Opened on March 03, 2021. Last updated by The POOG on March 03, 2021.
Sweet cherry cultivars are recommended for hardiness zones 7a and 7b and tart cherries, in zones 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a and 7b.
Growth Climate Zones
To ensure fruiting, only grow sweet cherries in hardiness zones 7a and 7b and tart cherries, in zones 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a and 7b. See Figure 1 below for an Ontario zone map.
Table 3, Pollen Incompatibility Groups for Sweet Cherry Cultivars groups cultivars into groups as separate table lines. 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. If a cultivar is self-fruitful such is emphasized in the cultivar description.
Tart cherry cultivars are self-fruitful and do not require pollenizer cultivars. Sweet and tart cherries belong to different species with different numbers of chromosomes and will not pollinate each other.
Cherry Cultivar Descriptions
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. Promising new cultivars that have not been extensively tested yet are recommended under “Trial Planting”.
Average harvest dates shown in Table 2, Average First Harvest Dates for Sweet and Tart Cherries are used here to rank selections. The later the date it is assumed that flowering is later reducing the frost risk. Actual harvest dates will differ due to proximity to large bodies of water, local weather conditions, soil type and crop size.
Cultivars listed below have their names colour codes as: green (#3fd200) for first choice due to the best characteristics of late maturity, fruit properties, and disease tolerance of trees; orange (#d2a400) for second choice for trees that are slightly less than optimal but still excellent; and red (#ff0000) for not recommended because of one or more severe limitations. Names uncoloured in black are considered undistinguished but may still be planted as good trees. Cultivar characteristics that have factored into the colour coding are shown in bold.
- Bing. A large, bl.ack, 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.
- Cavalier™*. 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.
- Cristalina*. 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.
- Hartland*. 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.
- Hedelfingen. 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.
- Kristin*. 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.
- Lapins. 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.
- Napoleon. A large, firm,white-fleshed and productive cherry, known as Royal Ann on the Pacific Coast.
- Newstar*. 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.
- Royalton*. Large fruited, early season cherry with relatively low yields and susceptible to cracking. It has good quality, flavourful fruit. Tree is spreading.
- Somerset*. 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.
- Sonata*. 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.
- Star. A productive, good-quality, medium-large, semi-firm, heart-shaped black cherry with good crack resistance. Ripens one day before Valera.
- Stella. A large, firm, black, fair-quality cherry. Ripens about 2 days before Vic. Its outstanding feature is its self-fertility.
- Sunburst*. 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.
- Sweetheart*. 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.
- Ulster. 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.
- Valera. 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.
- Van. 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.
- Vega. 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.
- Venus. 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.
- Vic. 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.
- Viscount. 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.
- Vista.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.
- Viva. 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.
- Vogue. 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.
- Windsor. 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.
- Balaton. 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. English Morello. 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.
- Meteor. 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.
- Montmorency. 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.
- Northstar. 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.
- Colt. 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.
- Gisela®Clones. 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.
- MxM®2. 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.
- MxM®60. 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.
- Mahaleb. 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.
- MxM®2. 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.
- MxM®60. A vigorous tree, productive and produces no root suckers. It is moderately tolerant to Armillaria Root Rot and adapts to a range of soils.
- Mazzard. 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.
- Cherry Cultivars- Sweet and Tart. OMAFRA. Last Modified: February 12, 2021.
- Crop Protection Guide for Tender Fruits, 2020–2021. Publication 360D (PDF). OMAFRA.
- Foodland Ontario Product Facts – Cherries. OMAFRA.
- Information for Commercial Tender Fruit Growers in Ontario. OMAFRA.