Which is the best low chill cherry for N. Florida? Zone 8b

Forget cherries along the Gulf Coast. Won’t get any fruit. Tree may survive the hot summers but not likely. No one has gotten any cherries here near Houston.


I’m trialing Montmorency in the chilly microclimate of my yard. I’m in zone 8a South Carolina, so tons of humidity, hurricanes and disease pressures. I don’t hold much hope, but you never know unless you try. If my tree ups and dies, I was considering replacing it with a cornelian cherry (actually a kind of dogwood) or a serviceberry.

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That’s my thinking you never truly know unless you try, I’m planting anything relatively close to my chill hours to see how the plant does in the humidity and heat. Far as the avocados go I don’t know why putting Christmas lights around them or plastic during the winter won’t protect them until they get to a mature size. And who doesn’t like looking at Christmas lights my neighbors might think I’m crazy but that’s never stopped me before.

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Sorry if this is straying off topic, but what avocado varieties are you thinking? My mother lives near you and she got a couple own-rooted Del Rio plants from Craig Hepworth in Citra, though she’s kept them indoors this winter and plans to plant them out in the spring, so can’t give any tips about what protection works best for young trees in that area.

Edit; nevermind, just remembered we already had this conversation in another thread. Old man brain already!

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Del Rio is a good one I plan on going Central Florida in a month to pick up some of the Mexican varieties what he has will really depend on what I buy

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So a quick word on peaches than an update on my cherries.

Peaches grow fantastic in zone 8b in Florida. I planted what was probably a one year old tree last year. Its now huge and I’m going to have a bunch of peaches this year. This is my second peach. My first at our previous house had to be put down after about six years. I never sprayed it properly, etc… But this time I have been spraying properly and so far no problems. All I will say is that if you fertilize with Citrus Fertilizer spikes and water once a week they will grow like crazy. If you want something that is a sure bet get a low chill peach variety. I plan on planting some more next year.

I also have what is now a three year old Anna and some kind of wild apple tree. Both have apples this year and have grown well. Regarding fruit trees in Florida. Except for Citrus everything in Florida needs to be sprayed so it just comes with the territory. Right now I’m rotating D747 (double nickel), Captan, and Daconil. I don’t spray when trees are blooming and follow instructions on labels.

UPDATE on Cherries.

Lapins: My lapins finally has woken up. No flowers just leafing out. It is only three years old now so I may have to wait another year or two.

Royal Crimson: Woke up about two to three weeks before the lapins. Same thing though. No flowers but again it is only three.

On a whim I went back to the nursery (a tad south of me) in Gainesville where I bought them. She still has a bunch of lapins, Royal Crimsons, Minnie Royales, and Royal Lees. I was able to find some of each type that had flowered, and maybe one of them had a cherry about to grow. I suspect her trees are between 2 to 3 years old as well. All of them are potted, and basically in the middle of the woods (not much light). But this probably means they get a bit more chill hours since the shade will extend the colder temperatures every day another hour or two. I did see a few lapins that have yet to wake up and might be dead. The Royal Lees looked to have been the ones that woke up first and also the ones that were more likely to blossom. With all the trees she had I would have expected better pollination. But again the trees are young and I don’t know that she got many blooms. I could only see the ones open today when I went. But in general it appears we are getting enough chill hours here to survive. And all those trees in pots still probably means they can’t grow optimally. Lets put it this way. Mine are much bigger than the ones left in pots in her forest.

I also planted a Celeste Fig last year and it is growing well this year so far. Not going to let any Figs grown on it though cause it didn’t grow much last year. It is tiny.

I dormant transplanted out of pots three pear trees. (20th Century, Shinko, and another Asian Pear). Two appear to be waking up buy boy it is slow slow. Just a hint of green. The 20th century hasn’t shown any real sign of life yet.

