Garden and Orchard

Planting Cherry Trees: North Star and Montmorency Cherry Trees

Planting Cherry Trees - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Cherry Trees

I’ve planted fruit trees at every house we’ve owned (we’re on our third). At the last place I planted a North Star Dwarf Cherry Tree. I was impressed that there were 2 or 3 tart little cherries the same year I planted it from a bare-root twig. So when I started  choosing fruit trees to plant at the new place, I knew I wanted another North Star.

Planting Cherry Trees - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Planting Cherry Trees

Before you purchase and plant cherry trees on your property, do some research to make sure you are planting the best varieties. How much space do you have? The North Star dwarf cherry tree is expected to reach approximately 10 feet tall and wide. That’s large enough to give a nice amount of fruit for our family, but small enough that we should be able to pick it without too many trips up a ladder. I also have a Montmorency Cherry tree that will get much larger, in the 15 – 20′ tall and wide range. I do have a concern about trying to get the fruit from the upper branches when that tree reaches full size. However, I have plenty of space for it to grow without getting scrunched or shaded by other trees.

Planting Cherry Trees - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Sweet and Sour

Do you want pie cherries or sweet cherries? I would love to have both, but our property is in zone 5b and can get below -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Sweet cherries might be ok here, but I decided to play it safe and just plant pie cherries. Sour cherries are more winter hardy than sweet cherries.

Check Your Drainage

Cherry trees don’t like wet feet. Make sure the soil is well drained where you want to plant your cherry trees. Heavy clay soil that holds moisture can cause problems for your little cherry trees, so check into that before you start ordering your fruit trees.

Pollination Primer

Many cherry trees are self fruitful, meaning they don’t need another variety of cherry tree nearby for cross pollination. If you have room for only one tree, do your research to make sure the variety you choose is self fruitful. You will get better production if there are at least 2 varieties that are compatible pollinators close by, but for most families one tree will be enough.

Diseases and Pests

So far I haven’t found too many issues with the North Star cherry tree. There are some suckers that need to be pruned. Those suckers have attracted ants and their aphid flocks. But the tree doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear. Over the next few years I will need to train the branches to increase the crotch angles so the mature branches will be stronger. The Montmorency tree has the same issue. I’ve also noticed that it’s having some issues with powdery mildew on the leaves this year, but there are still some nice cherries coming in.


First Cherries

This is the first year that I have picked more than 2 or 3 cherries from either of our cherry trees. There weren’t enough to make a pie or jam, but we had a few handfuls to eat fresh almost every day for a week from the North Star. Now the Montmorency fruits are ripening up and I’ll be picking them for fresh eating in the next day or two.


Most of our fruit trees are in our chicken pasture, and get small amounts of chicken manure scratched into the soil each year. The Montmorency cherry tree has put on a great deal of green growth this year, at the expense of fruit production. So I think that next year I’ll try to rotate the chicken pen to leave the cherry tree outside the chicken poo range. Hopefully we’ll have a better harvest with that change.

The North Star cherry is planted in an herb and flower bed in a protected spot between the house and barn. It has full sun every day and a nice bed of mulch, but it received no extra fertilizer this year. Next spring I will add some fertilizer with a higher middle number for fruits and flowers. A 5-10-5 fertilizer does nicely. Apply fertilizer in the spring when the leaves begin to unfurl. Never give your fruit trees fertilizer in summer or fall as it will encourage weak growth that is susceptible to winter damage. Your fruit trees may not need fertilizer every year.

Picking Cherries

You may need to cover your cherry trees with netting to prevent birds from eating all the yummy fruit as it begins to color up. I haven’t put netting over my trees yet and so far the birds haven’t been a serious problem. It probably has something to do with our little black bird killer, Kit Kat.

For best keeping qualities, pick your cherries with the stems on in the cool morning. Wash just before you use them. Store any that are unused in the refrigerator. Next year I hope to have enough to make cherry jam, pie, and put some in the freezer. I’m already drooling. ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you have cherry trees on your homestead? What is your favorite variety?

