Tart cherry vigor vs sweet cherry vigor

Does anyone have experience with or know of a reliable source regarding tart cherry vigor? Compared to sweet cherry.

With tart cherry i mean Prunus cerasus and a cultivar like Montmorency. Not the bush cherries like Carmine Jewel.
Sweet cherry is Prunus avium ofcourse.

I want to plant a few cherry tree’s. Both tart and sweet. And want them to be similar size when mature.

If both seen and read about tart cherry growing a smaller tree than sweet cherry. I however don’t own a mature tart cherry on a known rootstock. So i find it hard to estimate it’s vigor.

Currently I’m thinking of using Gisela 5 for the sweet cherry. And Colt or Gisela 6 for the tart cherry. Would the tart cherry be similar size as the sweet cherry on Gisela 5?

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In my experience sweet cherries whose natural size is 40 feet. Want to get there very fast. Tart seems dwarf compared to sweet. Even on Gisela 5 sweets are going to grow 20 feet without pruning.
Which is amazing the rootstock can dwarf tree 50%. With pruning I have kept one at 7 feet for 8 years. I have to do a massive amount of pruning every year though. Took about 30 minutes this spring to prune and pick up the wood.


I have a lapins sweet cherry… planted in 2018.
This is 7th year in ground and first year with significant bloom.

I have had no problem keeping it at a max of 8 or 9 ft with once a year late winter pruning.

The limbs you can see with no blossoms yet… are where i added 5 grafts of Montmorency to it last spring.


Kansas grows neither well, but tart cherries are the hardier of the two. Sweet cherries will absolutely not tolerate wet feet for any time at all. One day can kill sweet cherry roots. In areas suited to grow sweet cherries they will out perform tart cherries , but those are very few places in the world.


I have a Montmorency cherry and two serviceberry supposed to arrive today from Burnt Ridge.

I have planting holes prepped for them at my new home site / orchard.

TN is not known for success with sweet cherries… but tart cherries are supposed to do much better here.



Montmorency is a great choice.


I have seed grown Montmorency and NorthStar trees. They are slow growing.

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isn’t NorthStar a natural dwarf. I think i remember the name from the canadian bush cherry breeding program.

sweet cherry’s grow fine here. Although suzuki fruitfly and silver leaf ( Chondrostereum purpureum) can become a problem. Hence no winter pruning here.

Anyway if got good soil for sweet and tart cherry’s and they tend to grow just fine here. Biggest problem is usually the tree’s getting to big and the birds eating all the fruit. That’s why i want some dwarf tree’s i can net.

Ideally i want both the tart and sweet cherry to be similar size when mature. next to each other. So i can make a netted bird cage over both.

But it is hard to find vigor difference numbers between sweet and tart cherry’s. I’m curious how much more vigorous a rootstock i need for a tart cherry for it to get the same size as a sweet cherry on gisela 5 (or gisela 3. i have both)


If sweet cherries can be grafted to sour cherries then use seedling NorthStar or Meteor seedlings for rootstock.

Drew has it right, tarts are semi dwarfed compared to sweets… something like 1:1.5 all other things being equal.



Almost all the sweet cherry trees I’ve managed for about the last quarter century have been on G6 or 5 and I don’t agree with this diagram about the vigor of 6. Both rootstocks are easily kept to 13 ft spread and height and less than that if you prune for it. I mean, the Japanese keep sweet cherries on Mazzard below 10’ in height although the spread might be 20’- the point is you can use summer pruning to enforce a lot of control, but the G rootstocks want to fruit heavily well before they become very big. They are productive much sooner than Mahaleb or Mazzard IME.

I don’t know what rootstocks the Montmorency trees I used to order and still manage are on- probably Mazzard and certainly not Gisela, but they can be managed in the same kind of space with pruning as G6, which I would call 60% of standard, but a lot of that is in the hands of the pruner. When a rootstock encourages early fruiting size will be easier to control. .

I keep the cherry trees I manage compact enough to fit a 30’ sq. net tightly wrapped around the branches. That helps them become more than ornamentals.


