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Acid cherries tolerate some shade, so are a good choice for a north-facing site or wall. They are self-fertile and do not need another tree to act as a pollinator. The fruits are too acid to eat raw, but are excellent when cooked and make very good jam.
Acid cherry. Image: RHS
Acid cherries (Prunus cerasus) are less vigorous than sweet cherries, growing to a height and spread of 3-3.5m (10-12ft). They are usually grafted onto the semi-vigorous ‘Colt’ rootstock, which limits their height and spread to a manageable size.
Acid cherries are self-fertile, so do not need a partner tree to act as a cross-pollinator. They tolerate some shade, making them a suitable choice for fan-training against north facing walls and fences. Alternatively, grow as an open centred bush tree. Cherries are too vigorous to be grown as espaliers or cordons.
Planting, soil, watering and feeding requirements are the same as for sweet cherry. See the links below for details.
The initial training for an open centred bush tree is the same as for sweet cherry. Initial fan training is also as for other fruit trees.
Unlike sweet cherries, acid cherries bear almost all of their fruit on the growth formed the previous season. Once the tree is mature enough to fruit, the aim is to achieve a balance between one year old fruiting wood and new replacement branches. This is known as replacement pruning.
Cherries (and other stone fruit) should not be pruned during winter, to minimise the risk of infection by silver leaf or bacterial canker. Light formative pruning can be carried out in spring as the leaves start to develop, but the time to prune established acid cherry trees is in late summer.
If left un-pruned the branches will become lanky and only fruit at their ends.
Cherry trees are generally propagated by grafting. Named cultivars will not come true from seed. Trees grown from seed or cuttings will be much larger trees than those grafted onto a chosen rootstock, and will be slower to start fruiting.
‘Morello’ AGM: Self-fertile, excellent flavour, for picking in late summer.‘Nabella': Self-fertile, for picking in late summer.
RHS Find a PlantAGM fruit
If flower bud or immature fruit drop occur, then drought, waterlogging, low temperatures, or bird damage are the likeliest causes.
Other problems include aphids cherry blackfly, winter moth caterpillars, pear and cherry slugworm, bacterial canker, blossom wilt, brown rot, silver leaf and magnesium deficiency.
The fruit fly - spotted wing drosophila (SWD) - is likely to become an increasing problem.
ApricotsCherries: sweetCherry fruit dropCherry leaf scorch and leaf spotFruit: growing in containersMulberries (Morus nigra)PlumsPlums, damsons and gages: choosing cultivarsRHS video: Growing cherries
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