Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)-Hort Answers - University of Illinois Extension
University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Extension

Hort Answers

Tree Fruit

Sour Cherry
Prunus cerasus

Cherry fruit cracking
Cherry fruit cracking

Select a site with well-drained, deep fertile soil.Sour cherries do well in cooler, humid climates. Sour cherries are more cold tolerant than sweet cherries. Cherries are budded onto rootstocks. The types of rootstocks used in cherry propagation are Mazzard (produces vigorous tree), and Mahaleb (good for calcareous and drought soils). A new group of rootstocks called Gisela (developed in Germany) are now available for growers in the United States. Sour cherry are closely spaced, and are pruned more to stimulate new shoot production. They can be trained to modified central leader or open center system. Plant seedlings in early spring. Cut all dead broken, and very long roots. Dig a hole that will accomodate all the roots, and plant one inch deeper than in the nursery. Put sawdust, wood chips or other organic mulches around the trunk of the tree during the first few years of growth. Fertilizer application depends on the annual shoot growth.


Sour cherry varieties:

  • Montmorency
  • Danube
  • Meteor
  • Northstar
  • Mesabi
  • English
  • Morello
  • Balaton
  • Surefire
  • Jubileum
Mature Height
12-15 Feet (When pruned. Unpruned up to 50 ft)
Mature Width
Harvest Time
June to early August


USDA Hardiness Zone
4 - 9 
Soil Conditions
Moist, Well-Drained
Exposure/Light Requirements
Full Sun
Fruit Color
Pests and Problems

Environmental Damage

Fungal Disease

Additional pests and problems that may affect this plant:

Insect & Insect relatives:
  • Cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cingulata)
  • Black cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis fausta)
  • Mineola moth (Acrobasis tricolorella)
  • Cherry fruitworm (Grapholitha packardi)
  • Green fruitworm (Orthosia hibisci)
  • Black cherry aphid (Myzus cerasi)
  • Cherry leafminer (Nepticula slingerlandella)
  • American plum borer (Euzophera semifuneralis)
  • Peachtree borers (Synanthedon exitiosa)
  • Plum rust mite (Aculus fockeui)


  • Armillaria root rot (Armillaria mellea)
  • Bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae or P. morsprunorum)
  • Blossom blast (Pseudomonas syringae)
  • Blue mold (Penicillium expansum)
  • Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola)
  • Cherry leaf spot (Blumeriella jaapii)
  • Cladosporium rot (Cladosporium herbarum)
  • Crown gall (Agrobacterium tumefaciens)
  • Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea)
  • Perennial canker (Leucostoma cincta)
  • Phytophthora crown rot (Phytophthora cactorum)
  • Powdery mildew (Podosphaera clandestina)
  • Rhizopus (Rhizopus spp.)
  • Southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii)
  • Silverleaf (Chondostereum purpureum)
  • Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae)
  • Green ring mottle virus
  • Necrotic ringspot virus
  • Prunus stem pitting (Tomato ringspot virus)
  • Sour cherry yellows (Prune dwarf virus)
  • X-disease (Phytoplasma sp.)


  • Poor drainage - "wet feet"
  • Winter injury
Additional Notes
Many sour cherry varietiesare self-fruitful (pollen from same variety can pollinate flowers of the same variety).


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