Holding dormant plants in refrigeration

Got in a couple new dormant romance series cherries from Honeyberry USA today. They will ship either fall or spring. Last year we tried the spring shipping but they ship quite late in the spring and it was hard on the plants, so I decided to try the fall. We are still seeing temps in the 90’s occasionally now so id prefer not plant them out for another 30-40 days. By first week in December our established trees should be going in to dormancy and I should be able to plant them out safely. For now ive placed the plants in the shipping packaging in our huge chest refrigerator set at 38 degrees.

My question is: Will this strategy work? The packaging is wet newspaper surrounding a small plug rootball. Is this too much moisture? My thoughts were to remove the newspaper and put them in a big ziplock or other plastic bag.

I tend to think you’d be better to plant them now. I’m not sure what the chilling requirement is but they should just set there until they get whatever chilling your winter provides. Then begin growing in February or there about. At 38 in your fridge they’ll come out fully chilled and ready to grow. And will probably start growing sooner than if planted out.

Given your lack of hard freezes they’ll probably be OK any way you go. The newspaper probably isn’t too wet. Just make sure they don’t get too dry in storage.

Thats how commerical nurserys store trees. I store rootstock for several weeks each year in the fridge. I keep the roots in damp sawdust or peat moss.

Hmmm, great perspective Steven. Thanks! Does it make more sense to just leave them in the fridge until February? Im concerned about them coming out of dormancy if planted out now.

90’s is too warm, especially for dormant cherries, and may cause a temperature ‘jetlag’ or even shock. Btw, are you in san diego?

moreover, if you decided to keep in the freezer, i would keep the wet newspaper over the rootball. At 38F, water is still liquid, and will still evaporate and condense at the area where the freezer is at its coldest.

i will in fact be checking the newspaper padding every now and then to ensure it is not drying up.
freezers are not just cooling machines, but also dehumidifiers, especially if rarely opened. *So frequent opening increases moisture inside the freezer and does some dual purpose (This of course is assuming that your freezer temp is colder than the ambient temp)
unless your specimens are small enough to be placed(in its entirety)inside the biggest ziploc bag or in a really air-tight bag, some moisture-holding medium such as newspaper/moss will protect your investments.

exactly. And that is very bad for cherries, of all things!

I have two Carmine Jewels in containers. I thought it quite unusual, but both of mine are the first trees to lose leaves. They are all yellow now and falling off. I guess it expects winter earlier than my 6a zone provides? Even my figs have yet to lose any leaves, weird! The trees quickly went into dormancy. You may have problems with these cultivars in your area. Keep us updated, little info about these cultivars in your area is known. Mine are 2nd leaf, I expect fruit next year.

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Do you know how much chilling the tree requires? Any tree dormant now that has a chilling requirement above 200-400 hrs won’t start growing until it gets some chilling.

There is no data that I am aware of on chilling requirements for these cherries. Its possible that they will never fruit for us in a low chill environment, dont know if someone doesnt try. We have had Carmine Jewell and another that slips my mind in the ground since spring. Growth has been very good and they shrugged off any problems with our heat. Seem to also deal with our soil very well.

We are on the outskirts of Phoenix.

One of the beauties of a chest freezer thats converted to run as a refrigerator is that it doesnt dehumidify the air. Air inside the chest is 38 degrees and about 90% humidity. Its our setup for storing fruit and vegetables, sort of a root cellar. Thanks for the advice. Im leaning towards just letting them sit in there until spring.

That works if they don’t dry out and that doesn’t sound like too much of an issue.

phx? good for you!
as for 90% humidity, that sounds awesome for a chiller.
and yes, quite certain your cherries will be happier and safer in the chiller.

quite intriguing this one. Never tried it on cherries before, but it in effect-- a now dormant cherry will never wake up from its slumber if amadioranch decides to plant the cherries straightaway , and should phx subsequently have a very warm winter with nary a day below 45F. The cherries are practically stuc in a death spell.

certain mulberries and seedling peaches will actually be fine missing a cold winter, even after going dormant just before winter, and moved indoors and start budding again.

