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Alpine Currant

Ribes alpinum

How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me

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The Alpine Currant is a small to medium-sized deciduous shrub forming a round bush up to 6 feet tall and wide. It has attractive lobed leaves that turn clear yellow in fall, and smooth gray stems. Some plants may produce bright-red berries in mid-summer. A great plant for low-maintenance gardening in cold zones, and easy to turn into hedges and screens, as well as cover slopes and banks, or fill the backs of beds in sun or full shade.

  • Tough and reliable foliage shrub for colder zones
  • Excellent for low hedges and edging
  • Attractive and neat foliage turns yellow in fall
  • Great for difficult, rocky slopes with minimal soil
  • Untroubled by pests, rabbits, drought, shade or cold

The Alpine Currant is incredibly cold-resistant, thriving even in zone 2. It grows everywhere from full sun to full shade, and in all soils that are well-drained – even urban soils and rocky areas with little soil on them. It doesn’t have significant pests or diseases and it isn’t eaten by rabbits. Our plants are male clones that don’t act as vectors for white pine blister rust.

Plant Hardiness Zones 2-7
Mature Width 3-6
Mature Height 3-6
Soil Conditions Well-Drained Soil
Sunlight Full Sun to Full Shade
Drought Tolerance Good Drought Tolerance
Zones 2-7

In cooler parts of the country there is always a need for reliable, cold-resistant shrubs that create a pleasant garden without needing much attention. Few if any do it as well as the reliable Alpine Currant. Almost an heirloom plant, this classic cold-zone shrub is perfect where you want to fill spaces or make low hedges with an attractive no-nonsense plant that you won’t have to fuss over. Even in zone 2 this shrub survives easily, and you can trim or not, as you choose. The pretty lobed leaves are carried right to the ground, turning yellow in fall, and bright-red berries are often scattered across the bushes in midsummer. When you have spots where not much will grow, the Alpine Currant is your friend, and a friend to birds and butterflies too – but not to pesky deer, who usually leave it alone. It’s easily trimmed even if gardening isn’t your thing, so you can enjoy an attractive garden without needing a green thumb. OK, it might not be a showstopper, but we all need reliable friends, even if they aren’t the life of the party.

Growing the Alpine Currant

Size and Appearance

The Alpine Currant is a deciduous shrub with slender pale-gray stems, branching low down and making a rounded bush that is usually between 3 and 6 feet tall and wide, although older untrimmed bushes can become a few feet larger. Young twigs are glossy and older ones develop a rough bark that is darker gray-brown. The rounded leaves are up to 1½ inches long, although often smaller, and they are divided into 3 or 5 shallow lobes, giving them an irregular outline vaguely suggesting a maple leaf. The surface is slightly hairy, and a healthy green, turning clear yellow in fall.

This plant has male and female flowers on separate plants, and plants produce long clusters of greenish-yellow flowers in early spring. Male clusters are up to 1½ inches long, and female clusters are no more than ¾ of an inch long. These are not very showy, but if you have several plants in your garden, then any female bushes will produce bunches of bright red berries by mid-summer. These are edible but not tasty, and last a while, brightening the plants, before providing valuable food for hungry birds. Please note that our plants are normally all male, because female bushes can spread the dangerous pine disease called white pine blister rust. This is particularly a problem in the east and northeast, so growing female bushes is not a good idea.

Using the Alpine Currant in Your Garden

As a no-nonsense shrub for filling beds and making lower hedges, the Alpine Currant is a winner, especially in colder zones where plant choices are much more limited. Grow it at the back of beds, perhaps in the shade beneath larger shrubs, to bring structure and fullness to your garden. It’s excellent as a hedge or screen, perhaps along a path or driveway, or to hide an ugly fence or wall. It enjoys rocky ground, so use it on banks and slopes and in exposed, dry places. It is great for screening unsightly equipment like air-con from view, and for filling spaces wherever you have them. For group planting and hedges, space plants 2 to 3 feet apart – use the closer spacing for shorter hedges.

Hardiness

The Alpine Currant is remarkably hardy, growing without winter damage even in zone 2, and through all the cooler zones into zone 7. In hotter zones leaf diseases can become an issue, and there are many better choices in those zones.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

The versatile Alpine Currant will grow happily in full sun, and also in partial shade, with just a couple of hours of direct sunshine. It will even grow in full shade that isn’t too dark, such as along the north side of a wall or fence, although growth will be more open. When it comes to soil, ‘bring it on’ is the motto of this tough plant. It will grow in poor soil where most other plants fail, and in everything from sand to clay and acid to alkaline soils. It also grows well in rocky areas with minimal amounts of soil. Just don’t plant it in wet, low-lying areas. Established plants are drought-resistant.

Maintenance and Pruning

Pests and diseases aren’t problems, but notice our earlier comment about female bushes acting as go-betweens for the fungus that causes white pine blister rust. This disease has little impact on the health of the currant bushes themselves, and 0ur male plants are safe to grow in the east. This bush isn’t eaten by rabbits, and it is very easy to grow. It can be pruned at just about any time of year – we suggest a trim in late spring, after it has leafed out fully. For extra neat bushes you might want a second trim in summer.

History and Origin of the Alpine Currant

The Alpine currant, Ribes alpinum, is also known as mountain currant. It grows across a large part of Europe, from Scandinavia and the British Isles into Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. In southern countries it is found only in mountain regions. It grows on slopes and in rocky areas, and in woods in cooler regions. It’s cold resistance made it an early popular choice for gardens in colder parts of America and Canada. It has been grown for so long, and appears in so many older gardens, that it has heirloom status and it’s very appropriate for gardens around older homes.

Buying the Alpine Currant at the Tree Center

Despite the availability of other hardy plants, the Alpine Currant remains a reliable favorite when you want a garden that takes care of itself, especially in the coldest parts of the country. A true plant for the gardens of non-gardeners, you can be sure this is one plant that you can grow. Lots of other people feel the same way, so it always sells quickly, so order now, while our stock stays available.

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Alpine Currant

Ribes alpinum