At the same time I transplanted the Pears I also transplanted a Flavor Delight Aprium. This tree has now leafed out and I did get one bloom. I have no pollinator at this time so no hope on that one. That is a 300 chill tree though so that is a good sign. Flavor Delight supposedly is one of the harder trees to grow. So it it takes to the soil and climate than that would be a good sign for other low chill fruit varieties.

According to AgroClimate which undercounts our chill hours we got 526 chill hours below 45 and 460 chill hours between 32 and 45. Again I know this undercounts because there would every now and then be a day where the hours didn’t go up on the calculator when I know we would have like say 6-8 chill hours over night. So its a slight undercount.

My concern on the lapins would be what happens if we had an unusually warm winter. I would not suggest anything over a 400 hour chill requirement tree for the Gainesville | Alachua | High Springs area.

I do think the Royal Lee and the Minnie Royale and the Royal Crimson are the best bet for zone 8b. I will also say this. With proper spraying diseases can be controlled on these trees. The bigger question is will they pollinate in the higher humidity. The last two years we haven’t gotten a lot of rain on any of the trees while they were blooming. High humidity just hit us the last two weeks but again not a lot of actual rain. Everything else (the apples, peaches, Satsumas, and Lemons have pollinated just fine. So I’m betting they will pollinate.

If anyone is considering planting one of these cherries I highly recommend planting them in partial sun not full sun. I noticed that last summer the leaves would droop daily from say noon to 5PM cause of the heat. As soon as they got some shade the leaves would perk up. So if you can plant in a spot that starts getting some shade around 1 PM I think the trees will feel much better and they will still get plenty of sun to ripen a cherry. Also I’m not going to prune to open up the center all that much. Again the canopy of the tree I would prefer to be thick so it can deal with the heat better as they mature.

So that is my two cents. Only time will tell if the cherries take. Remember too I had some transplant shock last year and still I got a lot of growth. With the transplant behind us and a better spraying program now in place it will be interesting to see what they will do next spring. Sadly that is a year away. But I would think by year four I would be getting a good batch of blooms.

I’m also excited about the two Owari Satsuma’s. I still have to transplant them but this is probably the only reliable citrus that can handle the winters here. So I’m excited to see what they will do.


Not saying you are wrong. But looking at your location you are well South of where I’m at and where figerama is at. So we both probably get a bit more chill hours. I will concur though my cherry trees did not like the heat in the summer. At least in Florida If you want to try plant them in a partial shade area.

Other than humidity, what else makes north Florida a challenge for cherries?

What i do when I push climate limits is I look at the native range of the fruit and compare. Rainfall by month, high and low temperatures by season, soil, latitude/photoperiods, fog vs full sun, etc.

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From what I read or watched from Dave Wilson Nursery their biggest concern in the east is pollination.
Early spring rains and moisture make pollination more difficult. But to be honest Spring 2020 and Spring 2021 didn’t have much rain and was even less humid. So I think they might bloom well before the typical Florida afternoon rains come. My peach trees, and apple trees planted last year had no problems with pollination.

I will say it again. For me do not plant cherry trees in full sun. The trees did look stressed from say noon to 5PM every day during the peak of the summer. Plant them so they get some shade during peak day temps in your area. This will also increase your chill hours in the winter. So its a win win. I don’t know why they say cherries don’t like humidity. Could it be that cherries have some evaporative cooling going on? High humidity would make something like that more difficult.

My plan is to plant two or three more cherries next year but in a part of the yard that gets some afternoon shade. I also do not plan on doing much to open the tree up to sunlight. I want the trees to leaf out thick and hopefully the top of the tree will shade leaves lower down or on the inside.

You have to spray cause in Florida every night you will get dew on the tress. So you want sun early in the morning to help dry them off. Most soils are loamy sandy soils so that shouldn’t be a problem. The soils drain well so overwatering isn’t going to be a problem. It might even help with cracking since the soils drain so quickly.

Actually getting cherries is pure speculation. Mr. Texas says it won’t work. But zone 8b is surely better than his zone 9. My main concern is that if the trees get stressed too much in the summer (bugs, fungus, disease) than blooming might even be an issue.


