Jorge, Plants, Trees

Cherry Fruit Trees Pollination & Varieties Guide

Pollination is important as without it trees will not produce fruit. Most trees require insects to transfer pollen between male (anthers) and female structures (stigma), ensuring fertilisation. Some trees, however, can self-fertilise. Without fertilisation, trees would be unable to propagate and the production of seeds and fruit would be useless. In the case of cherry trees, some are self-fertile and others are self-sterile, depending on the variety.

Cherry trees require another variety flowering at the same time to ensure fertilisation. They are henceforth put into flowering groups from 1 (very early) to 5 (very late). A cherry tree can be partnered with another in a group that is plus or minus 1 (+-1) its own group. To make matters more complex, even if some varieties have their flowers open at the same time they may not pollinate. They are henceforth put into groups (from A-O). Cherry trees thus require another tree in the same group and within plus or minus 1 flowering groups.

Thankfully, this is where universal donors come in that will pollinate any cherry tree within plus or minus 1 flowering group. We henceforth recommend, you pair one of these fertile varieties with another. As previously mentioned, some cherry trees are self-fertile and do not need to be paired with another. However, they do benefit from cross-fertilisation, so for heavier crops we recommend pairing.

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Another factor you need to consider is the date of the last frost in your location. Frost can be extremely damaging to blossoms and will reduce your crop. It is henceforth important to choose trees in the latter flowering groups if you have a late last frost. Your locations date can be found using this resource online. It should also be noted that bad weather such as rain and wind will prevent pollinating insects from visiting your blossoms and could reduce your crops.  

It is important to note that cherry blossom trees will not fertilise edible cherry trees, although acid cherries will. As cherry trees are somewhat common, it is possible that another tree could fertilise your own tree. As bees forage widely, a tree within 30m could fertilise one of your own, although it is simpler to plant another within the immediate vicinity. If you believe pollination has been disrupted, you can pollinate yourself by using a paintbrush and transferring pollen from one plant to another.

So why do growers bother with multiple varieties and not just choose a self-pollinator? Firstly, just like apples, different varieties produce different tastes. And secondly, growing multiple varieties allows you to ensure a steady supply of cherries throughout the warmer months. Lastly, some varieties have preferable traits such as resistance to cracking, larger crop, larger size and others are edible right off the bat, requiring no cooking.

As a rule, acid cherries are predominantly self-fertile, while sweet cherries require are self-sterile. Now without further ado, here is a quick overview of the different varieties characteristics.

Universal Donors

  • Celeste: Large red/black cherries. Naturally compact and great for patio.
  • Lapins: Red and mild tasting. Highly productive and vigorous.
  • May Duke: Tangy versatile fruit, great for eating fresh and making jams.
  • Merchant: Good flavour. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Morello: Acid cherries that are perfect for cooking. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Nabella: Acid cherries that are great for jams, pies, and liqueurs.
  • Sasha: Dark red cherries that are sweet and juicy. Heavy cropping.
  • Stardust Coveu: Very sweet white cherries. Great flavour and firmness.
  • Stella: Large blood-red fruit. Very juicy and sweet tasting. Highly productive, but sensitive to cold. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Summer Sun: Great tasting dark red fruit. Extremely hardy and RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.  
  • Sunburst: Very productive with large, firm fruit.
  • Sweetheart: Excellent flavour red cherries that are best eaten straight off the tree.
  • Van: Reddish black, sweet cherries. Superb flavour.

Self-Sterile

  • Bigarreau Napoleon: Another “white” cherry with pale golden white flesh. Firm-fleshed with a sweet tangy taste.
  • Burlat: Dark, red sweet cherries. Easy to grow.
  • Colney: Large burgundy coloured fruit. Resistant to bacterial canker and RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Karina: Hard and tasty. Perfect with meringue and ice-cream. Not widely available in the UK. .
  • Kordia:Glossy, black and large fruit. Resistant to cracking.
  • Merton Glory: Large, red fruit flushed with white. Very tasty but not suitable for storage.
  • Morello: Acid cherries that are perfect for cooking. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Regina: Mild and sweet fruit and resistant to cracking. Balanced flavour.
  • Sylvia: Compact with upright growth. Similar taste to Stella.
  • White Heart: Large yellow-red fruit. Good resistant to bacterial canker.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

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