Cherry Cultivars - Sweet and Tart
Table of Contents
This Factsheet provides information that will guide commercial growers in selecting fruit cultivars to plant. Recommendations for planting cultivars and adapted areas within the province have been determined by University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAFRA). Valuable assistance was provided in consultation with growers, shipper/dealers, nurseries, processors and the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers' Marketing Board (OTFPMB).
The term "cultivar" is used throughout this Factsheet. Cultivar, a contraction of "cultivated variety," replaces the older and confusing term "variety," which also refers to recognizable types within a species that maintain their distinguishing characteristics in the wild state. A cultivar is any horticulturally recognized and named type or sort that can only be maintained through vegetative propagation or the use of selected breeding lines and seed sources.
Recommended cherry cultivars are listed in order of maturity in 3 groups in Table 1, Recommended Sweet and Tart Cherry Cultivars for Ontario. Those listed under "General Planting" are mainly well known cultivars with proven performance and established market value. Cultivars listed under "Limited Planting" have value, but their planting should be limited for various reasons. Some may have proven valuable in previous trial plantings and now warrant limited commercial planting. Others may have value only for special markets, for example, early cultivars for roadside stands. Self-fruitful cultivars and selections are also identified. Promising new cultivars that have not been extensively tested yet are recommended under "Trial Planting".
Sweet and tart cherries are grown in regions of Ontario where winter temperatures are severe enough to cause cold injury to shoots, fruit spurs, trunks and even, roots. Spring frost during bloom is also a threat in some regions. To ensure fruiting, only grow sweet cherries in hardiness zones 7a and 7b and tart cherries, in zones 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a and 7b.
There are currently several named cherry cultivars that have been introduced and selections being tested developed from the breeding program from Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Summerland, British Columbia. The newly named cultivars are currently being protected under Plant Breeders Rights. Also, various selections are covered under various restricted propagation agreements. Anyone interested in testing selections should contact: Okanagan Plant Improvement Company Ltd., P.O. Box 6000, Summerland, British Columbia, V0H 1Z0.
Harvest dates are an important factor to fruit growers, sales agents, processors and nurserymen. Table 2, Average First Harvest Dates for Sweet and Tart Cherries, shows average dates of first commercial harvest of sweet and tart cherry cultivars at the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland and Ridgetown College, Cedar Springs. These dates are averages of many years of observations. Only the most common cultivars or those of special interest are listed. Throughout the fruit growing districts of the province, actual harvest dates will differ from those in Table 2. There may be some minor variation in the sequence of cultivars harvested and also a shorter harvest season in some areas such as Cedar Springs.
*denotes Ridgetown location
** tart cherries
In sweet cherries, most commercial cultivars are self-unfruitful and must not be planted in solid blocks of a single cultivar. Furthermore, certain groups of cultivars are cross incompatible with each other; do not plant together. Sweet cherry cultivars have been assembled into several pollen incompatibility groups listed in Table 3, Pollen Incompatibility Groups for Sweet Cherry Cultivars because of these incompatibility problems.
A cultivar in any incompatibility group cannot pollinate another cultivar in the same group, but can serve as a pollenizer for cultivars in any other incompatibility group. For example, the cultivar Bing (Group III) cannot successfully pollinate Emperor Francis, Napoleon (Royal Ann), Lambert or Vernon, but can set fruit on Windsor (Group II), Velvet, Victor, Viva, Vogue (Group IV), or any other cultivar not in Group III. Cultivars listed within Group 0 differ from the others in that they can pollinate each other as well as cultivars from other groups. Growers are cautioned to plan cultivar arrangements in sweet cherry orchards carefully to ensure good cross-pollination for the cultivars being planted. Sweet and tart cherries belong to different species and will not pollinate each other.
The cultivars Tehranivee, Vandalay, Sonata, Lapins, Sweetheart, Sunburst and Stella are not included in Table 3. They are self-fruitful, requiring no cross-pollination. The inter-planting of other cultivars with Stella in British Columbia has not improved fruit set on Stella; hence, additional cross-pollination appears to be of no value for self-fruitful sweet cherry cultivars.
In order to provide adequate pollen within the orchard, plant every fourth tree location and every fourth row with a pollenizer cultivar. For good commercial production of sweet cherries, about 50% of the flower must set fruit. In Ontario recommended sweet cherry cultivars flower at the same time, therefore, overlapping bloom improves cross-pollination among cultivars. The long-term data collected at Vineland show an average bloom date of between May 12 and 15 among different cultivars. The information, however, is not useful for predicting the exact full-bloom period for this crop from year to year.
