Blood-red fruits with a tart, sweet aroma and many important vital substances – sour cherries are enjoying increasing popularity in home gardens. The tasty fruits, which we include the sweet cherries in the rose family, are originally native to Europe, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. The rather undemanding plant shows itself as a tree with a broadly spreading or pyramidal crown, which, depending on the upbringing, can be between two and 15 meters high and contains bowl-shaped, white flowers. The cultivation is also successful for beginners who can process the vitamin-rich fruit into jellies or juices. The fruits are particularly popular because of their weather resistance, as the fruits, unlike sweet cherries, usually do not burst when it rains.


Based on the fruits, sour cherries can be divided into three different groups:

  • Sour cherries
  • Yellow
  • Bastardkirschen

The sour cherry varieties, for example the classic morello cherries, belong to the sour cherries. The fruits are dark in color and present a soft flesh with a coloring juice. The morello cherries as the best-known representative of this group produces medium-sized to large fruits that are brown-red in color and have a tart, sour, strong taste. The medium-sized, spherical tree tends to shed and is quite susceptible to disease. The main ripening period of this self-fruiting variety is between mid-July and mid-August. Morello cherries are particularly suitable as topping cherries for various cakes or pastries, for example Black Forest cake. On the other hand, cherries of the “Morellenfeuer” variety have a milder aroma and a sweet and sour taste. which is therefore especially suitable fresh for immediate consumption. In addition, the cherries are great for canning. The harvest of the dark red to almost black fruits, which regularly bring in a high yield, extends between mid-Kuli and the beginning of August.

The “Danish Wine Church” is a specialty; The fruit of this variety is characterized by an exceptionally high content of polyphenols – a substance that develops antioxidant properties in the human body and thus has a health-promoting effect. The cherry is one of the late varieties; the small to medium-sized fruits with dark flesh and pronounced fruity spice are very juicy and are therefore used for the production of Danish cherry wines. But the variety is also suitable for immediate consumption, but they are very acidic.

Hybrid cherries are the end product of the cross between sweet cherries and sour cherries; these produce sweeter, less tart tasting fruits. One of the most popular varieties in this group is “Queen Hortense”; the cherries are quite large and refreshingly sour and aromatic with a very high juice content. The pulp comes off the stone exceptionally well. Overall, this variety is not very susceptible to the classic cherry diseases. The disadvantage of cherries, which are harvested early and cannot fertilize themselves, is the very low yield. In addition, the fruits are sensitive to rain and wind and are not suitable for transport. The cherries are therefore particularly suitable for rapid further processing or as a sweet cherry.

Amarallen, which represent the third large group of sour cherries, offer yellow to yellow-red fruits with colorless juice. The “Ludwigs Früh” variety is particularly popular, as it produces very soft and pleasantly sour fruits. Although the cherry is a self-fruiting variety, both the yield and the size of the fruit can be increased by using another variety. The uses of the harvested fruit are extremely varied; The cherry is used in the production of compote or wine and can also be used fresh as dessert fruit.

Sour cherries – location, soil and care

A sufficiently large area should be available for the cultivation of the cherry tree, as the plant develops a pronounced root system and requires a lot of space. In addition, preference is given to sunny areas in the garden that allow sufficient warmth. In particular, varieties that are particularly sensitive to wind and rain should be planted in protected areas. The plant thrives particularly well in airy places.

In addition to the choice of the ideal location, the soil properties also play an important role; the substrate used should meet the following requirements:

  • permeable
  • fumes
  • frisch
  • rich in nutrients

Sour cherry trees are best planted in deep or light soil made of gravel or clay. However, the substrate as a whole must not be too moist.

Tip: The ideal soil must protect the cherry tree from waterlogging even when it rains continuously.

After the sour cherry tree has been planted, the plant thrives with little maintenance. The tree should only be watered regularly if the drought persists. However, waterlogging must be avoided, which could lead to root rot. Targeted fertilization is also recommended once a year; Complete fertilizers and organic fertilizers have particularly proven themselves in this context. For further care of the cherry tree, the tree disc is kept open from February until after flowering; this is followed by targeted mulching, whereby peat or bark mulch is best used.The wintering of the sour cherry is generally problem-free. The delicate flowering of the sour cherry is much better protected against late frosts than the sweet variant due to the rather late onset of flowering.

