your summers are hot and dry, give them a shadier spot for the heat of the day. They will need little if any pruning if you buy the variety that grows to the size you have space for in your garden. But beware, the tag may say a size of eight feet but ask a knowledgeable nursery employee before you buy…it could get bigger.
While this currant does produce some fruit it is not the same species used for culinary purposes. Look for those in the fruiting section of your nursery.
Nectar and Pollen Plants of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest by Burgett, Stringer and Johnston is a fantastic book. It is an illustrated guide to plants sought after by honeybees in this region. Though geared toward beekeepers, any gardener interested in attracting pollinators could benefit from it. In it they list Ribes sanguineum Pursh as “not very attractive to bees” but also list nectar and pollen both to be had. This is the only variety they mention, which includes the red, ‘King Edward VII’. This may explain why I don’t see bees on the reds. Having not seen the tag from Margaret’s shrub, I can’t definitively give you the variety, however, ‘White Icicle’ is a white cultivar commonly sold here under the name Ribes sanguineum glutinosum ‘White Icicle’. Neither can I explain why the bees like it and not the red.
I am so glad my neighbor has this plant. This time of year with less nectar and pollen available, those blooming spring plants attractive to bees are especially important for them to begin foraging and replenishing their dwindling stores. The earlier they can find quality pollen and nectar the earlier the queen starts to lay eggs, the quicker the colony builds up, the more time for honey production.
Had I not seen the bee’s response to these blooms with my own eyes I’d probably have skipped over the importance of this plant. It’s now on my list of bee-plants for a future garden and you can be sure I’ll include it in my presentations to bee clubs and garden clubs.
In Bloom In My Garden Today: Daffodil ‘Tete a Tete’, Cyclamen coum, crocus, primrose (double English), Heleborus, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), violet primrose, Sarcococca, Galanthus elwesii (snowdrops)
Pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum) in Vancouver, BC. Author’s photograph
Decidedly underused, the genus Ribes is available in a dizzying number of ornamental species and cultivars for the West Coast gardener. My romance with the West’s native currants and gooseberries, both in the genus Ribes, began in 2005, but I would not call it love at first sight. It would be better described as a love that grew over time.
I purchased plants of pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum) and evergreen currant (R. viburnifolium), two of the better-known, more widely available species, in one-gallon containers at a Merritt College (Oakland) plant sale. They were a little underwhelming, as so many California native plants are in nursery containers, but I had heard and read good things about them, and hoped that the rewards would be plentiful once they settled in. I knew that my garden had the ideal conditions to nourish them. But would these new additions to my humble patch of landscape prove needy? Demanding? Trustworthy?
I decided to give them a chance and am happy that I did. They continue to thrive in my garden today. Since those inaugural plantings, I’ve introduced a few more into my Oakland garden. I obtained some, such as R. sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Inverness White,’ from cuttings started during a propagation course at Merritt. A little rooting hormone, a perlite-based medium, and consistent moisture helped establish roots in six to eight weeks; then, straight into the ground they went. All grown up now and in vibrant health, they anchor my woodsy garden, lining paths and rubbing elbows with native coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), dogwood (Cornus), and others that appreciate the site’s dappled light, acidic soil, and decent drainage.
“Ribes” is derived from the Persian or Arabic word ribas, meaning “acid-tasting” (presumably a reference to the edible fruits). Placed in the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae), the genus includes close to 150 species. Most are native to northern temperate regions, with a few found in South America. The genus comprises both deciduous and evergreen shrubs; those possessing spines are known as gooseberries, those without spines as currants. Edible currants and gooseberries are mostly native to Europe and Asia. The western American species discussed here are most often grown for their beautiful flowers, although many of them produce tasty fruits.
Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum ‘Pulborough Scarlet’. Photograph by RGT
Good for the Garden
Gardeners searching for easy, adaptable, and versatile shrubs should consider Ribes. They put on a good flower show, offer shelter and food for birds and other wildlife, and easily fill in those barren spots in the garden—as an understory plant or tall groundcover. Once established, they require minimal care other than a little water and occasional pruning. I water mine infrequently and prune them back only when they start poking into a pathway.
For all of these reasons, plus the fact that Ribes was the first California native plant that I introduced into my garden, members of this genus will always have a plot of their own in my heart. This “genius genus” has seriously grown on me.
With their low-maintenance/high-reward appeal, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more ornamental currants and gooseberries in residential gardens. So I asked a couple of experts for their opinion.
Phil Van Soelen, co-owner of California Flora Nursery in Fulton, California, offers a good explanation for why Ribes isn’t a more popular choice with home gardeners: “They dismiss it as a fussy plant” after first killing it with too much water or not enough. “In most situations, Ribes absolutely need water, especially in hotter, inland climates (like that of Sebastopol). At the same time, warm and wet conditions can kill them.”
