Low Chill Cherry Pollination in SoCal

So this will be old topic to a lot of you, but this will be third leaf for most of my Low Chill Cherries and I wanted to track pollination with these often challenging (fairly) new trees. Hopefully, posting on here will remind me to keep better track of the pollination times. I had pretty good bloom overlap between Minnie Royal and Royal Lee last year, but no cherries. So we’ll see how they do in Central Orange County this year. Overall my trees of various types are running about a week behind last year with more bloom time differentiation than last year.

So excuse the ugly orchard (no, don’t want to bring that discussion here!), but from nearest to far I’ve got Royal Lee, Lapins, Minnie Royal, Royal Rainier (2nd leaf) and 6GM25 (1st leaf). These pictures were taken last Saturday (2/25/17). Royal Lee had its first flowers a few days earlier.

I swapped one branch of Royal Lee and Minnie Royal last year to see if there was any difference in their bloom times being on different trees. Not sure it will make much difference but the RL branch of MR (where the white arrow is pointing) seems to be waking up a bit later than the Royal Lee tree. We’ll see if that continues.

6GM25 is starting to leaf out, but nothing relevant this year as far as timing since it should have received a lot of its chill in NoCal.

More to come (hopefully including some cherries – and some better pictures).



Good luck, Bob. I have not had any signicant crop in 5 years - this is my 6th year with MR, RL in ground. I also have several other cherries on my property as well, but they usually bloom a little after MR & RL. I have 6GM25 planted now in between both MR and RL, as well as a 2nd one up on my N side yard, along with Cristobalina (all new in the ground this year, too.) Last two years I’ve had thousands and thousands of blooms. Last season was great cross over and what appeared to be decent set, but all aborted. I’m going to apply phosphate per Richard’s recommendations to see if I can keep set fruit on the tree to maturity. Very frustrating to try to grow cherries here. My most favorite stone fruit of all, of course.

Patty S.

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This is my first flowering season for Minnie Royal and Royal Lee — I have perfect bloom overlap. But I’ve cheated a bit. I planted them out from containers last spring. The MR was on Newroot-1 in a huge pot at about the mature size. The RL was in 5 Gallon pot on Mazzard. So I bypassed the early stage where MR blooms earlier than RL. Hopefully it stops raining, so the pollinators can do their job.

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Thanks Patty. I’ve read your Cherry posts and I’m looking forward to hearing how yours go this year too. Breaking new ground in low chill, so I guess some stumbling blocks are to be expected.

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3/4/2017 Update: Royal Lee tree in full bloom, Royal Lee graft on Minnie Royal still preparing to bloom, other cherries pretty quiet…

Royal Lee in bloom…

Royal Lee graft on Minnie Royal still quiet (note, I’m not very good in Photoshop but I darkened the non-Royal Tree portions of the tree)…

Mine are in full bloom now. Perfect sync on Minnie Royal and Royal Lee. BTW I’d keep those grafts of RL on the down-low. Especially labelled evidence of the crime. :slight_smile:

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I’m no lawyer, but feeling pretty safe swapping branches of a patented variety – especially ones where pollination is a well known issue. My sync was much better last year and I didn’t get an cherries – hopefully the opposite will happen this year.

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As a backyard grower I think you’re safe too, in the sense that nobody will pursue the issue –

The relevant law:

7 U.S. Code § 2541 - Infringement of plant variety protection

(e) Private noncommercial uses
It shall not be an infringement of the rights of the owner of a variety to perform any act done privately and for noncommercial purposes.

From: 7 U.S. Code § 2541 - Infringement of plant variety protection | U.S. Code | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

Good luck getting some cherry set!

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How about cutting some of those blossoms, letting the stamens dry out and save the pollen. Then when your next batch of flowers open you just hand pollinate? Your trees are small enough that this is not going to be a ton of work for now.


Yeah, I’ll be doing some hand pollinating – not something I’m very good at, but we’ll see this year.

I found at least with apples is that you need to dry the blossoms for a few days for the pollen to release. I’m no expert though.

I went out last week and did some hand pollinating of MR and RL. A couple weeks ago the honey bees seemed to show no interest, but instead were attacking the Anna and Dorsett Golden apples (These things bloom like crazy!). I’d see them land on the cherry blossoms and then immediately fly off and land on the apples again as if they’d landed on the wrong tree by mistake. I did however see a mix of several different insects in the cherries actively pollinating, some unexpected: Bumble bees, what looked to be a small native bee like some thing from the Colletes genus, flies and at night I also observed moths. Eventually when the apple blooms faded out – I did see the honey bees foraging in the cherries, although clearly they are not their favorite food source. Today I can see the signs of fruit set — hopefully they hang and don’t abort.

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The bee issue is one I’ve been thinking about with the cherries. Our local nursery expert makes suggestions like not putting citrus near an avocado as the bees will fly around the avocado flowers to get to the citrus. Seems possible there is a similar issue with cherries. I have Anna and Dorsett Golden as well, probably 15 and 25 feet away respectively. I do see some bee activity on those two, but nothing like the activity on the plum/pluot/pluerry block in my front yard where I have more bees than I’ve ever seen on my trees. I really need to get out and hand pollinate the Royal Lee before it’s too late, but it’s just been down the list of tasks (I just got my last batch of apple scion wood I need to graft tonight).

A couple of pictures from last weekend. Not much new. Minnie Royal started to bloom post these pictures, so there is some pollination crossover, but not ideal. Hopefully 6GM25 (they really need to name this tree soon – Mickey Royal? Royal Sweet? Sweet Grenade Flavor Royal?) will help bridge the gap. Lapins is still quiet, which is good since hopefully the other blooms will have receded and the bees can focus there.

A couple of photos from early Saturday (3/11/2017):

Royal Lee…

And the rest…

And for a bonus, the front yard, Sweet Treat and SpiceZee…


Bee’s preferring other blossoms over cherry is a major issue for us. We have been working on a solution but its too early to say it works.


Well, Eric, I will be all ears, if your solution in the works ends up working!

Patty S.

A great idea


YES. Section (e) has resulted in many Case Law rulings that support the spirit of the plant patent law.

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Here are two observations that may be helpful. The older/larger the trees get and the number of total blooms goes up, the more bees are willing to come pay attention to them. Small trees with few blooms get ignored worse. Apricots are the worst offender for hogging all the bees on our property during the low chill cherry bloom. If you can fruit cherries that bloom after the apricot bloom (Brooks, Coral Champaigne, Lapins etc) that way be a better bet.

The best tip I can give at the moment is place a hive directly under the cherry’s so that the bees have to fly thru them on the way to other things. :slight_smile:

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What my father and those before him did, was to plant “everblooming” perennials throughout the orchard so that the bees were already coming on a regular basis when the fruit trees were in bloom.

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Bees are curious things. They were all over my arctic star nectarine. After peak bloom they moved to my plums, pluots, and sweet treat pluerry. Sweet treat pluerry blooms heavily and they focused on that tree. They would occassionally move to flavor grenade, burgundy, and flavor king. Then my neighbors 30’ grapefruit bloomed, and they have completely ignored the later plums/pluots and nadia plum.

Thats fine and dandy but does nothing for the fact that bees prefer other things over the cherries. We have zero issue with attracting bees. This is a agricultural area and hives are all over. The roar of bees working the cots is almost deafening…and all the while the cherries are ignored. This is why I suggest placing a hive right under your cherry block. They will literally have to fly thru the cherries as they go out to other things. This usually distracts them enough to stop and do a little pollinating as they pass thru.