Sweet cherries are not pollinated by wind. The honeybee is the only effective pollinating insect reported for this crop. The recommended practice is to place 2 beehives/hectare in mature orchards. Place the hives in the middle of the orchard on or before the first day the firstflowers open. Face the hive opening south for best exposure to the sun and stimulation of early bee activity in the morning. Bees are ineffective in sweet cherry orchards without the proper combination of pollenizer cultivars. Do not apply insecticides during the bloom period. Remove the hives from the orchard after completion of pollination to avoid contamination of bees by spray material.
Tart cherry cultivars are self-fruitful and do not require pollenizer cultivars for a commercial crop. Tart cherries can therefore be planted in solid blocks. For maximum production of tart cherries, have 2 hives of strong honeybee colonies/hectare. Place the beehives in the middle of the orchard on or before the day the first flowers open. Sweet and tart cherries belong to different species with different numbers of chromosomes and will not pollinate each other.
Sweet cherry named cultivars
Brief descriptions are provided below for the major sweet cherry cultivars, which show promise grown on standard Mazzard rootstock in Ontario. The descriptions are not intended to be complete but rather to indicate the general characteristics and performance of each cultivar in test plantings located at the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland and Ridgetown College, Cedar Springs (indicated by*) and/or commercial orchards in Ontario. Where possible, cultivar suitability is linked to climatic zones. Unless otherwise indicated, a cultivar is generally satisfactory in tree growth, hardiness, production and fruit quality characteristics, such as size, colour, shape and internal quality. These appraisals apply only to Ontario conditions. Performance elsewhere may be substantially different.
A large, black, firm, good-quality cherry susceptible to cracking. Bing originated in the Pacific Coast region and is a major cultivar in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The production has been inconsistent in Niagara orchards in the past. It was fairly extensively planted in Ontario but has competed in the same season as Viscount and Vandalay in grower plantings.
A medium to large fruited, early season cherry, which ripens around the same time as Vista and Viva. The tree is moderately vigorous with a slightly upright growth habit and a low to average yield potential. Similar in firmness and colour to Hedelfingen but it has a lower incidence of splits.
A large fruited, early season cherry which matures one day after Viva. Slightly firmer, but paler than Hedelfingen. Stem length is medium and does not tear from fruit. Tree shape is moderately vigorous with an upright growth habit and becomes spreading as the tree matures. Yields are average and cropping is consistent.
Early season, high yielding cherry which matures the same time as Viva. Fruit size is average and slightly firmer than Hedelfingen. Splits to the same degree as Hedelfingen. Tree is spreading and early bearing.
A medium to large, firm, good quality black cherry with good resistance to cracking. Hedelfingen is the cultivar most extensively planted in Ontario. Trees bear fruit early and are very productive. Fruit colour early before they are fully mature.
Small fruited, but high yielding early season cherry which matures 1 day after Viva. Fruit is firm with similar colour to Hedelfingen. The tree is vigorous, and crops early and consistently.
Matures about a week after Hedelfingen. The bloom is self-fertile and blooms in mid season. The tree is very vigorous and upright and is difficult to manage while young. Precocity is medium to good with heavy cropping and occasionally over-cropping. Fruit are dark red when mature, very large, and firm with round shape. Taste is mild to good. Cracking is low to medium. Stems are short to medium.
A large, firm,white-fleshed and productive cherry, known as Royal Ann on the Pacific Coast.
Large fruited, early season cherry with yields similar to Hedelfingen but more susceptible to cracking. Ripens 1 day after Viva. Fruit is firm, but colour is lighter than Hedelfingen. Tree is very spreading, comes into production early, and fruit is well distributed.
Large fruited, early season cherry with relatively low yields and susceptible to cracking. It has good quality, flavourful fruit. Tree is spreading.
High yielding, early-mid season cherry, maturing 2 days before Hedelfingen. Fruit is similar in size and amount of cracking to Hedelfingen, but firmer. Tree is spreading and early bearing.
An average sized, self-fruitful cherry, with low yields and fruit with average quality. Stem length is medium to long. Tree is vigorous and upright. Matures 3 days before Hedelfingen.
A productive, good-quality, medium-large, semi-firm, heart-shaped black cherry with good crack resistance. Ripens one day before Valera.
A large, firm, black, fair-quality cherry. Ripens about 2 days before Vic. Its outstanding feature is its self-fertility.
Fruit are large and tend to be firm, dark red with good colour. The tree is self-fertile and sets heavy crops. Matures 3 days after Van.
A self-fruitful, high yielding, smaller fruited cherry. The tree is very precocious and has potential to over-crop. Fruit is firm with good flavour. Tree is moderately vigorous and spreading. Management of tree vigour and crop load is extremely important to maintain good fruit size and quality.
TehraniveeTM (PBR#0327) (formerly V690620)
A Van x Stella seedling resulting from 1969 breeding work at the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland. It is a self-fruitful, very productive cherry with good flavour. The average picking date at Vineland is July 22, about the same season as Stella.
