How to Grow Gooseberry Canes

Grow Guide #2998
Family: Grossulariaceae
Binomial name: Ribes uva-crispa
Life Cycle: Perennial

This 'How to Grow' guide details everything a home gardener needs to know to plant, grow and care for Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa).

When to plant Gooseberry Canes

Gooseberry is a perennial plant that grows year-round. Plants do best in cool to temperate areas as plants need a cold winter to set fruit. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to plant gooseberry canes in your climate.



Gooseberry plants are perennial, meaning they live for several years. Choose a permanent position where plants can grow undisturbed by regular digging.

Gooseberry plants are best grown in full sun or part shade. Choose a location that will receive at least 3 hours of full sun each day. Protect from hot afternoon sun.

Gooseberry plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting. Learn more about preparing soil for planting here.

Gooseberry plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 20 litres is recommended for gooseberries. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.

How to Plant Gooseberry Canes

Plant gooseberry canes soon after delivery. Do not allow roots to dry out.

  1. Remove cane from bag and shake off coir. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for 1-2 hours prior to planting. Do not leave roots soaking for longer than 2 hours or they may rot. Optional: Seaweed solution can be added to the soaking water at the recommended rate if desired.
  2. Space canes 120-150cm apart.
  3. Dig a 30cm deep hole and make a mound in the centre.
  4. Place the roots of the cane on the mound and spread them out evenly.
  5. Cover with soil, making sure the bottom of the stem is level with the surface of the soil.
  6. Water in well after planting.

How to Grow Gooseberry Canes

Gooseberry plants require a trellis or other strong support to grow on. Tie plants gently to the support using twine or plant ties. Make sure you have the support in place when you plant canes to avoid disturbing the plant’s roots later. Gooseberry plants have an upright habit and form a small bush but they will benefit from some support (a trellis or other strong support), especially when they are fruiting.

Gooseberry plants may need watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here. Once established, gooseberry plants don’t require much water, although they may need extra water during hot dry spells. Container grown plants will dry out more quickly in hot weather so keep an eye on these.

If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a balanced fertiliser or one formulated for fruit and vegetables can be beneficial:

  • Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
  • Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency while plants are fruiting or flowering.

How to Prune Gooseberry Canes

Gooseberries produce fruit on 1-3 year old wood, and young plants are pruned differently to older plants while they are becoming established.

Initial pruning and training 

The aim is to create an open vase shape with 8-10 main branches coming from the main stem. Make pruning cuts just above an outward or upward-facing bud.

First year after planting: Select 3-5 of the strongest shoots and cut them back by half. Remove any other shoots, and any shoots growing from the short stem.

Second year after planting: Continue to build the framework by selecting 6-8, strong, outward-facing shoots. Cut these back by one quarter. Remove other shoots, and any that may be crossing or growing towards the centre. Prune remaining shoots to 3 or 4 buds, and keep the stem clear.

Established plants

Removing older branches invigorates the plants and helps maintain the open shape. An open shape allows more sunlight into the centre of the plant, and helps improve airflow which reduces the chance of disease.

Winter pruning: Remove any dead or damaged shoots. On mature plants, removing one to three less productive branches every year or second year helps stimulate the growth of new shoots. Remove any shoots growing from the main stem, or branches that may touch the ground. To get larger, but fewer fruits, spur-prune the side shoots to create clusters of short fruiting branches. To do this, prune the previous year’s growth on the main branches to three or four buds. Prune the previous year’s growth on the side shoots to two buds.

Summer pruning: In mid-December to January, cut back the current season’s side shoots from the main branches, shortening them to about five leaves. Avoid pruning any shoots that may be needed to replace older branches.

How to Harvest Gooseberries

Gooseberries are ready to harvest when they are a deep red colour. Harvest fruit by pulling them gently off the plant. Gooseberry plants can be thorny so it is a good idea to use gloves when harvesting fruit.

Ripe gooseberries are best eaten soon after harvest. They can be stored short term in a container in the fridge and used in fruit salads. The slightly unripe, pink fruits are more suited for cooking, and they can be used in jams, pie fillings and sauces.

Common Problems when Growing Gooseberries

Like all plants, gooseberry is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing gooseberry plants:

  • strawberry with botrytis
    Grey mould (Botrytis sp.) is a fungal disease that causes flowers to become mouldy and fruit to rot. Spores are transported by wind and can survive in soil or on green waste. The fungus spreads most in cool, damp weather. Prune off affected flowers and fruit, water plants at soil level (not on leaves) and if necessary spray with an appropriate fungicide or homemade spray.
  • Animal eating fruit
    Possums, birds and other animals can ruin a large percentage of your harvest overnight. Physically exclude pests by using netting or cages, or try spraying plants with a pungent homemade spray made from garlic, fish oil or mustard.
  • Rust fungus
    Rust (Puccinia sp.) is a fungal disease that causes brown to orange raised spots or patches to appear on foliage. Fungal spores are spread by wind or water to neighbouring plants, especially in temperatures of 10-20C and when humidity is high. To manage rust, space plants to avoid overcrowding, grow them in the recommended amount of light (eg full sun), do not over fertilise crops, remove dead plants and practice crop rotation. Read more about rust fungus here.
  • Powdery Mildew
    Powdery mildew is caused by fungal spores reproducing on the leaves of plants. First showing as white spots on leaves, affected areas can spread quickly to cover the entire leaf surface. While rarely fatal, powdery mildew can reduce yields. Water plants at soil level (not on leaves) to prevent spreading spores, allow good air flow between plants, remove affected leaves and if necessary spray with an appropriate fungicide or homemade spray. Read more here about powdery mildew here.
  • Yellow leaf showing nutrient deficiency
    Yellowing leaves are a sign of nutrient deficiency. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertiliser or one formulated for leafy greens or herbs at the recommended rate. A liquid or foliar fertiliser is a good option for restoring nutrients to the plant quickly. Water the plants deeply after applying fertiliser and avoid heat and water stress to allow the plant to recover.

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