My Favorite Plant This Week - Red Flowering Currant

This is a spectacular native shrub that grows in woodland areas from California up to British Columbia west of the Cascades. Ribes sanguineum (better known as Red Flowering Currant or Winter Currant)  begins to bloom late March to early April and stays in bloom for up to a month. The deep pink to red racemes of flowers are a beacon for hummingbirds, especially the Rufous hummingbird, who might just stop by your garden if you have this beauty in bloom. 

There are several varieties available which include a white blooming one. I bought this one at the Clark County Master Gardener Plant Sale two years ago (it was planted on May 14, 2107). If you don't know about this plant sale and are in need of plants at ridiculously low prices, I urge you to visit. The sale is Mother's Day Weekend at Heritage Farm. The crowds are huge and so are the deals - I got this one for $3. The plant tags are usually not very detailed though, as in the case of the currant so I have no idea which variety it is but I am guessing it is 'King Edward VII'.

A fast growing shrub, it can reach anywhere from 5 - 12 feet tall (mine is already almost 6 feet). The limbs grow vertically which looks a bit odd but eventually with time the shrub develops denser proportions. I am questioning my choice of placement. It is planted behind the rose 'Buff Beauty' which is a color clash waiting to be unleashed. Fortunately though the rose doesn't bloom this early. Still, I feel the currant needs much more room so I will probably move it next year.

Despite growing in woodland areas where dappled shade predominates, it seems happy in full sun conditions. It is planted all along the highway slopes in Salmon Creek, just up the road, and they are a non-demanding, drought-tolerant plant.

Ribes (pronounced rye BEEZ) includes currants and gooseberries. Currants do not have spines and gooseberries do. This particular variety is an ornamental plant and does not produce edible fruit but does have small blue-black berries in late summer that birds like to eat.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I love this native shrub, it's one of my favorites. Watch for seedlings too, several feet from the mother plant. Occasionally they'll pop up and you'll think to yourself, "Hmmm....that foliage looks familiar...." and you realize it's a red flowering currant baby. Not obnoxiously, but enough that you need to pull them.

  2. Another beautiful plant that I have never seen before. To read that it is native makes it even better.


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