Which is Your Favorite: Sour (Tart) Cherry, Bush Cherry or Cornelian Cherry?

They get a disease that doesn’t kill the plant but makes all of the fruit fall out. Lon Rombough explained it to me. Unfortunately, the fruit is the point of the plant.
John S

Exactly. We might as well drag all the other “cherry” named fruits by the Spanish/Dutch/English into the discussion. Let’s either throw a qualifier into the title of Prunus cherries or start talking about Eugenias!

Everything I’ve read says they’re relatively disease free. Do you know what the name is so I can do some research?

Never had cornelian cherry and I am curious about them too. I did compare, more than once, the Romance series cherries (Bush cherries: Juliet, Romeo, Carmin Jewel, etc.,) to Montmorency cherries (fresh) and Montmorency tasted way better (sweeter, less acidic).Might be the weather (short, hot and humid summers)… or I read people don’t wait long enough before picking the bush cherries, therefore, it’s hard to tell if I just had bad luck with them. I am still glad I got a Carmin Jewel in my yard, since my two year old son will be able to pick them.

Have you looked into Evans? It did very well for me, both fruit and health (until it died this year) (Coons badly broke/ripped out some branches and an overloaded branch did another bad tear - I wasn’t able to repair/prune well and it diseased, died). I don’t have Montmorency to compare to (yet). Also had a maybe Meteor (I’ve wondered since it was naturally dwarf at 6 ft). It had a similar fate. Health was also good, fruit slightly smaller than Evans. Taste similar. Both were on Mazzard rootstock. I now have suckers to graft onto next spring and will for sure replace the Evans. The suckers are all very healthy. My two year Carmine Jewell has a major case of measles on its leaves. And new Garfield Plantation doesn’t look all that great. I hope they outgrow it so I get to taste the fruit.

I wish I did. Gardening experts around here had told me stuff like “Don’t grow stone fruit.” Well most had problems and I didn’t now why. Montmorency and plums are fine here. Most parts of the country are really cold in the spring and we aren’t so diseases love it. It’s just a practical bit of advice I’ve learned for growing on the west side of the Cascades after 20 years of growing fruit, that others in my area also experience. Lon explained why. Oregon State U. may have data or explanations on it. On the East side of the Cascades it’s ok.
John S

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Hmmm. I was hoping I’d like the romance series better than montmorency which is what we have picked from a local u-pick the past several years. I just planted a Romeo and a Carmine jewel a few days ago… Now I’m wondering if we’ll like them as well. I loved the montmorency but liked the idea of no ladder, and what I thought I’d read of as disease resistance in the Saskatchewan cherries… Maybe it’s a location thing. I’m in way northern Va, close to Wv and Md.

I think you’ll love the Carmine Jewel, I thought it was the best tart cherry I ever had. But Montmorency is the standard no doubt. It seems to grow everywhere. I don’t see why you would need a ladder for it, just use backyard orchard culture pruning techniques. My stone fruits will never be over 8 feet.I prone them down, three times a year of I have to. i found two prunings works well. At first I had to do three, once the trees matured, two times a year works. Juliet is the sweetest bush cherry, so add that if you like the two you have. You are kinda warm for them, but Carmine can grow there.


How far are you guys spacing the bush cherries?

Thank you! Yes- we are sort of 6b/7a, I think. I mis-worded my post. I actually LOVED the montmorency cherries we used to buy via u-pick. I was hoping with the romance series to approximate those cherries. I do have Juliet and carmine passion coming from Honeyberry so hopefully between these we’ll get something we love!!

Cornelian cherries are worth growing, in my opinion, because they are great medicine against colds/the flu in winter, and they are super nutritious. Small trees that don’t get diseases. They grow in shade. The flowers are beautiful early when nothing else is.

However, in my opinion, they are nowhere near as delicious as Montmorency. I think Jubileum and Danube taste as good as Montmorency, but when it comes down to 3 cherries from a full size tree rather than 100 or more from Montmorency, the decision isn’t close. Bush cherries are very challenging to get cherries from in my climate, but I’m experimenting.
John S

Yeah why Montmorency will always be desirable. The Bush cherries were developed to grow in colder zones than Montmorency. The bush cherries were worked on during a 70 year period. I think most of the time they were set aside, until the late 80’s when they started working on them again. I’m lucky as they grow well here, and I’m sold hook, line, and sinker. Fantastic cherries. MSU here is working with them now. A long term study to compare, to other cultivars. Machine harvest is possible with them. I can see a day they overtake Montmorency here in Michigan.Depends, they are unproven long term. Speaking of long term, 100 year old trees of Cornus mas still produce like crazy. A very long lived fruit tree.


