Eating cherries is one of summer's great delights. Who knew that something so delicious could be so good for you?
Cherries contain beta carotene, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium and fiber as well as a high concentration of antioxidants and research is showing all sorts of other bonuses to cherry consumption.
With all these benefits, you will surely want to grow cherries yourself! We have many varieties from which to choose, including some suitable for low chill areas. Minnie Royal and Royal Lee pollenize each other and require only 200 to 300 chill hours while Lapins, Royal Rainier and Stella all need only 400 to 500 hours.
Success with cherry trees begins with choosing the right tree to start with. Factors that need to be considered are rootstock, space, chill hours, pollenization and drainage. Cherries are very large trees, with those on standard rootstock growing to thirty to forty feet and semi-dwarfs reaching twenty to thirty feet. Obviously, having enough room is an important consideration. Fortunately for people with small gardens, there is now a dwarfing rootstock (Z-Dwarf) that holds the trees to about twelve feet. This rootstock is also ideal for container planting.
Chill hours are very important to bear in mind when choosing a cherry variety. Most cherries require at least 700 chill hours (hours below 45 degrees) in order to set fruit. If the trees do not get enough chill, they will not produce fruit. If you do not get that much chill in your area, choose one of the lower chill varieties mentioned above. The sour cherries are also lower chill at 500 hours.
Another major aspect of cherry selection is pollenization. Most cherry varieties need a pollenizer and some are very specific as to which ones will work. Make sure that you read the variety description to determine whether or not the tree you are considering needs a pollenizer and, if so, which one. If you are interested in having only one cherry tree, make sure that you choose one that is self-fruitful and does not need a pollenizer.
Akebono Flowering Cherry
Good drainage is one of the most important factors in cherry tree success. If your soil does not drain well and you have your heart set on growing cherry trees, consider constructing a raised bed. You can use lumber or railroad ties to enclose the bed. Fill it with a good mix of top soil and soil amendment. Another option is to get trees on the dwarfing rootstock and plant them in containers.
Flowering cherry trees:
Amanagawa Flowering Cherry (above)
Yoshino Flowering Cherry (below)
Once your trees are planted, they will require some care. They will need to be watered sufficiently to keep them healthy, but not so much that they end up with soggy roots. A thick layer of mulch will help in retaining soil moisture and reducing water needs. The trees benefit enormously from the application of a good organic fruit tree fertilizer to promote adequate leaf growth, blooming, fruiting and root development. Follow the directions on the package for application amount and frequency.
Just before those delicious red (or, in the case of Rainier, yellow with a red blush) fruits are ready to harvest, the birds descend! If your cherry tree is very large, there may be enough to share. Otherwise, you will want to net the tree. We offer bird netting in our Orchard and Garden Supplies section. Another option is constructing a permanent structure made of chicken wire. Make sure there is an opening for easy entry. You probably will want this type of structure in an unobtrusive spot.
Kwanzan Flowering Cherry
Cherry trees are easy to grow if you can meet their drainage requirements. Mature trees require little to no pruning and not much else other than water and food. Spending a few minutes to make the right selection can bring years of luscious fruit and the enjoyment of growing your own cherries!