I don’t live in Florida, but I am engaged in the same effort as you - growing cherries outside of their traditional habitable climate. And I enjoy the science of understanding it all. As I mentioned above, the key is to analyze the optimal climate (for cherries, this is Europe and Asia, and more specifically eastern Europe, and just to pick a place, pick the top cherry producing country in the world, which is Turkey, and to be even more specific, northern Turkey is credited as a possible origin, so let’s pick Amasya).


It starts with looking at temperature by month, and rainfall by month. Here is one sample data chart that is easy to read:


Scroll down and also notice two additional things:

-difference between daily highs and lows (this is the biggest challenge for my location)
-night temperatures

Here is my summary of the optimal native range for cherries:
-rainfall 2 inches per month throughout most of the year, but lighter in July and August (<1 inch)
-temperature high in the summer 75-83
-temperature low in the summer around 55-60
-temperature low in the winter 27-30
-temperature high in the winter 43-45

That link I provided does not include humidity. You may want to check that if you think it might contribute. Where I am it probably does not matter. Fog and full sun could be relevant too.

For me in inland San Diego, the big differences are:
-Rainfall is substantially less in the spring through fall.
-Temperature daytime high in summer is 20 degrees higher
-Temperature nighttime low in summer is an even match
-Temperature daytime high in winter is 40 degrees warmer
-Temperature nighttime low in winter is 10 degrees warmer

I use this data to guide how I intervene:
-protect the trees in the summer heat with more water and to expect/tolerate some problems in those months
-the warmth in the winter is a bigger problem than lack of chill (possibly)

For FL, the closest city to the original poster I could find was Tallahassee) which suggests:
-Big challenge is high night temperatures in summer (20 degrees higher)
-Winter low temps are 12-15 degrees higher, not enough chill probably
-Summer precipitation is enormous (7 inches).
-Summer lows (night) temperatures are 20 degrees too high. This might be the biggest problem of all.

I understand Florida is diverse and there are certainly better cities in than Tallahassee for growing stone fruit, others can repeat the data check on their own cities. If you do have stats like this, adjust expectations down. And keep in mind your biggest challenge is probably respiration. It is a myth that plants only photosynthesize. They also respire. They take in oxygen and breath out CO2. This is how they use the energy they create from photosynthesis. This is true of the entire plant but is most vulnerable at the roots. They need enough oxygen. High temperatures at night mean they have to respire more. And the biggest challenge for you all comes in the summer, right when you are getting as much as 7 inches of rain. So drainage of soil is the most important thing you can do. Plant high, plant in sand, try anything to get those roots their oxygen in the summer. John, you might consider this and planting in full sun as your summer observations are probably correct but would be more likely attributed to the roots suffocating in too much water? Maybe the sun can help dry them out?

Tallahassee FL differs from Amasya Turkey:
-Summer nights are 20 degrees too warm
-Summer rain is 6 inches too heavy per month
-Winter lows are 20 degrees too warm
-If tried, exert maximal effort to protect drainage, and consider (and test!) microclimates to see if you can tinker with it.


Wow , that is an excellent analysis and I agree with most of it. The high humidity and high rainfall means we have a lot more fungal pressures and spraying is not an option. We must spray.

The good news is that for most of Florida the soils are sandy soils and they drain extremely fast. Even with a mulch cover soils will dry out in two days even after heavy rains.

Yea I wish I hadn’t planted the two I have in the gound in full sun. The day time temp hurts and the shade helps a lot. The tree leaves always recover though and look better at night.

I might try planting two more next year and will try partial shade. I think this will help with the day time temps, and also help add chill hours in the winter.

Thank you so much for the analysis it helps to know what all I’m dealing with here.

Turns out I did manage to get one bloom on my lapins just a day or two ago. We had one more cold spell this week and pop, there was a bloom.

Time will tell. Even with these low chill varieties the odds are long.