Not possible. Even on a warm winter like this last one we will still see around 380-400 chill hours. People tend to think of our winters being alot like coastal SoCal but they arent. On a good year we can see in excess of 600 chill hours. What kills us is that due to our dry environment we can get get 8-10 hours a night of chill but them it warms up near 80 during the day and that can negate the accumulated chill (at least according to more recent chill models).

yeah, chill hours are supposedly negated by intervening warm weather.
it seems to be a fuzzy science, still. So with phx’s relatively high daytime temps during winter, it will be warm and fuzzy lol
kidding aside, i have never seen cherry trees there, so hopefully you’d be pioneering this venture. Have seen sizeable apple trees and some nondescript plums and peaches, but no cherry trees.

as for the death sentence was pertaining to, i have experimented somewhat inadvertently with mulberries and peaches, but never on high-chill cherries. Received two tiny dormant white mulberries from ebay in late fall, and one i kept indoors which leafed out, while the other left outside to continue dormancy, as i wanted to be on the safe side, since both were 3 mm caliper greensticks, and didn’t want both of them freezing to death. They both survived and still alive today, but the one which missed dormancy didn’t fruit on its first summer. The peach seedling was another tiny one and quite herbaceous, but was late to bring it in and was already dormant, but still decided to spare it from freezing temps and brought it in and it leafed out quick. It lived ~three years then died due to some dieback disease…
curious about what would actually happen if you decided to plant one of your dormant cherry trees, and if so happened did not get more than 400 hrs of chilling time–if it will actually hold off leafing out until it gets what it wants…
and for how long in continuously > 90F weather? Or is it certain death?

Cherries are a pretty new thing here. There has been alot of interest since the low chill varieties came out some years ago. Traditional cherry rootstocks do not like our soil at all. The new hybrid roostocks have moved the possibility of doing them here along greatly. We have been working with many different cultivars and rootstocks for the last 4 years. Have started to have some really nice success.

The reason im playing with these bush cherries is that there have been sporadic reports of fruiting them in places like Las Vegas. So there is a chance that they arent quite as locked into a high chill hour need as one might suppose. We are actively looking for a sour cherry that will fruit here. We have montmorency in trial, Carmine Jewell, and Crimson Passion. Think I ordered in a few more to trial from the NY germplasm too. Its going to be a number of years before I know much of anything from it tho.

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nice to hear there are reports of cherries doing well in las vegas(where am situated in fact). Though have yet to see an established specimen cherry tree, or even just a bush.
i’ve seen grafted bing cherries being sold at star nursery or moon valley, but never really bothered buying one. Come summer they really suffer and dont look promising at all, even with the ambient mist and the relatively cool conditions in those nurseries.

btw, looking at the very promising picture, please tell me it is you holding desert-grown cherries in your az orchard!
there is this cooperative in north las vegas financed by unlv, and from what have gathered, they have had lots of blooms come spring, but negligible fruit production, reported as 12 cherry fruits in > 15 years.

while have my guarded reservations about GMO’s, am giving the nod to cherries being crossed with the most desert-tolerant of apricots.

Yep thats me. And those are our cherries.

very very nice, congratulations! You got unlv beat, no doubt.
including some other orchards here which claim getting rainiers to fruit, but never really seen any proof of success, and taking into account you have less winter chill

Our success so far is only with the low chill Zieger varieties. Higher chill Lapins and Stella wont do much for us. Ive gotten exactly 2 fruit off Lapins in the last 3 years and none off Stella. I wouldnt even attempt higher chill rated cherries like Rainier, Bing.

We have some other commercial types of sweet cherry in trial. They are early bloomers and may sync nicely with Minne Royal and Royal Lee. Its yet to be seen but I have high hopes.