Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)-Hort Answers - University of Illinois Extension
University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Extension

Hort Answers

Tree Fruit

Sweet Cherry
Prunus avium


Select a site with well-drained, deepfertile soil.They perform very well under cooler dry climate with less danger of early spring frosts, and less rainfall during harvest. Sweet cherries are used mainly as desserts and some are brined and some are used as maraschino cherries.Sweet cherries are less cold tolerant compared to sour cherries. They perform very poorly on heavy or poorly drained soil.

Cherries are budded ontorootstocks. The types of rootsocks used in sweet cherry propagation are Mazzard (produces larger trees) and Mahaleb (good for calcareous and drought tolerant). A new group of rootstocks called Giesela that were developed in Germany are now available in the United States. Sweet cherry plantings are widely spaced and trees are trained on central leader system. Plant the trees in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Dig a hole that will accomodate all the roots. Cut all the broken,too long, and dead roots at planting. Plant one inch deeper than in nursery, firm the soil around the roots and cut to a height of 30 to 48 inches above the ground.Put sawdust, wood cips, or other organic mulches around the trunk of the tree during the firstthree to fouryears of growth. Mature sweet cherry trees require less pruning since the fruit is borne on spurs that are two or more years old and such spurs can survive for along period of time. It is alsoimportant to headback some of the branches that are 15 to 18 feet tall to keep tree at a height that is about 20 feet tall.

Fertilizer application rates depend on the annual shoot growth and age of the trees. Non-bearing should have an annual growth of 22 to 36 inches and mature trees should have an annual growth of about 8 inches. Sweet cherry needs adequate soil moisture for good fruit production.


Sweet cherry cultivars are self-unfruitful (pollen from the same variety cannot pollinate flowers of the same variety for a fruit to develop). It is very important toplant two or more different varieties so that they can cross-pollinate. Some of the sweet cherry cultivars are:

  • Heartland
  • Valera
  • Cavalier
  • Merchant
  • Vista
  • Viva
  • Vicount
  • Summit
  • Emperor Francis
  • Kristin
  • Ulster
  • Black Gold
  • Schmidt's Bigarreau
  • Lapins
  • Hedelfingen
  • Gold Sweetheart
  • Hudson
  • Regina
  • Somerset
  • Napoleon
  • Rainer
  • Corum
  • Windsor
  • Stella
  • Bing
  • Van Richmond
  • Royal Duke
  • Black Tartarian
Mature Height
10-50 Feet (Depends on the type of rootstock used)
Mature Width
Harvest Time
June to August


USDA Hardiness Zone
5 - 8 
Soil Conditions
Moist, Well-Drained
Exposure/Light Requirements
Full Sun
Fruit Color
Pests and Problems
Additional Notes

Fruit cracking when rainfall occur during harvesting time. Harvest as soon as the fruit is mature.

Birds need to be controlled by covering the trees with nets when the fruit start to ripen.


Related Resources
Home, Yard & Garden Pest Guide
U of IL - Distance Diagnosis through Digital Imaging
U of IL - Plant Clinic