Glenn Keator, California native plant botanist and educator, believes that Ribes aren’t more widely used partly because of availability. “Nurseries don’t carry Ribes unless the nursery is focused on native plants. Quite a few of the nurseries do carry R. sanguineum, so that’s probably going to be the most basic choice.”
Van Soelen, who introduced the cultivar ‘Heart’s Delight’ and propagates several difficult-to-find selections, says first-timers are likely to be smitten once their Ribes is established. “Just a tiny bit of finesse” is all it takes, he says. “They require so little care—other than a little water.”
Ease of care is just one of several rewards, according to Keator, who grows several species in his own Bay Area garden.
“Ribes reach maturity fairly quickly. They’re not terribly fussy, except they need a little bit of drainage. They have attractive foliage and beautiful flowers, and one of the great things about them is that so many of them bloom really early. In fact, R. malvaceum actually blooms in the wintertime. Another advantage is that they’re habitat plants; hummingbirds love to feed on the nectar. If you have flowers in your garden all year, you don’t have to have a hummingbird feeder; you simply provide them with plants they would naturally visit.”
White flowering currant (Ribes indecorum). Photograph by Bart O’Brien
A Selection of Currants
Last summer, I discovered that several West Coast nurseries propagate and/or sell a surprising variety of native currants and gooseberries. Whether you are trying Ribes for the first time or adding to your existing collection (like I plan to do), here’s a guide to the species and cultivars that are grown and sold in the West.
Unless otherwise noted in the following discussion: all plants are deciduous, prefer part sun to shade, and require good drainage and occasional to moderate water in summer; all are hardy to at least 10°F; most have an upright habit and grow with relative speed; all have flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds, bees, and other insect pollinators; most have fruits that are popular with robins, mockingbirds, thrashers, grosbeaks, and other birds less likely to hang out at a feeder. Sunset climate zones are shown in brackets.
The species of Ribes that are known as currants lack spines, or have few, on stems, leaves, sepals, and fruits. Leaves are often pungently aromatic and sometimes viscous (sticky); flowers are usually fragrant, bloom early in the year, and are produced in pendant racemes. (The species known as gooseberries will be covered in a future issue of Pacific Horticulture.)
A loosely espaliered golden currant (Ribes aureum). Photographs by Phil Van Soelen, except as noted
Ribes aureum var aureum
Golden currants are fast-growing shrubs, three to six feet tall, with an upright habit that permits training into different shapes. They have small, glossy, light green, palmately lobed leaves and short clusters of bright yellow, sometimes fragrant flowers that emerge in early to mid-spring; the translucent berries may be yellow, orange, red, or purple and are excellent for desserts and jellies. Plants spread by layered stems or rhizomes; give them plenty of space to roam or prune suckers to control. Golden currants are tolerant of a variety of conditions, from nearly full sun to shade, and complement coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), coffeeberry, toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), and ceanothus of various kinds. This species is native from the central Sierra Nevada east to the Rocky Mountains.
Ribes aureum var. gracillimum
This variant of golden currant has yellow flowers that turn red on aging and also tolerates a wide range of conditions. Plants are almost evergreen along the coast and make a good ground cover under oaks; they grow three to six feet tall and six feet wide. The yellow berries turn black as they ripen. This variant is native from Riverside County to the southern Bay Area.
Bushy and similar in appearance to some forms of R. sanguineum, the smaller white flowering currant reaches only six to eight feet tall and wide. Attractive reddish-brown bark contrasts nicely with the resinous bright green leaves. Dense, showy clusters of white flowers appear in mid- to late winter. Native to chaparral and coastal scrub in the southern regions of California, it is drought tolerant once established, preferring full sun and little to no summer water.
Ribes malvaceum var. malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’ begins flowering in November. Photograph by RGT
Ribes malvaceum var. malvaceum
Chaparral currant blooms in winter, with numerous clusters of fragrant pink flowers from late October to March; hummingbirds simply love it. Native to chaparral, oak woodland, and closed cone coniferous forest in the Coast Ranges from Marin to Los Angeles counties, it prefers more sun in coastal and cooler climates, but part shade inland. It is right at home under oaks. The most drought-tolerant of the pink currants, chaparral currant will go dormant under drought stress in late summer; new leaves usually appear once autumn rains have moistened the soil. It usually reaches five to six feet in height but wider. Several cultivars have been selected of this variant:
Introduced by Bart O’Brien at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, this cultivar is notable for its long, drooping clusters of pale rose flowers from November to March. Hummingbirds love it all winter long.
Selected from near the summit of Montara Mountain in San Mateo County by Roger Raiche, its flowers have rose red buds that open a dark rose color in December and January. It is somewhat more compact than the other selections.
Nevin Smith introduced this selection with dense, arching clusters of small pink and white blossoms, which grace its upright branches in late winter and early spring.