Plant optimally

Before purchasing a sweet cherry tree, precise information about the desired plant should be obtained; Above all, it must be clarified in advance whether the tree is self-fertile. Otherwise it is necessary to plant a second cherry tree for fertilization. Autumn is the ideal time to plant the cherry tree. For this purpose, a sufficiently large hole must first be dug at the chosen location. The root ball of the tree must be able to be taken up loosely in the recess, whereby the hole should not be excavated any deeper than the container in which the tree is delivered. The tree is then placed as centrally as possible in the pit, with the trunk also being fixed with a wooden post. The plant site is now sufficiently watered. Finally, the hole can be filled up again with the excavated earth and the planting area trodden down. In its first year, the sour cherry tree needs both frequent and vigorous watering. In the following years, on the other hand, the targeted water supply is sufficient for persistent dry periods. The tree is only supported by the wooden stake until the tree has grown optimally.

The sour cherry tree is propagated with the help of grafting.

Cut the sour cherry

When pruning a newly planted sour cherry tree, a total of three aspects must be taken into account:

  • Cut off the trunk extension by a length of scissors
  • Removal of the competitive instinct
  • Cutting all shoots

Note: In the case of classic morello cherries and similar varieties, which generally tend to flatten, the main shoots are initially cut much more strongly than with varieties such as “Morelle fire”.

Regular cutting is necessary so that new shoots can easily develop every year. In the case of varieties with very steep branches, a flat position can be achieved by weighting the shoot with a sand-filled bottle. However, when doing this, care must be taken to ensure that the angle between the trunk and the branch does not exceed 70 degrees. Sour cherry pruning is best done in summer, when the harvest is complete. This point in time offers the advantage that the wound can be closed in the same year and flower buds can already develop within the thinned crown.

The type of maintenance cut also depends on the desired type of crown. If the cherry tree is to grow with a round crown, four side branches must be shortened until only one stub remains. This is followed by the removal of the other premature side shoots and the shortening of the middle. In the case of spindle training, on the other hand, the competing shoots are initially removed after the first year of standing, but only shoots that grow inward and are on the upper side of the branch should be cut off. The side branches are diverted to the outside. Under no circumstances may new shoots be cut during this measure!
In addition to the actual pruning of the sour cherry, frequent thinning of branches that grow inward is of particular importance. In addition, arch-like drooping side shoots – also known as whip shoots – must be removed or cut back to branches close to the base. This measure takes place when the shoots in question have borne for about four years.

Harvest and processing

The ripening period, which is often referred to as “cherry weeks” for this fruit, spans a total of 7 weeks from June to July. The respective course is also dependent on the weather; In bad weather, the first cherry week begins when the first fruits ripen, for example a little later, and the subsequent cherry weeks in the same region move backwards accordingly. The fruits are best picked by hand together with the stem or separated from the branches with the help of a knife. The processing of the cherries should take place immediately afterwards, as the fruit proves to be difficult to store. Due to their tart, tart taste, sour cherries are ideal for further processing into jellies, compotes, wine or juices.

Diseases and pests

Among the diseases of the sour cherry tree, the Monilia peak drought is particularly feared. In the event of an infestation, the following damage appears:

  • Brown discoloration of the flowers
  • Subsequent death of the flowers
  • Drying up of the shoots

The Monilia fungus, which penetrates the entire plant via the flower, can best be combated by targeted pruning. All infected shoots are cut back down to the healthy wood. This is followed by the administration of a pesticide, which should contain difenoconazole, fenhexamid or myclobutanil as active ingredients. A total of three doses are given shortly before the flower opens, during full bloom and after blooming.

The frost spanner occurs as a classic pest of the sour cherry tree. The butterfly, which causes damage to young leaves and shoot tips, is best kept away with the help of glue rings; Larvae can also be controlled with insecticides. In addition, specific pests occur in sour cherry trees, for example the cherry sawfly. The insect causes classic window damage on the leaves, which then curl up and fall off. The black, nudibranch-like larvae can be seen with the naked eye. To combat this, the leaves are regularly checked from June and larvae are controlled with pyrethrum preparations if necessary.

Healthy, tasty and versatile: with a sour cherry tree, even beginners can easily realize the desire for fresh fruit in their own garden. Carefully selected and ideally cared for, plant lovers will enjoy the decorative tree for a long time, which produces delicious fruit every year.

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