A medium-sized, firm, dark-skinned, dark-fleshed cherry. This very productive cherry, which resembles Schmidt, ripens with Venus and Valera and produces fair quality fruit with fairly good crack resistance.
The tree is vigorous, comes into bearing early and has been a consistent cropper. Valera is a sister seedling of Venus, but has darker colour, richer flavour and a more consistent crop record than Venus. Fruit are less clustered on the tree and less susceptible to brown rot than Venus.
A medium-sized, firm, attractive, good-quality, short- stemmed black cherry. It is hardier than Bing and less susceptible to cracking. It ripens in the same season as Hedelfingen.
Vandalay (PBR#0326) (formerly V690618)
A Van x Stella seedling resulting from 1969 breeding work at the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland. It is a self-fruitful, very productive large sized, very firm red cherry with good flavour and high resistance to cracking. Over-cropped trees may produce smaller fruit under stressed conditions. The average picking date at Vineland is July 16, about the same season as Bing.
A very large, white-fleshed, attractive white cherry. The pit is small and easily removed. Larger, firmer and earlier than most white cultivars, Vega is too tart for dessert purposes until very ripe. Requires a careful spray program because brown rot has occasionally been a problem.
A large, attractive, excellent-quality, shiny black cherry. Venus has shown a tendency to overbear in some years especially under orchard conditions that favour good cross-pollination. Venus and Valera are the best mid-season black sweet cherries for Ontario.
A medium-sized, dark-fleshed, good-quality black cherry maturing with Windsor. It is replacing Windsor in Ontario because of its superior processing quality. The tree is large and has been a consistently heavy cropper. Vic has sized well in heavy crop years.
A hybrid that has Hedelfingen and Bing in its parentage, Viscount produces medium to large, firm, good quality, dark glossy red cherries which ripen with Bing. It is productive and has good crack resistance. It should be propagated only on Mazzard rootstock. Viscount is very similar to Bing and less susceptible to cracking.
A Hedelfingen x Victor seedling that ripens just ahead of Black Tartarian. It is larger, much firmer and attractive but in some years cracking is a serious problem especially in young plantings.
A medium sized, semi-firm, long-stemmed, good-quality, dark red cherry, ripening a day later than Vista. Viva lacks the finish and firmness of Vista, but is highly resistant to splitting. Fruit are less clustered on the tree than Vista and consequently less susceptible to brown rot.
A large, shiny, firm, dark red cherry with a small pit. It ripens one day later than Bing and is good for canning. Vogue is more productive than Bing, and more crack-resistant. In heavy crop years, the fruit sets in clusters and requires careful spraying for brown rot control.
A small, productive, light-coloured cherry, Windsor once was the main sweet cherry cultivar in Ontario, but since has decreased greatly. Plantings of Hedelfingen and Vic, which have better size, colour and quality, have replaced this cultivar.
The following cherry cultivars were described in the previous issue of this publication, but have been dropped because they are no longer considered important:
Black Tartarian, Early Lyons, Early Rivers, Schmidt, Seneca, Vernon and Victor.
Tart cherry named cultivars
A Hungarian cultivar introduced in 1984 and tested extensively in Michigan. It is harvested 7 days after Montmorency with fruit uniformly ripe at maturity. Fruit length, width and weight are significantly larger than Montmorency as well as significantly firmer. It is a more vigorous tree than Montmorency with superior branch angles and it is similar for its cherry leaf spot susceptibility and fruit brown rot. The trunks may be more susceptible to cold than Montmorency and therefore plant on excellent sites.
A very old tart cherry of unknown origin. Fruit are medium in size, dark reddish black, semi-firm, and ripen about July 30. Trees are small, upright, spreading, productive and hardy. Limited plantings have been useful for special markets.
A medium-sized, semi-firm, good-quality, bright red tart cherry. It ripens 7-10 days after Northstar, at the beginning of August. Trees are medium in size, spur-type in growth habit, very productive, self-fruitful, very hardy and claimed to be resistant to leaf spot.
This is the only tart (red tart or sour) cherry of commercial importance in Ontario. Montmorency responds to good care and feeding which, at present, is the best way of "improving" the cultivar. The large tree size of some strains appears due to low yields resulting from virus diseases. Only plant trees propagated from buds of virus-tested Montmorency. Spraying of virus-infected trees with gibberellic acid (for detailed information refer to latest issue of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Publication 360, Fruit Production Recommendations) and removing of young trees showing virus symptoms before they come into bearing will ensure better crop production.
A Morello-type (dark juice) tart cherry with mahogany red fruit. It is medium in size, soft and, on average, ripens July 23. Trees are small, productive, self-fruitful, very hardy, and claimed to be resistant to leaf spot.
