Currant plants are rapidly growing deciduous shrubs. The plants are part of the Saxifragaceae family, which is comprised of approximately 460 different species. The English term "currant" has been in use since about 1550, when it was taken from the Greek word for dried currant raisins due to their visual similarities. Other names for currant plants include bes, groseille, ribes and Johannisbeere.
Currants thrive in warm summer humidity in areas that are generally cool with occasional winter chills. Currant plants grow best in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) plant hardiness zones of three, four and five. The plants can also be easily grown inside of containers.
The flowers of currant plants develop near the bases of the stems that reach 1 year old. With older stems, they form on the spurs. The show up at the beginning of the spring, and every flower bud opens to a maximum of 20 flowers. The stems grow to 5 or 6 inches in length, and then they droop. Red currants have green flowers and black currants have pink flowers. Self-fertile and self-sterile varieties of currant plants exist.
Currant plants have alternate single leaves that are lobed. They look similar to maple leaves. The leaves of black currants are light green, while the red currants have dark, greenish-blue leaves. Under water-related stress, the amount of leaves decrease as well as the size of the leaves.
Currant plants bear small berries with bony seeds that are known as currants. Pink, white and red currants have translucent berries, while black currants produce berries that are a matte, purplish-brown color.
There are many well-known varieties of currants. Some popular red currants include Red Lake, Perfection and Wilder. Some white currants are White Versailles, White Imperial and Weisse aus Juterbog. Black currants include Willoughby, Blacksmith, Noir de Bourgogne and Boskoop Giant.