30 Comments on “Planting Cherry Trees: North Star and Montmorency Cherry Trees

  1. Hello: I know sour cherries are self-pollinating, but would putting two sour cherry trees together help you get bumper crops? How about a Montmorency and a North Star? If so, is it better to have two different kinds or would having two North Stars or two Montmorencys be just as effective as a Montmorency and a North Star? Thanks!

    1. Hi! If both varieties of sour cherry bloom at the same time, it will increase the pollination and fruit set. The tricky part would be to find out when each variety blooms because the garden catalogs don’t usually list that information. However, if you plant two trees of the same variety, you’ll know that they bloom at the same time. I have had both North Star and Montmorency and there is a big difference in the size of those varieties…so if you need space-saving trees, go with 2 North Star or another dwarf variety. I hope this helps!

  2. I’ve had my cherry tree (tart) for 8 years and has produced alot iof cherries. My concern is alot of them turn black and do not get to the regular size. Others mature to the full size and turn black,deformed. Sometimes I find white larvae in them. Is there something I can do to prevent what is going on out there?

  3. Hello! I’ve been doing a little research but can’t find the answer to my question. I have a rainier cherry tree and I will soon be purchasing another sweet cherry tree for cross pollination. I would also like to plant a tart cherry tree. I am thinking of a North Star.
    My question is, is it ok to plant sweet and tart cherry trees near each other? My yard is not huge, but room for the 2 sweets in the back yard, and maybe the tart in the front.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Teresa,
      There is no problem with have sour and sweet cherries planted near each other. The only problem I could see is that they are affected by many of the same pest and disease problems and those can spread from one tree to the other. Just keep an eye on them for any problems and treat accordingly. (Pest and disease can still affect just one tree, too.)

      Best wishes with your cherry tree project!

  4. I wouldn’t worry about the top Montmorency cherries. The raccoons can get them just fine ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Hi, my wife loved cherries. She passed away recently and she requested as a memorial, a tree be planted at her childhood parish school which is now a Jesuit middle school academy. They have agreed and we decided on a Montmorency Cherry tree, a self polinating variety, as there is not enough room for two tree’s. I know this species has had success in Illinois for over 100 years and the school is located in zone 5. Also, it would be good for the horticulture club to learn about caring for a fruit-bearing tree. They have mature and healthy landscaping already on the grounds. I am in the process of talking to a landscaping company that has worked with home builders and individual home owners, including my sister, for years. Any advise on where to look for a mature specimen and planting times?

    1. Hi Brent,
      I’m very sorry to hear about your wife. How wonderful to plant a tree in her memory, and share the tree with others.

      Some things to know about cherry trees: They don’t like wet roots, so make sure the soil drains well; The larger the tree you transplant, the more difficult it may be for it to recover; Watch for black knot fungus on any trees you consider purchasing (this looks like a black, sooty material on the branches of the tree); Spring or fall are good times to plant.

      I am not familiar with any plant nurseries in your area, but check your local yellow pages under nurseries and greenhouses. You could also check with the landscaping company to see if they have a suggestion for a good local nursery. I suggest going to several places to look at trees, before you make your decision. Ask about their gaurantee and if they plant trees for a fee. Some nurseries will give a better gaurantee if they plant the tree themselves. Ask the sales people some questions to see if they are knowledgeable about their plants. You might also want to check with your local Extension office for information about pests and diseases that affect cherry trees in your area. You can find Extension information here…

      I hope that this is helpful.

      1. The Morton Arboretum also gave me some handouts and a list of local nuseries, but I’ll start with the landscaping company who has gone out with my sister to pick out the specimens to plant. Thanks for your help! Brent

      2. Happy to help, and I think that is a great idea. I’ve worked in landscaping and nurseries in the past and having someone you can go to look with is great.

  6. I have two Bali cherry trees and this year they had a bumper crop. Last year we had four cherries. Now we have frozen enough for more than ten pies. A paper clip pulls out the pit. Living in northern Minnesota, I was grateful to find a cherry tree for our zone. Nets to keep out the birds help immensely, as the robins love the fruit.

