What a deep joy the sour cherry spreads when it presents its magnificent blossom in spring. The deep red, juicy, refreshing, sour morello cherries will not be long in coming. Within the large variety of sour cherries, the morello cherries still cannot be denied their leading role. It is therefore clear why the sour cherry is revered as a prime example of the classic fruit tree. Thanks to its flexible habit as a shrub or tree, the sour cherry easily fits into the smallest garden. Maintenance and pruning are also easy to manage as long as you follow the instructions below.


  • Plant family of the rose family (Rosaceae)
  • Belongs to the stone fruit family (Amygdaleae)
  • Botanischer Name Prunus cerasus
  • Habit as a shrub or tree with overhanging branches
  • Height growth from 1 meter to 5 meters
  • Smooth, reddish bark when young, later barky
  • White umbels of flowers in April and May
  • Cherries ripe for harvest in July and August
  • Deep red, spherical stone fruits up to 20 mm in diameter
  • Deciduous and hardy to -29 degrees Celsius

The sour cherry is cultivated throughout the northern hemisphere. Norway marks the northern border. In the Alps, wild specimens can still be found at an altitude of 1800 meters.

location and soil conditions

Cultivated as a tree, the sour cherry only reaches an average height of 300 cm. Their spreading crown requires a sufficient distance to the other plants in the garden. If you, as a hobby gardener, are dependent on rational use of space in your garden, a sour cherry shrub will suit the available space better. There are no divergences with regard to the demands on the location.

  • Sunny to partially shaded position
  • Warm, protected and a little breezy
  • Clayey, fresh, not too heavy soil
  • Humos, rich in nutrients and permeable

The sour cherry feels particularly at home in a combination of clay and gravelly sand. In cold, wet and compacted soil, on the other hand, the fruit tree consistently refuses to blossom and bear fruit. If there is only room for a morello cherry in your planting plan, this is not a problem for the self-fertile sour cherry species. With the help of another specimen you improve the yield of full-bodied cherries. Incidentally, this does not necessarily have to be planted in the immediate vicinity. Within a radius of 200 to 300 meters, pollinating varieties will still improve the yield of your tart cherry.


Under common culture conditions, the care of a sour cherry is limited to a few aspects.

  • Watering is only necessary when there is no natural rain
  • Water preferably in the early morning or after sunset
  • Do not pour overhead, but directly onto the root area

The soil stays moist and warm longer under a layer of mulch. Compost and grass clippings have proven themselves as mulch material. Bark mulch is less suitable because it removes nutrients from the soil.


The trend towards organic fertilizers in the home garden continues unabated. Your sour cherry is satisfied with compost, horn shavings, horse manure or stable manure. Without the risk of over-fertilization, you provide the stone fruit with all the important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in an ecologically compatible way. Organic fertilizer is distributed in a thin layer on the tree disc and worked in with the rake. Spread the fertilizer a little further than the crown stretches out, because the important fine roots are beyond the crown eaves. If you don’t have garden compost, manure or manure available, fertilize with a decoction of comfrey. The plants thrive in abundance in the wild and are recognizable from afar by their distinctive, bright violet bell-shaped flowers. The mixture is quickly made:

  • Prepare 1 kg of fresh comfrey leaves in a 10 liter drum with rainwater
  • Cover and place in a sunny corner of the garden
  • Air the lid daily and stir the fermenting brew
  • Comfrey fertilizer is ready after 10 to 12 days

The rich biological liquid fertilizer is diluted with rainwater in a ratio of 1:10 before use. Sprayed directly onto the morello cherry tree every 4 weeks, you give the fruit tree a concentrated charge of vitality.

Note: Do not spray comfrey broth on leaves, blossoms and shoots, as the pungent ingredients are not good for the above-ground parts of the plant.

For practical reasons, experienced hobby gardeners prefer to fertilize a sour cherry in a bucket with liquid fertilizer from specialist shops. Adhere to the manufacturer’s dosage recommendations, because over-fertilization can happen quickly and is very difficult to revise.

Overwinter in the bed

A well-established sour cherry tree is hardy to -29 degrees Celsius. Since the flowers appear later than other spring bloomers, late frosts rarely pose a threat to this stone fruit variety. However, intense sunlight can seriously damage the decorative, reddish-brown rind by causing cracks and splits. Fungal spores, viruses and pests only lurk for such access to the inside of the tree in order to spread here. It doesn’t have to get that far, because you can successfully ward off such attacks on the health of the sour cherry with the following measures:

  • Wrap the stem of young morello cherries with jute ribbon for the first 2-3 years.
  • Make bandages from reeds or raffia
  • In the years that follow, paint the trunk with milk of lime

Apply the protective white coat to the crown in autumn. Ready-to-use mixtures are available from specialist retailers. The simple mixture can also be produced with few resources. Slaked lime is poured over with water in a ratio of 1:10 and stirred thoroughly. A few handfuls of horn meal enrich the solution and consequently improve its strength. After some time, the mixture will take on a viscous consistency. The waiting time can be used perfectly to clean the bark of the morello cherry with a wire brush of moss and loose bark. The white coat is applied with a painter’s brush in no time at all. Give each layer a little drying time before the next layer follows. Continue in this manner until eventually the bark no longer shows through.

