Prunus Serotina Pruning?

I recently ordered some black cherry (prunus serotina) seedlings from my local conservation department. My goal is to plant lots of native trees which will produce fruit without needing to be babied.

Has anyone tried pruning them to encourage horizontal growth? I know black cherries will get quite large, so I’d like to not have most of the fruit out of reach. I’ve read that on standard cherries you want to remove the central leader and go for a “wagon wheel” shape.

1 Like

If you have lots of time and don’t mind if it doesn’t work out…then why not try.

But, I would think an easier solution would be find a dwarfing rootstock and do a graft. In 30 years I have a seedling that is 60 feet tall with no limbs below 20 feet. (A good cherry lumber tree someday.)

Prunus serotina is supposedly incompatible with the Eurasian cherries so I doubt there is any known dwarfing rootstock that would work for it. Maybe it could be grafted to another native cherry species like Prunus virginiana? who knows

I think it would be worth experimenting with a more open center style pruning method. I’m guessing you’re growing them to have fruits for yourself if you want them within reach. Have you tasted black cherry fruits before? I like them, but they can be fairly bitter and they seem to vary a good bit in bitterness and sweetness from tree to tree. I’ve made jam with them before that I enjoyed but it did retain a bit of a coffee-like bitterness.

1 Like

I don’t know for sure, but I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed with P.serotina fruit. They’re small… about the size of an English pea, and mostly pit, with just a small rim of strongly-flavored pulp. Not my fave, but I’m not much on cherries to begin with.
In my universe, P.serotina is a timber tree, not a fruit tree. Yes, wildlife - particularly birds - will relish the fruits, but I doubt that you’ll be enthralled with them.
But… I could be wrong.

3 Likes

I’ve not actually had one before, but I’m definitely a fan of strong & bitter-tasting things. I was hoping that I could use a food mill to speed up processing and use the pulp either for jam or for flavoring wine.

3 Likes

I think that would be really cool to do! Pruning for more horizontal growth would definitely be necessary since they tend to grow so tall. The fruits are small and mostly pit (like Lucky said), but the mature trees are very productive so you shouldn’t have a problem getting enough fruit to process. And if all else fails, they are great wildlife plants that birds adore, provide a lot of value for pollinators, and are host plants for an insane amount of native butterfly and moth species.

1 Like

Lucky, personally I love them…but they are too hard to pick in any quantities. As you say, mostly pits.
(And the pits can be somewhat poisonous).

get yourself some romance series cherries from the U of Sask… honeyberryUSA carries them. youll be much more happy with them and will get fruit in less than 5 yrs on a manigable bush. youll thank me later. :wink: . welcome to your new obsession by the way.

1 Like