Ribes malvaceum var. viridifolium ‘Ortega Beauty’
This version of chaparral currant, from the coastal mountains of Southern California, is distinguished by its resinous, deeper green leaves. Introduced by Nevin Smith, this colorful selection produces graceful, drooping clusters of red flowers all winter long on six-foot-tall shrubs. Leaves drop soon after fruit ripens.
Mountain pink currant resembles R. sanguineum var. glutinosum but grows at higher elevations (4,000-8,000’) throughout California. Ideal for planting around a mountain cabin, it can tolerate drought conditions as well as riparian settings. Its drooping clusters of pale pink flowers appear from April to July on shrubs of three to six feet in height.
Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Tranquillon Ridge’
Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum
One of over 430 California native plants introduced to the public by horticultural pioneer Theodore Payne, pink flowering currant is widely available and versatile. Planted in masses at the edge of a shady spot, espaliered against an east-facing wall, or used as an understory shrub, it is harmonious with toyon, oaks, and coffeeberry. Its handsome, upright form (six to ten feet tall) is useful in narrow spaces. Pendant clusters of pink to red flowers appear in late winter and early spring, typically just before new leaves emerge; leaves are sticky and pungent. Dark blue berries are popular with birds in fall. Found from Humboldt to Santa Barbara counties in the Coast Ranges, this species is best with summer water in hot inland areas. There are numerous selections of this variety, including:
This is a moderate grower with pure white blossoms on attractive arching branches. Light green leaves turn orange, red, and yellow in fall.
Introduced by the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, this cultivar is excellent in dry shade, as found around native oaks. Its vase-like silhouette shows off the pink flowers well. Adaptable to most soils, including clay, it will grow faster with summer water.
‘Elk River Red’
A quick growing, upright habit, with a vase shape, this selection produces large clusters of rosy red flowers in early spring.
A coastal Marin County selection introduced by Phil Van Soelen, of California Flora Nursery, this produces long, drooping racemes of deep rosy pink blossoms. It is best with light shade in inland gardens.
Discovered by Roger Raiche on Inverness Ridge in Marin County, this is a quick-growing shrub with an upright habit. Showy white flower clusters take on a rosy hue as they fade.
Introduced by Nevin Smith of Suncrest Nurseries, this bushy, roughly vase-shaped selection is notable for its long clusters of bright pink flowers.
Discovered on Tranquillon Ridge in Santa Barbara, and introduced by Native Sons Nursery, this is a fast-growing, upright shrub to ten feet tall and wide. Dark pink flower buds open into medium pink flowers in early spring.
Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum ‘Brocklebankii’
Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum
Red flowering currant may be the most widely grown of all species. A fast grower with an upright (six to twelve feet tall), vase-like silhouette, it makes an ideal background plant for the woodland garden. Large clusters of pendulous white to red flowers appear in early to mid-spring; black fruits are fairly tasty. Leaves are less sticky than R. sanguineum var. glutinosum. Native from the North Coast Ranges of California to British Columbia, often in moist situations alongside streams. There are many selections of this variant, including:
Discovered by Barrie Coate near the Geysers in Sonoma County, this moderate grower with a bushy, upright habit, produces short clusters of fragrant, deep pink blossoms from February through March. Adaptable to most soils, it tolerates full sun and infrequent watering.
Long grown in England, this is a distinctive, five-foot-tall shrub with gorgeous golden foliage in spring that becomes a striking chartreuse in summer. Rosy pink flowers appear in early spring, just as the leaves are emerging. This is slower growing than most cultivars, with leaves prone to burning in full sun; some shade is best.
‘King Edward VII’
Large, vivid, bright red flowers appear in spring on stiff, upright stems. Drought tolerant once established, it flowers best in full sun but also grows well in part shade.
Discovered in the Columbia Gorge, this cultivar has a vigorous, upright habit and pendulous clusters of candy pink flowers, flushed white, in early spring.
Floriferous and fast growing to eight feet tall, its flowers have deep red sepals and white petals in spring.
An introduction from the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, with pure white flowers on a graceful shrub (six feet tall and wide).
Evergreen currant (Ribes viburnifolium) makes an excellent groundcover under oaks. Photograph by Carol Bornstein.
Evergreen currant (Ribes viburnifolium) makes an excellent groundcover under oaks. Photograph by Bart O’Brien
A spreading shrub that’s popular as a tall ground cover for dry shade, evergreen currant (or Catalina perfume) bears little resemblance to other Ribes. Its shiny, dark-green, leathery, ovate leaves are held on burgundy-hued stems, with a fountain-like growth habit; leaves have a pleasing, spicy scent. Clusters of tiny, star-like, brownish purple flowers in late winter and spring are followed by small red orange to yellow berries, usually only in coastal gardens. Native to Santa Catalina Island and Baja California, it grows in full shade to part shade. Adaptable to most well-drained soils and extremely drought tolerant in clay, it needs little maintenance and can aid in erosion control on dry slopes.