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Mr. Smarty Plants - How to plant a gooseberry bush

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Saturday - November 22, 2008

From: Vallejo, CA
Region: California
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants, Propagation, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: How to plant a gooseberry bush
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Please, if somebody can help, I need to know how to plant the gooseberry bush. Thanks,

ANSWER:

There are eleven different species of Ribes (currant) in our Native Plant Database. We have selected the two native and even endemic to California to use as examples. These are Ribes speciosum (fuchsiaflower gooseberry) - native only to California and Ribes viburnifolium (island gooseberry) - native only to California. The very first thing we need to tell you about planting these shrubs is, please don't dig them up in the wild. The California Native Plant Society lists Ribes viburnifolium (island gooseberry) in Category 1B.2, which means it is rare, threatened or endangered in California and elsewhere. Since the plants are pretty similar in appearance, it would probably be a good idea to avoid digging up either one in the wild. According to the information we have, they are commercially available, which means they should be available for sale in pots, probably raised in greenhouses and therefore not reducing the wild stock. 

That being said, they really are just shrubs. If you purchase them commercially in pots (please!), you can follow ordinary shrub transplanting procedures. One caution: Ribes speciosum (fuchsiaflower gooseberry) has spiny branches, as in THORNS, and the flowers are followed by prickly berries. This obviously makes a very good barrier plant, but you want to plant it away from walkways where someone might blunder into it, and certainly away from where children might run into it. And planting requires heavy gloves and care. A suit of armor would be nice. This plant is summer and fall deciduous, leafing out right around New Year's and blooming soon after. It blooms from January to May.

Ribes viburnifolium (island gooseberry) is much more amiable. This is a low, mounding, spreading plant, evergreen, except it can drop leaves in summer if drought-stressed. It blooms from February to May.

Both plants require good drainage; that is, they can't tolerate roots standing in water. After you have purchased your plant, get in the ground as soon as possible, in order to prevent any more drying out or stress on the plant. Dig a big enough hole to accept more than the size of the root ball, and mix in some compost or other organic material to improve the drainage and also to add nutrition to the soil. Tap the shrub out of the pot and inspect the roots. If it has been in the pot too long, it may be rootbound, that is, the roots are winding around in circles. They will continue to do this in the soil, and be reluctant to spread into the soil into which they have been planted. Using garden clippers, clip some of the roots and kind of mess up the rootball, freeing the roots from the position they've grown themselves into. Get it into the hole you've dug, with the soil level of the plant at the same level as the surrounding area. Finish filling the hole with more compost and native dirt. Stick a hose down in that soft soil and turn on a slow dribble, and let it drip until water appears on the surface. If the water stays on the surface more than about half an hour that may mean you have heavy clay soil and it is not draining well. While the plant gets established, continue to water in this way, but if it is not draining well, water less at a time and more often.

We would suggest planting these plants now or as soon as possible, as they should be as near dormancy as they probably get in California.  Both should begin to bloom in late winter. 


Ribes speciosum

Ribes speciosum

Ribes viburnifolium

Ribes viburnifolium

 

 

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