  7. Hi… I live in zone 5b and I grew 2 sweet cherry trees from their pits. I need to know when I can remove the trees from their pots, and plant them in the ground. The trees are about 3 feet high now, so do I wait till next year when the trees are bigger, or can I plant them in the ground now ???

    1. Hi Anita,
      The best time for planting trees is in the spring or autumn when temps are cooler and the trees have more time to recover from having their roots disturbed. I would plant them this autumn in a well drained spot that gets full sun. Don’t give them any fertilizer or compost until next spring. Too much nitrogen in fall encourages growth that is more likely to die over winter. Keep the roots from drying out, but don’t overwater because cherry trees do not like wet roots.

      I hope this helps…Best wishes!

  8. My 10 year old Montmorency is afflicted with brown rot and will have to be removed. I am, to put it mildly, not pleased! I easily became used to having more sour cherries than I needed, so my friends have been relying on my tree, too. So I will plant a North Star… and hope for the best.

    1. Hi Ellen,
      I’m sorry to hear about your cherry tree ๐Ÿ™ You will find that the North Star doesn’t get as big or give as much fruit, so you might want two if you have the room. Best wishes with your new tree!

  9. Planted my dwarf North Star Cherry tree last summer, it promptly lost most of the leaves it came with, now (April) just twigs…so sign of buds. My husband thinks it must be dead. How can we tell if its going to bloom or need to be replaced?

    1. Hi Brenda,
      I’m sorry to hear that…I hope it’s ok. To check to see if your tree is still alive, scratch off just a little bit of the bark with your fingernail. Start with an outer branch and if there is no green under the brown outer bark, work your way down the branch to the trunk, scratching just a little bit of bark off each time. If you get to the trunk and there is no sign of green under the bark, your tree is most likely dead.

      Cherry trees don’t like to have wet roots. So if your soil is heavy clay or doesn’t drain well, you might want to put your new cherry tree is a different spot where the soil drains better. It’s also possible that the graft union where the root stock was grafted to the tree could have been damaged. If green sprouts come up from the base of the tree, those are from the root stock and will not be the dwarf north star that you wanted. I hope this helps.

    2. Brenda if the branches are dried and brittle its dead. if they can be bent a little and come back to shape its probably alive wait and see.

    1. Hi,
      I’m sorry, but I don’t sell fruit trees. You can find a wide selection of fruit trees at the following mail order nurseries:
      Best wishes with your search!

  10. I’m really excited to read this since we will be moving to a place where I will be able to plant trees and did want to add a cherry tree to the mix! Pinning for future reference!

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  11. Well, your pics of your cherries made me drool! ๐Ÿ˜€ I live in zone 5a so I think I will do some research to see if a cherry tree is a possibility. I haven’t added any fruit trees yet but hope to next planting season, wonder if it’s too late to get them in this year?! Hmmm

    Thanks as always for giving me lots if information and plenty of things to drool over ๐Ÿ˜€
    Hugs and enjoy your week,

    1. Hi Beth,
      Don’t ruin your keyboard with that drool ๐Ÿ˜‰ You should be able to grow pie cherries or some of the hardier sweet cherries. Depending on your climate, you could plant some trees this fall. I’d wait for the heat of the summer to pass, then look into planting in Sept or early Oct.

      Best wishes!

      1. Hi Lisa Lynn, thanks for the info! Yes as to my poor keyboard… she is always getting slobbery on my days I go out visiting in blogland! ๐Ÿ˜€
        I’ll keep you posted on the cherry tree progress.

    2. I was raised in west Virginia. it is listed as a zone 5 -20 degree area. growing wild is an awful lot of wild cherries both sweet and sour, also red and black. some 40 to 50 feet tall. it was easy to pick ripe cherries by the tub full. zone 5 a and b should not affect your cherry tree selection. water soil and sun
      should be your concern. hope this helps. also consider paw paws nice fruit and nice tree should not give you any problems in that zone also grew wild all over.

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