Ribes is the single representative genus in the Grossulariaceae family found throughout California. Ribes are generally referred to as either gooseberries if thorns are present or as currants if no thorns are present. Many of the thirty-one species native to California make exceptional additions to the California landscape. More specifically, Ribes is one of the many native genera that is recommended for the under story plantings around native oaks. Establishing new plant material under mature oaks can be difficult since the supplemental water that accompanies new plantings can facilitate the spread of oak root fungus. Ribes inherent tolerance of dry shady conditions enables them to become established successfully with minimal supplemental irrigation. Ribes are also sensitive to overwatering especially in the summer months. Bear in mind that under natural conditions most Ribes in Southern California would not receive any significant amount of summer precipitation. In order to survive these dry summers most Ribes typically go dormant in the summer and drop all of their leaves. This trait can be offset in the landscape by mixing in evergreen material such as Heuchera spp. or Mahonia spp. However, the spectacular flowering and fruiting of Ribes more than compensates for its summer dormancy. Utilizing currants and gooseberries in the garden will also reward the gardener with visiting hummingbirds and other local bird species. Hummingbirds relish Ribes speciosum while the prolific fruiting of Ribes aureum will provide an abundant supply of food for other local bird species.
REQUIREMENTS: While many Ribes species can tolerate full sun in the wild, all perform best in a dry, shady location. Regular watering is necessary to establish plants however after one year watering can be reduced especeially during the summer months. Annual pruning can promote a more desirable form and a better bloom.