Hibernation in bucket

In the small garden, hobby gardeners like to cultivate the sour cherry in the form of a column as a container plant on the balcony and terrace. In the planter, a morello cherry unfortunately benefits little from its natural winter hardiness, because there is a high risk that the almost unprotected root ball will freeze through. Consequently, a frost-free winter quarters is ideal for the fruit tree. Where such is not available, the following protective measures are recommended:

  • Place the bucket on wood and wrap it with bubble wrap
  • Relocate to a sheltered corner or in front of the south wall of the house
  • Cover the root ball with a thick layer of leaves and straw

During the first 2 to 3 years of life, smash the shoots of a sour cherry with a jute sack to prevent frostbite. If the temperatures in spring are constantly above freezing, remove the winter protection again so that no mold forms under the first warming rays of the sun.

To cut

With an annual growth rate of 40 cm on average, the sour cherry is one of the fastest growing fruit trees. An annual fruit wood cut is therefore indispensable. Since a morello cherry basically bears fruit on the one-year-old shoots, this circumstance essentially determines the procedure for cutting.

  • Cut back the sour cherries every year after harvest
  • It is better to cut late varieties in February/March of the following year
  • Choose a day with warm, dry weather without the blazing sun
  • Shorten all previous year’s fruit shoots by at least a third
  • Thin out dead wood, remove weakening branches
  • Completely cut off at least one of crossing shoots

Branches that are obviously getting too long whips shorten radically to 2 or 3 eyes. Pruning focuses on young, strong shoots. Finally, they are trimmed to a length of approx. 30 cm so that they can develop a luxuriant crop of fruit in the next season.

When cutting, concentrate on holding the scissors at a slight angle, setting them just above an outward-facing bud. This technique is recommended because rainwater runs off the cuts quickly and putrefaction doesn’t stand a chance. At the same time, the sleeping eye experiences a growth spurt in the coming season.

At the end of a professional pruning, you are presented with an airy, harmoniously shaped crown, in which every branch is spoiled with ample light, oxygen and sunshine.

diseases and pests

Incidentally, the morello cherry enjoys its enormous popularity thanks in part to its robust resistance to diseases and pests. If, despite this, health problems occur, there is a high probability that one of the following causes is to blame.

Monilia fruit rot

Monilia peak drought usually goes hand in hand with Monilia fruit rot. In this case, the pathogen Monilia fructicola infects damaged cherries, making them inedible. Make the effort to remove injured fruit every few days while eliminating any surface area for the fungal spores to attack. This simple control method also includes picking up the cherries that have fallen to the ground.

Monilia peak drought

The fungal disease is caused by the pathogen Monilia laxa. The damage is characterized by wilted flowers and drooping leaves. The fungal spores have so far proven to be extremely stubborn because they are able to hibernate in fruit mummies and twigs. The pathogens target the young shoots of the following spring, while sparing perennial wood. How to Combat Monilia Peak Drought:

  • Plant resistant varieties such as ‘Morina’, ‘Safir’ and ‘Karnevol’
  • Strictly consider the required site conditions
  • In the cold, wet spring, wrap the fruit shoots in insulating fleece
  • Always pick off all fruit mummies and glean them from the ground
  • Don’t miss out on the annual shape and maintenance cut

Chemical fungicides are not permitted for the home garden and do not meet the intention of health-conscious and environmentally conscious gardeners. Various natural preparations have been proven to prevent infection. Stone flour is one of them, like Ulmasud or Neudovital, a biological tonic. Organic gardeners advocate spraying horseradish tea or pitcher clove extract directly into the flowers

cherry fruit fly

The pests are 5 mm small and easy to recognize due to a bright yellow back plate. Their flight time extends from mid-May to July. The females lay their eggs preferably in the crown area, directly in the cherries. The fruit will rot and fall to the ground. The maggots fall to the ground, pupate and hibernate there, only to strike again next spring.

  • Late varieties of morello cherry are particularly at risk
  • Harvest the sour cherry trees as early as possible
  • Mulch tree discs permanently until harvest
  • Hang sticky traps in the crown to catch the females
  • Tightly mesh insect nets around the crown from May to July

A sour cherry in the garden requires little work. Instead, she delivers a breathtaking floral spectacle in spring, followed by a bountiful harvest of juicy morello cherries. In order to get there, the location in particular should be warm, sheltered and sunny. Watering is superfluous with normal rainfall. An organic fertilizer is used for fertilization, which hobby gardeners usually have at hand anyway. The central element of care is a professional cut, which with the help of instructions can even be carried out easily by a beginner.

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