Learn About Cornelian Cherries

How to Sow

Cornelian Cherry: Bare Root Fruit Plant

How to Plant

Planting Bare Root Plants:

  • Choose a site in full sun in an area with well-drained soil. Cornelian cherry tolerates a wide range of soil types, including clay, and a wide range of pHs. Plants can also tolerate some shade. Cornelian cherries need to be cross pollinated with another variety. They may be grown as small trees or shrubs, or as a hedge. Be sure to plant within 50 feet of each other.
  • Space plants 10 feet apart, closer if you are growing them as a hedge.
  • Plant dormant bare root plants in spring as soon as the soil may be worked.
  • Soak the roots in water 1-2 hours before planting.
  • The planting hole should be large enough to hold all the roots without bending or bunching up. Dig holes at least 18 inches deep and wide. Break up hard pan soil layers if present. Do not add raw fertilizers or manure to the soil mixture. Over feeding can kill young plants.
  • Set the plant in the planting hole so that roots lie naturally. Fill in the soil in layers and tamp down around the roots to make sure there is good soil to root contact and to remove air pockets.
  • Water immediately to saturate all soil and roots in the hole. Leaves should emerge 6-8 weeks after planting once the weather has warmed.

How to Grow

  • When rainfall is not adequate, water newly transplanted plants deeply at least once a week during the first growing season. Apply 3-4 gallons of water per plant. Hoe a small ridge of soil around each tree to keep water from running off.
  • A nitrogen fertilizer should be applied to newly transplanted fruit trees 3-4 weeks after planting. Be sure to keep granular fertilizers from direct contact with the tree trunk.
  • Do not cultivate the soil surface within the area of the planting hole.
  • Mulch 2-3 inches deep, extending 3-4 feet around the base of the tree, using shredded leaves or other organic matter. Mulching encourages better root growth and moderate drought tolerance.
  • If growing as a tree, use tree guards, cages, fencing or deer bags to prevent damage from mice, rabbits, deer and other wildlife.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Cornelian cherry may grow as a tree, multi-stemmed shrub or hedge, depending on how it is pruned. Prune when the plant does not have foliage so you can see the structure of the plant.
  • Harvest and Preserving Tips

Growing tips

  • Harvest fruit in late summer. Fruit can be astringent if harvested too early. This can fade when fruit is cooked or dried or allowed to ripen some more.
  • Spread a tarp under plants and shake to harvest.
  • Fruit is rich in vitamin C and great for fresh eating, or in jams, pies and preserves.
  • Plants are prolific and produce 40 lbs of fruit per plant when mature.
  • Plants produce beautiful yellow flowers in early spring that last for many weeks. They also have good fall color.
  • Plants attract birds and other wildlife, who love the fruit.
  • Fruit does not store well fresh but may be dried.

Common Pests and Problems

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Crown Canker: This is associated with poorly drained soils. Burpee Recommends: Make sure you plant in well-drained soil. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Dogwood Canker: Symptoms include small and pale leaves with earlier red fall color than other leaves. This starts in one area and can spread as the canker enlarges. Burpee Recommends: Avoid mechanical injuries when planting and pruning.

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Borer: Several dogwood borers attack cornelian cherry. These bore holes in the trunk which causes weak growth with smaller than normal leaves and crown dieback. Burpee Recommends: Keep trees as healthy as possible with regular fertilization and good garden practices.

Dogwood Club Gall Midge: These small flies cause galls to form at the branch tips. The leaves on the affected branches may be distorted and flower buds may not develop. Burpee Recommends: Prune out galls as soon as you find them.

Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage. Sanitation is important so be sure to remove all debris at the end of the season.

Leaf Scorch: This can come from dry, hot, windy conditions. It may look like a disease but it is environmental in origin. Burpee Recommends: Site your plants so they are not exposed to excessively windy conditions. Provide some afternoon shade in warm locations. Provide extra water in dry conditions.

Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendation for your area.

FAQ

Do I need two different cornelian cherry varieties for cross pollination? Yes, you need two different varieties of cornelian cherry in order to get fruit.

When will my plants bear fruit? Cornelian cherries should bear fruit in 2-5 years, with full fruiting in 5-8 years.

Can I grow cornelian cherries in my zone 9/10 garden? No, unfortunately cornelian cherries require cold winter temperatures and are not recommended in warmer zones than zone 7 or 8, depending on the variety.

Are cornelian cherries real cherries? No, they are dogwoods. They are only called cherries because the fruit is cherry red and bears some resemblance to cherries.  

Back to top