A member of the Rose family, related to plums, peaches, and apricots, and
cultivated for more than 2000 years. The two cherry species commonly grown
for eating are Prunus avium: sweet cherry, described here, and the sour or tart
cherry (Prunus cerasus), used for baking.
60-100 years in native regions, much less elsewhere.
20-30' high and 15-20' wide without dwarfing rootstock.
White, five petals, fragrant, in clusters of 3-5.
Late winter to early spring.
No. Another cultivar is needed to cross-pollinate.
The planting distance between the two trees should be no closer
than their expected mature width, and not more than 50'.
Years before fruiting:
Red glossy skin, round, 1/2" to 4/5" in diameter,
a single seed contained within a hard wood shell, yellow flesh,
edible when ripe, sweet in taste. Cherries do not ripen further once
harvested, but will spoil.
Months for fruit to ripen:
2. Sweet cherries must be tasted to
determine when they are ripe.
Storage after harvest:
Place in sealed container without washing
and refrigerate for up to a week. Do not keep at room temperature for
more than one hour to avoid spoilage. Or wash and freeze on cookie
sheet (the quickest method) then place in sealed container in freezer.
Green, oval to lance-shaped, pointed, serrated margins. Leaves appear
just after or during flower bloom.
Usually grafted onto dwarfing rootstock. Subject to
root rot in wet soil.
Cultivars of Note:
'Christobalina': a Spanish heirloom cherry, 200 chill hours,
not heat tolerant above 90°F.
'Minnie Royal' and 'Royal Lee': 400-500 chill hours.
Attracts bees, birds and mammals. Bird netting
often needed near harvest time.
Toxic / Danger:
All parts poisonous except ripe fruit.
Original cultivation started in Asia Minor although
varieties are also found in Northern Europe and North America.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: Usually 4-7. Some varieties are 6-8.
They may perform inconsistently from year to year in zone 9 depending
on the duration of winter temperatures below 45°F.
Sunset climate zones: 2, 6-7, 14-15, 32, 34, 37, 39.
Chill hours: Usually 500-800. The tree and surrounding ground must be in full shade between
October 21 and February 21 to help the tree achieve sufficient chill hours.
Heat tolerant: No. High temperatures during fruit
development may lead to abnormally shaped fruit on susceptible cultivars.
Sun: Full sun to open shade on the canopy, afternoon shade in regions where temperatures
Drought tolerant: Yes, when grafted onto the Mahaleb rootstock.
Water after becoming established: Deep water every 1-4 weeks depending on temperature.
Do not allow roots to dry out completely.
Soil: Very well drained, deep, high organic content, pH 6.1-7.0
(slightly acidic side of neutral).
Fertilize: Use a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10 once a year
in the spring. Excess nitrogen promotes brown rot.
Mulch: Spread 3" deep under the canopy to reduce moisture loss and heat
stress. Keep one foot away from the trunk. Place a rodent gnaw guard
around the base of the trunk.
Planting: Placing on top of a mound improves water drainage.
The root crown must be above soil level by 1-2". In zone 9, locate on the north side of
a structure where it receives full, all-day shade on its trunk and surrounding ground between
October 21 and February 21. This will help it accumulate more chill hours.
Prune: In winter, remove dead, broken and diseased limbs.
Remove crossing limbs and those that do not promote a strong structure.
If the trunk or branches are exposed to full sun, apply white citrus tree paint
to prevent sunscald.
Propagation: Cuttings grafted onto rootstock. Can be grown from
seed to produce a very large tree.
Pests: Very susceptible to brown rot, bacterial canker, cytospora canker,
root and crown rots and several viruses.
Uses: Edible fruit.
Sweet cherry is considered one of the most difficult fruit trees to grow because of its
disease susceptibility and heat intolerance.
USDA hardiness zone 9, and below 4000' elevation in southern Arizona, cause cherries to fail to
flower and fruit.
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