I’ve heard that in the low areas in California the cherries do very well even in the warmer climates. There are some videos by Laguna Nursuries. A few of them talk about Cherries in CA and probably even you area. Worth a listen. He says usually getting the cherries to wake up and bloom isn’t a problem.

Yeah, his talks are great! He has a talk on soil that changed my approach. Never hurts to plant on a mound too.

I think you will have most success with Minnie Royal, Royal Crimson, and Royal Lee. They seem to always know that late February or early March is the time to start waking up, in my area at least. They are so distinct! Everything else is a month later. Right now mine are in full flush and the fruit are coloring yellow.

That being said, they do have extended bloom. First MR, then RC, then RL, in general. Brooks and Lapins will help overlap the late flowers of Royal Lee.

By the way, I hand pollinated this year to see what that did and it massively improved fruit set. The advice you got on pollination being an issue fits my experience. Maybe when the trees are bigger that won’t be an issue.

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So just a bit of an update. All my trees are dormant now except for two apple trees. So far we’ve had a warm winter in Florida. So far 100 chill hours. But I think most of those hours occurred before the two cherries were fully dormant. So I’m not counting them. December has been warm and projected to stay warm. So we are going to need a cold January to catch up. Worried a little bit about the Lapins waking up.

Both trees did a lot better last summer with the heat. My Royal Crimson the year I transplanted suffered massive root damage during the transplant, got bacterial canker on the trunk that I had to burn out, etc… So most of 2021 it was healing up all the damage. It didn’t grow much but the healing is almost complete now. And the bacterial canker is officially gone. The lapins looks great, had modest growth, and in general just looked very healthy all year. I did very little fertilizing this past year. Just a few rounds of liquid based fertilizers.

This spring once they begin waking up I’m going put pellet like fertilizer down all around so they are constantly fed. We have good loamy soils for Florida here but I still suspect the daily rains wash away most of the nutrients. So my plan is to fertilize more this year. Also I probably won’t do any pruning coming out of winter like I did last year. They just don’t appear to need it. I might do some very light shaping type pruning but not much.

For those that care. I sprayed the trees about every two weeks from the time they started waking up until about the end of July. I rotated between Captan and Daconil, and F-Stop (only a few times). The trees tolerated them fine. You can’t spray Daconil once the tree bears fruit but since they didn’t have any I kept it in the rotation. I had very little cherry leaf shothole compared to the first year. My first year most of the initial leaf flush dropped early and had to be replaced with new leafs. Part of this was due to the bad transplants I had, poor spraying, and the june bugs. But none of those were major factors this past year.

So in summary the trees seemed to do much better this year health wise. I suspect as they get bigger this will only improve as they will help shade themselves a bit. Because of the hot Florida sun I’m not planning on completely opening up the centers via pruning. They will be four years old when they wake up this spring. Hopefully will see some fruit. Year five is when most cherries are really supposed to start producing. I’m going to purchase another Royal Crimson cause I lost half my trunk bark due to burning out the canker. I over did it for sure. So I’m not sure it will ever be able to properly grow from this point forward. Only time will tell.


Thanks for the info, I did not take the plunge and buy any cherries yet. I did try some Barbados cherry fruits this summer and I was not pleased with the taste so I did not buy any of those either. I bit off more I could chew last year with all the trees I planted so this being the second year I’m going to concentrate a little bit more on each tree. I’m also going to have to concentrate on controlling the insects since I’ll have a lot of blackberries fruiting this summer.

Summers too hot and humid. Hot and dry, OK. Hot and humid, die die die. Climate in northern Florida is similar to Houston. No one in Houston has successfully fruited a low chill cherry after 20 years of availability. They don’t even sell them at fruit tree sales anymore. Why do you think trying again would succeed? Repeating the same behavior repeatedly and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.


We have dew on the grass every day that will totally soak your feet and lasts until nearly noon in the winter. After a cold front we may get a day without dew. It is a real surprise if you go outside to get in the car at 8:00 and not have to run the wipers. Plus we have low temperatures in the 80’s during the summer. We are forecast having lows in the 60’s the next 9 days through Christmas. And every morning will be wet from dew until lunch.

