Best Tasting Cornelian Cherries and Heat-tolerant Bush Cherries? (US, Maryland, z7a)

Hi! After lurking and searching the forums for a while, I have two questions for the knowledgeable folks here!

  • What are the best tasting varieties of Cornelian cherry available in the US?
  • Are there any bush cherries that are more tolerant than others of hot, humid summers?

Background: I LOVE tart cherries. I used to live in Wisconsin, where they were easy to come by, but I now live in the DC metro area. We have clay soil, hot humid summers, and wet springs. The climate and soil conspire to promote every possible kind of fungal disease in plants. I also have a somewhat Darwinian garden–if a plant can’t make it with compost, mulch, and a selective low-toxicity spray regimen in these conditions, well, then, it just won’t make it.

Cornus mas appears to be a survivor for me–I acquired an ornamental variety at a big-box clearance sale about two years ago, and in spite of being in terrible shape when I got it, it is thriving. So, I’d like to add a cultivar or two selected for superior fruit, but I haven’t ever actually tasted any! What are the best-tasting varieties available in the US? So far, my internet research has turned up several recommendations for “Elegant” and “Red Dawn”, but I have also read that “Exotica” is sweeter. I have also seen recommendations for Shafer/Szafer and Shumen, but I don’t know of a US supplier for these.

For the bush cherries, I don’t know whether any will be possible. When we first bought our home, I amended a large, sloped area with about 6 inches of compost tilled into the soil, and planted the Romance cherries with great excitement shortly after they were released in the states. Then I watched them immediately all get powdery mildew so bad they dropped all their leaves by midsummer and got smaller each year until they died. I am able to grow haskap and even a peach tree in the same area, so I don’t think it was terrible site preparation or anything like that. Based on their absence from the local farmers markets, I’m assuming cherries just struggle here no matter what. However, I like them so much that it seems worth another try if there are any more likely to thrive here. Any recommendations for more fungal-resistant types?


@Naeem and @zendog I know are in the DC area and @wildforager is the source for Cornelian cherry info for sure.

I am a DC native also but I currently reside in NJ. Mulberries grow well everywhere DC is no exception there. Trifoliate Orange have no problems if you want to dream of citrus. Goumi’s will likely grow well any ware and they taste basically like a sour cherry.

As for actually cherries there Dr. Meaders cherry hybrids. There supposed to be mildew resistant. and Nankings are an option.

I have the cornus mas cultivars Elegant and Yellow. I like both of them. So far Yellow has higher yields, smaller fruit and a bit more of a tropical fruit flavor. Yellow can also be harvested by shaking the tree and having the fruit fall on a sheet or tarp which is typically how cornus mas is harvested. Elegant is a larger and sweeter fruit and normally doesn’t drop when ripe. I think both would be good choices for you. So far I have seen little in the way of disease issues or insect attack on the leaves but both do occur. I also think some animals have harvested some of my fruit. One Green World carries a fair number of cultivars of cornus mas you might try looking there for them. Here is a link to a guide to cornus mas cultivars.

I am growing tart cherries in hot humid Illinois so I think you could grow them in your area. I have a Montmorency, Surefire, Balaton, and English Morello. I think tart cherries would be a better choice than bush cherries. The main problems I would expect you would have in your area are cherry leaf spot, cherry fly, birds and to a lesser extent brown rot.

You said you are willing to use “selective low-toxicity spray regimen in these conditions” what do you mean by this? What are you willing to spray? Would you spray organic approved compounds like sulfur and Surround (kaolin clay) or are you ok with spraying synthetic fungicides or low toxicity synthetic insecticides?


Hi, thanks for your reply!
To answer your question, yes, I use primarily use sulfur, copper, potassium salts, horticultural oil, and bacteria-based biocontrols for fungal prevention/treatments. Although I am willing to use low-toxicity chemicals regardless of synthetic vs “natural” origin, the synthetic fungicides I know of are mostly either highly toxic to pollinating insects or else strongly suspected/confirmed carcinogens in people. I’d rather just grow something else than regularly spray stuff like Captan that I feel is too dangerous. If there are options I’m not aware of, I’m happy to learn more!

All types of foliar fungal infections are problems here, but also various root/systemic fungal like verticillium and phythophthora. Even areas that are normally fine become problems with exceptional rainfall, because the clay in the soil simply holds water so effectively. For example, in 2018 the record-levels of rainfall was so much higher than normal that it led to an area-wide epidemic of verticillium and other fungal decline in susceptible species like Japanese Maples and some oaks. For us, that included 2 lovely fully mature Japanese maples that were on slopes, with drainage as good as it gets in the native soil. While that was obviously a very unusual year, it isn’t unusual to have very wet springs that prime things to be vulnerable to a very hot dry summer that follows. I keep telling the weather it needs to learn moderation, but you know how that weather is about taking advice…

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Oh, by the way, do you eat either of your cornels fresh, or just use them for cooking? I’m so fascinated that there seems to be such a range of opinion on what is “too sour” vs “refreshingly tart.”