I know here where I live my sweet cherries have been practically stagnate for 4 years. They are on Newroot 1 and my one from Raintree on Gisela 5 is not showing much better growth honestly. I remember when I first got cherries mamuang told me they would likely not be long lasting and I would likely be disappointed when I got them and was inquiring about them. Well they have lasted but I am certainly disappointed in them and they certainly have not done well like mamuang mentioned. Somewhere like drew lives maybe they do better. I have had trees that have put out way more growth than sweet cherries where I live like plums, tart cherry, apricot, Euro pears etc. Within months my other trees were bigger than my cherries. There are some exceptions like my pecan wants to stay small but most have shot past them in size in way less time. Even my tart cherry bushes grew way faster than my sweet cherries ever did. With my sweet cherries 4 out of 7 are dead and the other 3 are not dead but again not thriving.

Thanks Scot.

This was exactly what i was looking for!

Cherries can be fragile to sudden shifts in temps and bad drainage- the combination of wet soil going into fall (here on wet years, even with soil with decent drainage) and then a sudden temp drop seems to be especially lethal because of cambium cells excessively gorged with water, leading to rupture.

My experiences suggest that this kind of damage can kill but also can cause enough damage to prevent trees from growing with any vigor. If you are going to try to grow cherries in areas borderline for their survival, I would recommend the most vigorous rootstocks, but expect to wait at least 6 years for production.

As far as Marmuang’s advice, I believe she lives in a region where cherries can be long lived depending on soil, rootstock, and perhaps relative sun exposure, with more dwarfing rootstocks being probably more vulnerable to difficult conditions. There are huge trees in may area likely on Mazzard that look to be close to a century old- Queen Anne, probably, that mostly serve birds. On my own site, the wettest spots have proven to be inhospitable to cherries.

I grow montmorency, juliet, and carmine jewell on their own roots. @39thparallel gifted me an early richmond on its own roots. I prefer cherries on their own roots and have far better luck with them that way. I have plenty of mahaleb rootstocks and a north star, but the results are not the best. Growing sweet cherries is possible, but the results are disappointing at best. I grow mahaleb on mounds.

Carmine jewell


Grafting sweet cherries


This is a good thread as we can look at everybody’s mixed experiences with cherries very interesting.
At my cottage where my property is heavily shaded by massive oaks and maples I made a hedge of dogwood cherries. It took forever to grow out and fill in. What’s cool with pruning lower branches stay on the trees. It made a full hedge top to bottom. The cherries make an excellent syrup. The wood is hard and durable. Grew slow but did grow in very low light.


My Lapins (picture above)… I got from Dave Wilson Nursery in 2018… it was a nice sized tree with good branch structure already.

I just checked the tag… which I still have but it makes no mention of rootstock.

It grew well here in southern TN… got to 8 - 9 ft tall in no time. Late each winter i prune it … only once a year. I am normally removing 2 to 4 ft of growth (mostly height) from it… i let it spread out wider but not go higher.

It has not been a problem at all keeping it under control.

My only complaint has been… this is year 7… and it finally did a significant bloom and hopefully we finallly get some fruit.

In year 2 and 3 it had a few blossoms… but no fruit set… in years 4 5 6. It developed what looked like fruit spurs… but each spring nothing but leaves happened.

This year… finally all those spurs are producing clusters of blossoms.

It has been a very pretty tree all along, nice foliage, nice growth, very healthy looking… but 7 years to finally bloom and hopefully fruit.



I hope you get tons of fruit. Spray it regularly so it doesn’t rot. Sweet cherries are very sensitive to rotting and splitting. Tart cherries i dont have to spray for that.


rot showed up on all my tart cherries last year for the 1st time despite me spraying them 4xs. was a very wet warm summer so i kind of expected it. luckily it hit just as they ripened so i was able to pick most of the crop before it got wiped out.

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I think that is partly what killed most of my cherries. When I first started gardening for a few years I was super bad at overwatering. For reference I watered my squash once every day and now I water every week or 2 during the growing season and I don’t water at all during dormant season. I hear people talking about winter watering during winter and just laugh to myself now. I listened to that advice and that was the year I had 4 sweet Cherry die. After that I did not water and had a black gold on Mazzard die but it did horrible all summer too. It did not grow an inch. It only suckered. Like I said my sweet cherry that lived just don’t grow. I do taper them off in fall as fall I only water 2 weeks or less. Once it snows there is no stopping the moisture too. My soil is still soaking wet from our snow. I just planted 2 apple, a pear and a damson plum. At first I was worried because UPS had delayed it and it had been in the box since Thursday so Thursday till Wednesday afternoon. Once I felt my soil from my snows I realized it was certainly wet enough to moisten the roots. It really helps with growing lettuce because you can direct sow lettuce here and not water it for all of March or April. It is why I say lettuce is the only annual I know I make a profit on.