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Hey so just an update. My Royal Crimson which was heavily damaged the first year by a bad transplant, then bacterial canker, and then me burning up half the trunk has after two years mostly healed up. This year it has 10 maybe more blooms. Not a lot and only time will tell if they are going to get pollinated. The lapins is very healthy but and looks great. But I have little hope of any blooms this year. In my area we got just a little over 260 chill hours this year between 32 and 45. And for the below 45 rating was only 365 hours not even the 400 required. But the trees have woken up and will be fine.

I have heard some reports that some people have had some success. My trees I think are just 5 years old this year and this winter was a strange one. It was very warm AND the cold days we did get spent a lot of time below 32 degrees. We had this one long sustained freeze. So I lost my Meyer Lemon. Our two Owari Satsuma’s made it but barely. It was the worst freeze we’ve had since I’ve lived in North Florida. So strange winter. A super bad freeze but otherwise abnormally warm. Sort of the worst of both worlds here.


Thanks for keeping us updated. I also lost two kumquats, honey Bell orange and my satsuma was drastically cut back from that freeze. My olive trees made it but I’m still waiting to see what’s green before I start cutting the dead off of them. I also lost all four of my avocados I had in containers but to be honest I kind of gave up on them. I have 20 pineapple guava seedlings in plastic cups that set outside all winter and they made it through that cold snap just fine never lost a single leaf.
One nice thing about that freeze is that I tapped a couple of my pecans for syrup, best syrup I’ve ever had.

I have a lapins in southern middle TN z7a since 2018… big healthy stout beautiful tree… no fruit yet.

It has bloomed sparingly the past couple springs but set no fruit.

It is looking great again this year… lots of fruit buds… still hoping.

I do plan to graft about half of it over to Montmorency tart cherry… and see if that might do better… produce some fruit.

My summers are pretty hot and humid and it seems perfectly happy… no sign of disease at all… beautiful foliage all year, nice growth.

Looks like it should be giving me lots of cherries… but not so far.

My lapins a few weeks back after pruning.

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Good thread.

I also am a deep south residential gardener… Zone 9a southern Louisiana.

I have numerous smallish fruit trees (interspecifics, Asian pear, apricot, plum, pluot) and have done a lot of grafting for the first time this spring.

I have always known it is a huge stretch to try successfully growing sweet cherries in the humid south, but it’s always been a dream fruit tree for me, so I am OK with experimenting.

I planted a lapins in February and it is growing well at the moment… Over 15 inches growth on the most vigorous new branch. I planted it in 36" fire ring with the soil at 15 inches above grade to ensure a dry crown.

I will be getting a Minnie Royal and a Royal Lee cherry this week coming. The Minnie Royal is on Maxma rootstock and the Royal Lee rootstock is pending an email confirmation from the nursery (having read of earlier rootstock issues, I think both of mine will not be on that earlier one with the longevity issues).

This thread and others like it are helping me plan my planting location and details.

Since I am a residential lot grower, these trees will be kept below 8 feet in height. With the sun scorch comments I’ve read, I think I will set up a shade cloth, say 40%, on the west side of the trees and limit direct sun exposure after 1 PM… Or since they start small, perhaps I go horizontal with the shade.

If I am so hard set on growing cherries, these varieties are the only current choice. All else I can do is control our ample rainfall (drainage, raised plantings) and perhaps limit direct sunlight all day. The growing season is so very long here and cherries are such an early ripening crop that shouldn’t be an issue.

Regardless I’m old enough to not be overly distraught at failure. That’s why I have so many other trees and berries so there is always something that IS doing well to be content with.

Signed… Stubborn Grower.

Oh… Meant to add…now that I know (sort of!) how to graft, as long as my cherry trees don’t die right away, I will be grafting them to other established trees. Maybe I will have some luck on some of the grafts for some fruit…and earlier than the just planted trees will fruit.

Really, I’d be happy with a dozen or so edible cherries!

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