Best dwarf tart cherry for zone 7? & where to buy

xenacrocker(7)August 30, 2008


My ancient dogwoods are dying and we're planing on planting 1 or 2 trees in the next year. We're thinking of a cherry tree since my hubby is so crazy about cherries and they are so expensive. What is the hardiest/best tasting cherry tree that can take the heat and humidity? Where would you buy from? I'm thinking of gurneys.


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austransplant(MD 7)

You will find it much easier to grow sour cherries than sweet ones. For one thing, sour cherries are self-fertile; only one tree is needed to get fruit. With sweet cherries, this depends on the variety; some require you plant another variety to get fruit. But this is really a minor issue. The main one is that sweet cherries in Maryland are a lot of work and will need spraying. For example, my neighbor's Stella sweet cherry this year set an enormous crop. How many cherries did he get to eat? None. Rot set in and every single cherry was lost to it. This is a major problem in our hot and humid climate. They are also susceptible to cracking after rain. Sweet cherries also grow into larger trees, making it harder to keep the birds off -- if you avoid rot, you still have to deal with birds.

My recommendation would be to go with sour cherries. I have two: Montmorency and North Star. There are quite a few discussions of these and sweet cherries on Garden Web -- search for Jellyman's comments on cherries. My limited experience is this: Montmorency, third year, nice crop of sour cherries, very little rot damage, since cherries are not tightly clustered. Small tree could be netted to keep birds off. North Star: second year, a few cherries; a naturally dwarfed tree. But North Star is susceptible to Canker, a bacterial disease. Mine has it, and there are lots of posts by people whose North Stars also have it.

So given my limited experience, I'd vote for Montmorency. I bought mine from Burnt Ridge Nursery; it is on a Colt rootstock and has done well for me. I would not grow North Star again.

You can eat sour cherries out of hand, if you let them get fully ripe and don't mind some tartness along with sweetness. But they are really useful for pies (make fantastic pies), you can dry them as snacks and to put into baked goods or even salads; and you can make wine out of them.

Regarding nurseries, I guess Gurney's is ok. I prefer to buy from nurseries that tell you more about the trees, especially the rootstocks (the root portion of the tree the named variety is grafted onto), or will do so if you email them. Rootstocks can make a difference and you might want to do a little research on this on line. Go to and scroll down to their list of nurseries, and do a little exploring there. I've often used Hidden Springs nursery out of Tennessee, small and reputable and experienced with our kind of climate. Late fall would be a good time to plant trees in Maryland.

Here is a link that might be useful: nafex nursery list

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 11:24AM
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austransplant(MD 7)

I should have read your header more carefully. No need to worry about my comments about sweet cherries since it was sour cherries you wanted all along. Not enough sleep on my part.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 2:11PM
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theaceofspades(7 Long Island)

There is a variety called Carmine jewel bush cherry, that Gurneys sells. I have that one and another called Crimson passion bush cherry. Mine are not fruiting size yet but reliable sources report that these large tart cherries ripen sweeter than sweet cherries. Plant in full sun and water, no spraying necessary on bush cherries.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 7:08PM
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Xenacrocker, a variety of tart/pie cherry I planted a few years back and which gave me its first crop this year is 'Balaton' -- available from Stark Bros. Nursery in Missouri. I was incredibly impressed with this cherry -- extremely large, bright red, juicy. My little tree, which is a superdwarf, is about 5 feet tall x 5 to 6 feet wide, and yielded about 10 quarts. I'm going to order three more of them this fall myself, so they can get going for future years. Cherries ripened about a week later than Montmorency.

SE Michigan

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Thanks for all the advice. I checked out the Balaton at starks and it sounds great. It only listed semi-dwarf. Do they occasionally offer dwarf or super dwarf or did you do something to encourage it to grow small?

Also, I looked around and can't find the crimson passion cherry anywhere. Does anyone know where it is for sale?


    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:10PM
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