The Black Cherry Tree, (Prunus Serotina), also commonly known as the wild, rum cherry or mountain black cherry, is easily recognized by its pretty, white flowers and tasty, dark plum-colored fruit.
Its fruits are not only mouth-wateringly delicious, but they’re an indulgence you can actually grow in your own back yard.
Throughout this guide, we will look at what you need to know to start your own (small or not-so-small) Black Cherry Orchard, how to take the best care of your plants and what to do should your plants fall victim to pests or diseases.
For yourself, or for the masses, Sumo Gardener has listed everything you need to know to have beautiful, fruit-bearing Black Cherry Trees.
Where Does the Black Cherry Tree Come from?
Deriving from the rose (Rosaceae) family, the Black Cherry is a medium sized tree, covered in deciduous (seasonal), ovate- lanceolate leaves that are about 2 to 5 inches long.
While varieties of the Prunus Serotina can now be found world-wide, the Black Cherry Tree is actually native to Northern America.
Having a general climate resilience, as well as high germination rates, the Black Cherry Tree has been able to be naturalized and grown across the globe.
Due to its native rooting, the Black Cherry Tree is incredibly cold tolerant and is ideally grown in cooler, less humid environments where the winters fall below 50°F. Still, it’s quite the tolerant tree.
What can I use the Black Cherry Tree for?
The Black Cherry Tree, and its fruit can be used in a variety of ways.
As the cherry tree bears fruit in the summer, you are most certainly able to indulge yourself on some fresh fruit. That means, you can easily pick and consume fresh from the tree.
Just make sure you remove the pit, as the pits (like many fruit pits and seeds) include a tiny amount of cyanide. To be safe, just spit them out.
The actual tree itself is comprised of a valuable reddish-brown wood which is ideal for a variety of wood-working, wood flooring, paneling etc.
The wood of the tree is close-grained making it quite strong and durable, with the rich red heartwood significantly sought-after by woodworkers.
How to Grow Black Cherry Trees
The Black Cherry though considered a medium sized tree, grows approximately 24 to 48 inches per year, reaching between 50 to 60 feet if given the right conditions over its life span.
So, when planning the perfect spot, make sure you’ve got some space. It is also important to choose a spot that gets sun or partial shade, Black Cherry trees don’t do well in full-shade.
Moreover, the Black Cherry Tree grows best in moist, deep, well-draining soil. They are not particularly alkaline or acidic sensitive, but definitely need nutrient rich soil.
That’s why it’s always important to prepare your soil before planting.
Should you choose a dwarf variety of the plant, you can even plant indoors, but for optimal size and harvest, it’s better to consider outdoor varieties.
It is also advised to plant at least two trees alongside one another, ensuring you give both enough room to grow, of course. This can be done to guarantee pollination of your trees.
Getting Ready to Plant a Black Cherry Tree
The optimal time to plant is during the late fall, meaning you will start seeing your sprouts by spring. Once you have prepared the soil and dug a hole, place the rootstock in the center on a small mound of loose soil.
Be sure to spread the roots evenly, without damaging them, then proceed add the remaining soil. A good watering is important - however, be sure not to leave the tree in soggy, soaked soil.
How to Take Care of Your Black Cherry Trees?
There are three key focus points to consider when caring for your tree:
Watering Your Tree The Right Way
A good watering should happen every 7 to 10 days. If you’re wondering whether you can over water your cherry tree, the answer is, yes - less is more, especially in wetter, rain-heavy seasons.
Using 4-4-4 Fertilizers
It is vital to ensure your tree is getting all the nutrients it needs throughout it’s growing cycle.
It is recommended to add your fertilizer during the spring, so all nutrients can be absorbed before the dormant season in winter.
Best Time to Prune
This is important as you want to ensure your trees is getting optimal sunlight to all branches, but it also eases your harvest and allows better detection of pests or problems.
You want to ensure that your canopy does not become too large for the roots. Otherwise, the roots will begin to die off.
Be sure to cut back to just outside of the bud or leaf. This is best done in late winter or very early spring.
Getting Ready to Harvest
It is important to note that Black Cherry Trees only begin to bear fruit from their 4th year, or third growing cycle. So, you’ll have to wait, but really, it will be worth it.
When you can see that your fruit have become plump and are a deep, dark red color they are ready to be harvested.
Make sure you pick the stem with the fruit. This is easily done with a good pair of pruning scissors.
Did you know mature Cherry trees are able to produce between 28 to 47 liters of Cherries a year?
What to do about Wild Black Cherry Diseases?
Yes, even plants can fall victim to disease. So, it’s important to make sure you can pick up the signs and take action to protect your plants.
Rot, spot or knot disease.
The Black Cherry Tree generally suffers from either a rot, spot or knot disease. You can identify these by the following signs:
- discoloration of fruit
- spore masses
- red/purple spots on the underside of the leaf
- abnormal swelling/growths on certain parts of the tree
These, as well as other fungal diseases such as rust or mildew, can easily be treated with a protective fungicide.
Fungal diseases tend to rear their heads when there is a lot of rainfall or overly wet conditions.
Black Cherry Trees can also fall victim to bacterial attacks, which materialize themselves in cankers on the twig bases of the flowers or buds.
Again, often seen in higher moisture environments. This can be treated with a copper spray, applied before flowering. It is also easily avoided with regular pruning.
Black Cherry Tree Pest Problem
As with anything in your garden, pests can become a real problem and cause quite a bit of damage to your plants.
Though most are easily dealt with, it is good to know which pests you may encounter.
The (aptly named) Black Cherry Aphid.
A black, small-bodied insect that secretes a liquid which encourages mold growth.This problem is best treated during the tree’s dormant season.
This can be done by using insecticidal soaps or oils (and for sturdier plants, even a good old strong spray of water can suffice).
Peach Twig Borer
A larva which attacks shoot tips and feeds on the fruit. They are best treated with insecticide during blooming season.
Western Cherry Fruit Fly
Quickly becoming a pain to many farmers across America, the western cherry fruit fly lays its larva inside the fruit, the fruit will become mushy as the maggot begins to grow.
Amongst other things, cherry fruit flies can be curbed through the use of yellow sticky traps.
Be sure that you keep an eye out for birds, rodents, deer and other animals, too. They are quite fond enjoying your hard-earned cherries as a snack.
Another Problem You Mite Have
Spider Mites suck. They have the ability to quite rapidly become an issue for many plant species, and your black cherry tree is not exempt.
Luckily, because they are such a problem for so many people, there’s a lot of options on dealing with them.
Again, just a swift, strong stream of water can help diminish mite numbers. You also don’t have to turn to harsh chemicals or toxic insecticides, because now you can make your own eco-friendly pesticide.
Wrapping Up Prunus Serotina, the Black Cherry Tree Ultimate Guide
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about Prunus Serotina, the Black Cherry Tree. From getting growing, to getting ready to harvest some gorgeous fruits, we’ve got you covered.
Make sure you take the time to plan before you start, you really do want your tree in the ideal, sunny spot. Keep up with pruning and ensure your soil is always well drained and nutrient rich for optimal results.
While it may take some time before you’re able to taste it, the fruits of your labor will definitely be sweet when you grow a Black Cherry Tree.