Zone 5a peaches and cherries

I am looking for input on peaches and sweet cherries that have consistently produced crops in zone 5a for you. I know there are years where there will likely be no crop. Lots of statements on the web, but hard to weed out the facts. I trust the info of members of this forum. I know neither fruit is a great choice for the zone, but I would like to have some options.


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My hardiest sweet cherry so far has been Lapins, 8 years in the ground Z5a. I have had a few good crops on it. Black Gold is three years in and had a few cherries last year. I just planted Kristen last year and hopeful it survived the winter. My biggest problem is that we seem to get a couple of weeks of nice warm temps followed by cooler weather, they blossom profusely but the bees dont come out. Im trying mason bees this year since they supposedly arent quite as finicky about the weather. Also I think the key to sweet cherries in marginal climates is to cut back the water in the fall to induce earlier dormancy.

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I agree, I have a feeling the bouncing temps in the spring is the cause for loss of crops for the two fruits I mentioned. Too many nice days followed by sudden drops in temps into the freezing or below freezing range, only to repeat the cycle again. If the temperature doesnt kill the flowers the bees never get the job done.

I like “Polly” a white, medium sized peach developed in Iowa in the 20s. Slow to come into production for me, but that could have been happenstance. Has slight green tinge unless it gets a lot of sun. Really excellent quality.

I like “redhaven” not really a cold climate specialist, it just seems to come through if there is any which way it can. Widely available at local nurseries, but check and make sure the rootstock is appropriate for z5. I.e. not “nemagard” also excellent quality.

I’ve had no luck with cherries, but the local ag station likes 'blackgold"

Here’s my Polly after a mule deer sparred with it last fall. I pampered it all summer long and the dang deer destroyed it overnight. I was thinking of planting something else in it’s place, I’ve never had a Polly peach nor heard of it until I bought this one but if it’s as good as you say maybe I’ll try it again. I like white fleshed peaches.

Ouch! Deer can do a lot of damage in very short order.

We grow the below peaches and cherries in zone 4B. We often do not get a crop due to winter temps either absolute temps or warm spells followed by frigid temps. It was -19 this week, we’ll see what we get this year. Starks gold is the hardiest cherry, followed by Kristin, Hudson, and the gold series. Reliance is the hardiest peach with the others less hardy. Sour cherries are much hardier than sweets


Peaches Production Taste Hardiness
Wisconsin Balmer 4 4 4
Intrepid 4 3 4
Reliance 3 2 4
Hardired 3 5 3
True Gold (died) 3 3 2
Madison 3 4
Contender 4 4
Millers Superhardy I think this is a reliance
Surecrop (very early died) 4 3
Red haven
Ranger 3 4 2
Polly 4 4 3
Georgia Belle 3 4 2
PF24C 4 4
Seedlings 4 2 5
Cherries Production Taste Hardiness
Kristen 4 3 3
Starks Yellow 5 2 4
Black Gold 3 4 3
White Gold 3 3 3
Hudson 3 3 3
Evans 5 3 5
Balantin 3 4 3
Sure Fire 3 4 4
Pearl series 0 0 0 Not bud hardy here


Plum Hill,

I notice you rate seedling peaches the highest for hardiness. Are these any seedlings from your above peach trees, or are certain seedlings hardier than others?

Also, I see you didn’t rate Redhaven. How does it do in terms of hardiness in your locale?

Hey! Eric from Dane county is here!

Great list. What do the numbers signify?

I hope my enthusiasm for “Polly” isn’t mistaken for a representation that its the best. At least its not a “pretty good considering…” type variety.

Eric, I’m curious how you rate the hardiness exactly, is it about the hardiness of the trees or flower buds? Tree hardiness would be a lot easier to accurately measure, wouldn’t it? There seems to be a lot of fluctuation in hardiness of flowers between varieties- varying from season to season.

Kirsten is often listed as the hardiest sweet, but I don’t know what Stark’s Yellow is. I’ve not seen it discussed with other sweet cherries before.

Hello. the numbers are relative ranking between the trees. So Wisconsion Balmer is productive, tastes good and pretty hardy. Reliance is moderately productive but doesn’t taste that great. Hardired is not very bud hardy but the tree survives and is tasty when it fruits (hard to keep the fruit looking pretty, shows every insult). Red Haven hasn’t fruited yet, even though the tree is 4" at the base, likely not bud hardy. Polly is very good, and survives, you have to let people taste it, they are not used to green peaches. I gave a slice to one guy, he looked shocked and said “So this is what peaches are supposed to taste like”,

Hardness is a combination of survival and bud hardiness. Madison, contender and PFC24 were not very large before 2011 so I have little data, they are growing well though. The peach seedlings were mostly reliance and were hardier than the parent, but most drowned in 2011. True gold and Sure crop may have been effected by the wet in 2011, they lived a couple of years but died in late summer.

THe last 3 seasons have been tough on the peaches. 2011 we had 20" of rain in 6 weeks and lost many peaches and cherries (and even a few plums) to drowning due to constant standing water in the orchard, followed by Hurricane Irene in August, they just dropped thier leaves and died. 2013 also had excessive rain early but we got some crop. In Dec 2013 we had multiple instances of 45F and rain immediately followed by sub zero temps which knocked the buds off all the peaches and most of the cherries, including the sours and the pears. THis winter we had -19F so I am concerned about this summer. Plums are much hardier, its good we are mostly plums.

Starks gold is a yellow briner cherry with good sweet fruit, but it does not have the “Cherry” taste of the reds, it is like a different fruit from cherries, but sells well.

Kristan is sensitive to wet roots, I had a Starks gold and Kristin grafted to the same trunk, the Kristin died and the yellow did fine. I lost all my Kristins that year, I replanted on mounds with Gisela 6 rootstock but they haven’t bloomed yet.

I have 30 of the Pearl Series on Gisela 5, beautiful trees, lots of buds, but no blooms. I hope to graft them over this year.

Last year the only sweet cherries which did OK were Hudson and Starks Yellow. Its funny, I almost cut out the Hudsons because they didn’t bloom for 8 years (on Mazzard) but didn’t get around it it, they have been doing well since.

Picture of Starks Gold and Kristin


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Im in 5b/6a but this year it went down to -18F sort of like Traverse City MI (im in Southern Ontario though). I have Lapins, Vans, Vandalay, Hedelfingen and Vista cherries on Mazzard. I also have PF24C, Harovin Rouge, Vivid, Early Redhaven and Harrow Diamond peaches planted on Bailey. The trees haven’t come out of dormancy yet so its too early to tell how this did this winter but to be honest since they are 2 years old I covered them with snow before it got that cold because I was afraid.

I’m in 5a and we had an exceptionally cold winter here last year with longer cold spells without snow cover. My 24c, redhaven, elberta, jh hale, contender, and other peaches and stone fruits (including lapins on Maynard) were all fine, roses not so much. You do have some other cultivars I don’t though

Im adding a PF-5B, and TangOS and another PF-24C peach as well as a SilverGem nectarine this spring. I also ordered a Lapins Cherry in Gi6.