Both sweet and sour cherries are appealing choices for the home garden. Sweet cherries have a high chill requirement, so they don’t do well in warm-winter areas; they’re also intolerant of extreme heat and intense cold. They perform best in Zones 2, 6, 7, 14, 15, 32, 34, 37, 39. Most need a second variety nearby for pollination; exceptions are ‘Glacier’, ‘Lapins’, ‘Stella’, and ‘Sunburst’, which are self-fertile. Standard sweet cherry trees are large ― up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide ― and even regular pruning won’t keep them much below 25 feet. For smaller trees, look for dwarf and genetic dwarf varieties, which reach only 6 to 10 feet.
Sour cherries, also called pie cherries, are more widely adapted than sweet cherries; they grow well in Zones 1-9, 14-17, 33-43. They are self-fertile. Standard trees grow to about 20 feet tall and wide; dwarf varieties (to 6 to 8 feet high) are also available.
Training and pruning
Both sweet and sour cherries can be trained to a central leader or modified central leader. Sour cherries can be trained to an open center as well. Mature cherry trees need only light pruning, to remove weak and damaged branches and maintain shape.
Pests and diseases
Scale insects and mites are controlled by dormant oil spray. Diseases include blossom blight and brown rot of stone fruit. To control brown rot, prune trees to improve air circulation; also collect and dispose of diseased fruit. For chemical controls and timetables for treatment, contact your Cooperative Extension Office. Use netting to keep birds from eating the cherry crop.