Ross, for my first Carmine Jewel planting, I crammed three bushes into the space of a tree that died and was removed–in a row 5’ apart. After three or four years this has proved too tight, even for a hedge. The bushes are vigorous and very fruitful. We love them, and are planting other varieties this year. I’ll probably go for 6’ to 8’ for the next planting. Curious how others are spacing.

I’m neither in Michigan nor a commercial grower, but I would guess that these bushes will dramatically change the face of the cherry industry in Michigan.


Good info and background.

A little vague, here is more specific info

Two species of cherries
Prunus cerasus or “Sour Cherry” True sour cherries are native to Europe and have the scientific name of
Prunus cerasus
In an effort to make them sound more appealing, growers in the States have been calling them
tart cherries. These cherries are often 5-8 m. (15 - 25 ft) tall and usually cannot survive in Saskatchewan.
A noticeable exception is the Evan’s Cherry which may be among the more cold tolerant of its species and shorter than other sour cherries. Prunus fruiticosa or “Mongolian Cherry” The cold hardy Prunus fruiticosa (Mongolian Cherry) is native to Siberia. It grows only 30-60cms. (1 to 2 ft), has fruit about the size of a pin cherry and leaves like a willow. This species was the genetic source for dwarf and cold hardiness genes in the
hybrid cherries. Two types of hybrid sour cherries Prunus eminens or “Mongolian cherry”
In the late 40’s, Dr. Les Kerr at Ag Canada’s Morden Research Centre, began
intercrossing P. cerasus and P. fruiticosa.
He continued this research when he moved to Saskatoon to become Director of the PFRA Tree Nursery, Sutherland (now Forestry Farm Park). What resulted was a cold hardy, bush sour cherry that grows 0.6
to 1.0m. (2 to 3 ft.) tall. Les began promoting these cherries to nurseryman and they
began to be widely planted. These hybrid cherries were not given a new name when
they were developed so most nurseries erroneously call them Mongolian cherries. It is
likely that all “Mongolian” cherries being sold by nurseries on the prairies are actually
these hybrids. Pure P. fruiticosa sucker twice as heavy, are half as tall and have half
the fruit size of what nurseries are selling. In the 1970s, Dr. Nelson and Rick Sawatzky at the University of Saskatchewan imported and began evaluating hybrids of P. cerasus and P. fruiticosa from Siberia.
In the 1980’s the U of Sk’s cherry breeding program received a boost when Les Kerr
donated his germplasm to the University. From 1996 to 1999 the U of Sk. was
distributing thousands of improved seedlings under the name of
Prunus eminens to farmers and gardeners. (This name was used because P. fruiticosa x P. cerasus hybrids resemble
P. eminens, which is believed to be a naturally occurring hybrid of these two species.) Growers receiving these trees are helping to identify superior seedlings which will be used in future breeding. P. x kerrasis
or “Dwarf Sour Cherries” These hybrid cherries are 75% P. cerasus and 25% P. fruiticosa and will probably be
named P. x kerrasis (after Les Kerr) These hybrids grow to 0.8 to 1.2m. (5 to 7 ft.) tall and many of them had good fruit quality while maintaining cold hardiness. Neither P. eminens nor P. cerasus are optimum heights for picking. With the first, pickers must bend over and the second requires either a ladder or tree shaker. So, in
1985, Dr. Cecil Stushnoff and Rick Sawatsky at the U. of. S. began crossing P. eminens with a high quality, cold tolerant cultivar (Zone 4a) “North Star” from Minnesota. From these crosses the new variety SK Carmine Jewel
originated. This variety has an optimum tree size for picking and much improved fruit quality.


I like sour cherries a lot but it would be awesome if someone could create a bush cherry in the same size and productivity of the Romance series but could make them sweet and firm like Bing or Lapins.


Sounds good Dave! . Hard to cross them because of chromosomes are doubled in tart cherries. Possible though via treating sweet with colchicine,to double the chromosomes. ARS reports that if you do, they are very compatible and should cross.

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I think you have a PhD in pie cherries!

Fortunately for me, it’s one of my favorite fruits.

That’s what I like about this site. So many people sharing so much knowledge.
John S