Ok thanks for narrowing down what your willing to spray that makes it easier to tailor advice to your situation. Now for some general advice. Look at the forum carefully and search for topics that deal with the fruits you are growing. For example good searches would be “peaches brown rot” or “cherries spraying”. This will give you a good idea of what you up against in term of disease and insect pressure. Location of the poster matters too since in arid regions out West disease and insect pressure is much lower.

Scott Smith and Alan have spray schedules that give you an idea of different approaches that might work for you. Scott’s schedule is semi-organic and Alan’s is synthetic. Scott’s is very detailed and maybe a bit overwhelming at first. Here are links

What you can grow is different in every microclimate but in hot humid regions here is the general order of difficulty (roughly) for common fruits from easiest to hardest.

Tart cherries

Exotic fruits like cornus mas are harder to characterize for a variety of reasons. So far problems for me are limited but essentially there is nothing you can spray on them if you have a problem. Because sprays have to be tested and evaluated before you can use them especially on food crops. Well, cornus mas is not grown as a food crop in the United States so no one has tested it as such which means you can’t technically even use things like sulfur or Surround on it.

From what you have said for fungicide sprays you are going to be limited to copper, sulfur, Indar, Immunox, Elevate and maybe Bonide Infuse. If you want to check their hazard to bees look at this post. Note you may have to search by the common name rather trade name in some cases in the link in the post.

Since you’re not willing to spray synthetic insecticides you will be limited to bagging and spraying Surround for insect control.

For heavy soil it helps to plant on high ground or make berm or raised bed. Apple are fairly resistant to phythophthora especially trees on Geneva rootstocks since these rootstocks were bred for phythophthora resistance. Cherries are more sensitive again, good rootstocks like Krymsk and Gisela help in this area.

Peaches are going to be difficult due to brown rot. Very few peaches are resistant to it Glohaven being one. You may have a honeymoon period of a few years before it reaches you but you will have to definitely spray at some point for brown rot. Stone fruits are tough to grow in general because of rotting issues. On the forum over the long term organic sprayers tend to add a synthetic fungicide like Indar to deal with the problem since sulfur isn’t highly effective against brown rot. Tart cherries are easier since they don’t get brown rot as bad.

If you like tart cherries fresh cornus mas fruit will not be too tart for sure. You do have to wait until the fruit is soft before you eat it or it is very bitter. I only eat the fruit fresh I never have cooked with it.

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I’ve found apples more difficult than plums or cherries. The longer ripening time means much longer for insect, animal, or disease damage.

I don’t have brown rot yet, though.


I grow Carmine Jewel and Juliet here in Arlington, VA with no real problems specific to the climate or zone. Since they were developed for much colder zones I was very pleasantly surprised that they didn’t seem overly bothered by the heat or humidity. I would definitely suggest the romance cherries for our area.

My neighbors on both sides of me are growing Montmorency, one tree is on its 3rd leaf and has a reasonable crop for its size. The other neighbor’s tree is only in it’s second leaf so just has a few cherries. So Montmorency is a fine choice here as well.

I did have one of my Juliet’s die from some big gummy blobs which I never tried to treat. It was also directly in line with my neighbor’s downspout that is about 8 feet away from it, so the moisture probably didn’t help. It was very busy sending up plenty of suckers, so I guess it didn’t really die per se, but the main bush was definitely fading so I dug it up and got rid of it so it wouldn’t spread the disease.

Plum Curculio is a major pain around here, so plan to spray for them. I use surround, and if I’m diligent , I get most of my cherries blemish free. The size of the bush cherry plants make them much easier to spray. One of my Juliets has gotten close to 10 feet tall and it is much harder to make sure I cover the higher cherries.


@SleepyLibrarian i’m growing about half a dozen cultivars of Carnelian cherries, they are no older than about five years, four years in the ground here. At least four of them have produced at least one crop and the couple have produced two years in a row now. You’re welcome to come by and try them, but I am somewhat disappointed with their flavor. I purchased them because are they completely accidental discovery at the national Arboretum in DC offHalf a dozen cultivars of carnelian cherries, very close to the columnade,Which happened to rape and just as I went there. I believe it was August 4 or five years ago. I was so impressed by the fruit, my children loved them too. I’m also trying to grow Juliet and Romeo cherries, and I’m growing white Nanking cherries regular Nanking cherries and a bush cherry. They have only produced half a dozen fruit each, because they’re very young.I have had black knot.And some types of blight affecting my Mirabelle plums.I’m growing some black red white champagne currants and Haksap.I’m also starting fuzzy Keewee, to complement my Arctic and hardy kiwi, the latter of which have produced a couple crops which were decent. They are completely unaffected by any disease here in Central Maryland The most easy, productive and labor free organism that I’m growing in my backyard is figs


@SleepyLibrarian If you want a purveyor of plants which has highly similar climate, perhaps slightly cooler than yours, consider taking a trip to edible landscaping. It’s a short day trip south into Virginia from where you live, probably about an-hour and a half. I looked through my email confirmations, and I was able to find some of the C.mas cultivars that I purchased and that are growing without health issues here in ellicott city,MD.