Sweet cherry cultivars budded on this hybrid (P. avium x P. pseudocerasus) rootstock tested in East Malling, England were reported initially to offer some size controlling effect. This rootstock has been evaluated with different sweet and tart cherry cultivars and selections at Vineland. It produced larger trees with both sweet and tart cherry cultivars than those on either Mahaleb or Mazzard rootstocks. It is not recommended for use in Ontario.
These rootstocks affect cultivar size and are very precocious. Trunk training in the early years is necessary for most sites. Trees adapt well to central leader training with wide angled branches. There is concern that if trees over-cropped in the first few years that the trees will "runt out" or produce very little vegetative growth in the following years. Balanced pruning, irrigation, mulching and even fruit thinning are necessary to produce quality crops with good fruit size and maintain healthy trees. Cultivar/rootstock interactions will need continued testing to find the most efficient combinations for orchard spacing and greatest performance.
Gisela®5 (formerly 148-2)
A very precocious stock that produces a tree about 45% the size of Mazzard. It is very productive and adapts to a wider range of soil types if well drained. The tree has spreading wide-angle branches and produces few root suckers. The tree may be stunted when it is over-cropped. Bloom/fruit thinning, irrigation and preventing tree stress is important in the early years of the tree to prevent tree stunting. It is somewhat tolerant to virus infection.
Gisela®6 (formerly 148-1)
A semi-dwarfing tree that is about 70% the size of Mazzard. It is very productive and adapts to a wider range of soil types if well drained. The tree has spreading wide-angle branches and produces no root suckers. It is well anchored but support is still recommended. Tree stunting is less of a problem but best management practices should also be followed. It has good virus resistance.
Mahaleb x Mazzard (MxM®) Clones
The MxM clonal rootstock selections are similar to Mazzard seedling in vigour but offer more uniformity since they are clonally propagated.
A vigorous tree slightly larger and more productive than Mazzard. It is moderately precocious and produces few root suckers. It adapts well to a wide range of soils and performs better than Mazzard in clay soils. It is susceptible to Armillaria Root Rot.
A vigorous tree about the same size as Mazzard, more productive and produces no root suckers. It is moderately tolerant to Armillaria Root Rot and adapts to a range of soils.
Mahaleb (P. mahaleb)
Is not recommended as a rootstock for sweet cherry. Incompatibility of sweet cherry cultivars on Mahaleb seedling rootstocks has been detected in different orchards for up to 6 years after planting. In addition, there is a tendency for scion cultivars to overgrow the Mahaleb rootstock at the bud union. Such trees become dwarfed and are normally short-lived.
Mazzard (P. avium)
The main rootstock commercially used for sweet cherries in Ontario. Sweet cherry cultivars make an excellent graft union with Mazzard rootstocks and no sign of incompatibility has been detected. Sweet cherry trees on this rootstock are vigorous and long-lived. Since Mazzard belongs to the same species as sweet cherry (P. avium), there have been no cases of incompatibility reported between this rootstock and major sweet cherry cultivars. Mazzard is not adaptable to heavy, poorly drained and wet soil. Trees on Mazzard seedling rootstocks are reported to be prone to some winter injury in colder districts.
Seedlings have good seed germination and stand for easier budding in the nursery. It is very winter hardy and is recommended for tart cherry plantings on well-drained orchard sites.
Mahaleb Seedling-Mahaleb (P. mahaleb)
Originated from the same geographical area as Mazzard but it is rarely found in the wild in Canada and the United States. Results from previous experiments indicate that there are no differences in yield or growth of either Montmorency or Meteor cultivars on the different Mahaleb strains.
Mahaleb x Mazzard (MxM®) Clones
The MxM clonal rootstock selections are similar to Mahaleb seedling in vigour but offer more uniformity since they are clonally propagated. The selections have hardiness similar to Mahaleb.
A vigorous tree, moderately precocious and produces few root suckers. It adapts well to a wide range of soils and performs better than Mahaleb in clay soils. It is susceptible to Armillaria Root Rot.
A vigorous tree, productive and produces no root suckers. It is moderately tolerant to Armillaria Root Rot and adapts to a range of soils.
Is preferred for tart cherry grown in imperfectly drained soil but is not as winter hardy as Mahaleb. It is not adaptable to heavy, poorly drained and wet soil.
The primary purposes of sweet and tart cherry collections are to evaluate newly released cultivars and rootstocks for possible usefulness in Ontario and to use selected cultivars for the breeding program. Recommendations developed from these trials should help prevent the planting of unsuitable cultivars and rootstocks. Cultivars belonging to different pollen incompatibility groups are maintained in the collection and used to determine the pollen incompatibility groups of the new cultivars developed from the breeding program at Vineland.
The following lists identify cherries grown in the experimental orchards at the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Vineland and Ridgetown College, Cedar Springs (* denotes Cedar Springs also, ** denotes Cedar Springs only).
Cherry rootstocks and species collection
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300