One green World
Red Dawn ™ Cornelian Cherry

Yellow ™ Cornelian Cherry

Hidden springs nursery
Description: Cornelian Cherry Cornelian Cherry Variety: Bodacious
Description: Cornelian Cherry Cornelian Cherry Variety: Chicago

Forrest farm nursery
Variegated cornelian cherry

Edible landscaping
1 422-1 Cornelian Cherry Dogwood seedling,
Pioneer Cornelian Cherry
Red Star Cornelian

1 2985-1 Nanking White Cherry Bush
Joy Bush Cherry
Nanking Red Bush Cherry

1 2669-1 Passion Flower Vine Maypop

I included that passion fruit Because it may be like passion for it, and it’s easy to grow, in fact I would warn you that it’s a little invasive. If you want some for free come by to my garden any day and just yank it out. :smiley:

white Nanking cherry


I’ve been looking for someone to convince me to get some named cultivars. My seedlings have had a couple fruits, but something ate them all before I got to it.

Do the birds get most of them if not netted?

Birds I’m maryland do not seem to be interested in mine- And by far the most amazing cultivars I’ve seen where in Washington DC at the national Arboretum, they were stacked with (estimated) thousands of fruits, in a beautiful open plain, with a lot of birds all around but none of them seemed to go after the cornelian cherries

I went to the international market in Baltimore, which is a store that sells Russian and East European imports, and one of my fines was frozen Carnelian cherries from Moldova. They’re quite large and beautiful, very nicely frozen and a little tired but tasty. I saved some seeds, and I will cold stratify them and see what happens. I don’t know if anyone has attempted to germinate deep frozen fruit seeds


I want to know where to go next time I’m there. Is that the one on Reisterstown rd by Falstaff? I used to live by there. I think I’ve shopped there.

Yes. This one

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Are you growing any Carnelian cherries? I have several named cultivars that I got from various Internet sources, they are between five and 10 years old,

It sounds like you mainly focus on apples, do you grow other things, in your garden/orchard in Central Maryland? I’m quite in the center of Maryland too, in Ellicott city.

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I have been working on apples as easiest, but am trying out everything that I eat and like. Some European pear, grapes, muscadines, tart cherries, peaches, plums, Cornelian cherry, blueberry, mulberry, fig. I have lots of herbs and rhubarb; goumi and hardy kiwi are new trials for me.
I am near New Market and Mt Airy, used to be in Baltimore. I love parts of Ellicott City and Oella, but i grew up around here.

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That is so nice. I read that apples are not so easy to do, so I’ve been avoiding them I have 100 types of figs, mostly in pots. I have a couple kinds of goumi but they are still small. I have some bush cherries, I have a bunch of European plums that I’m probably going to get rid of because they are impossible without heavy fungal spray. I have power powers which I have not been very impressed with and they will probably go. I have several kinds of pomegranates that I think I’ll get rid of as well because they are eaten by mold before they can ripen, but they do have pretty flowers. I think persimmons, Figs and kiwis are the things that grow best over here without toxic fungal spray

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I’ve tried several types of grapes and they’ve been very disappointing because of mold. I have ordered muscadine’s and they’re supposed to come for spring, but I assume it will take a few years to get anything out of them. How far along are your muscadine’s?

One Darlene muscadine went in last year, was already a year old from another member. Ison’s sent my order via usps who killed everything, sat in a trailer in Baltimore for nearly 4 weeks. I am trying again this year with some, but had a switch of what I was doing first. Some things like the cornelian cherry and mulberry I am putting in since they are low spray. I am using Scott’s lowered spray schedule, but wouldn’t have anything much if I didn’t spray at all. I at least know exactly what has been done, I don’t know what happens when I buy locally grown. I don’t like things like pawpaw, and the only euro plum I want to try is Damson or maybe an Italian prune. I hear the euro type is just bad here. Pomegranate is pretty, but i don’t have space for a known marginal. -Potential- marginal, I have plenty of! That’s way more figs than I have. They are in ground, I haven’t got a space that doesn’t freeze for potted, unless I treat as houseplants.