Low chill cherries?

In the last few weeks, I have noticed on several checks of my Sitemeter details that quite a few folks have found F&V via a search for “low chill cherry.” This planting is for you.

Yes, there are low-chill cherries! They might not be the heaviest bearing in our climate, but I can attest that you can grow cherries here! ‘Stella’ and ‘Lapins’ are said by some not to require chill at all. This may be true of other self-fruitful cherries as well (i.e. those that do not need to be cross-pollinated). And a new variety, ‘Royal Rainier,’ is listed by Dave Wilson Nursery as needing only 400 hours. The flavor of the ‘Royal Rainier’ is spectacular!

I have had both ‘Stella’ and ‘Royal Rainier’ fruit here, but then the winter after which they fruited probably experienced 550-600 chill hours at the bottom row where I “cheat” on chill. I also had ‘Stella’ fruit one year in the usually lower-chill environment of Carlsbad, but that was an unusually cold winter (maybe 600 hours). In other words, I cannot personally vouch that these will fruit at 400 (or less), but there is growing evidence from experience by various growers that at least these three varieties just might be suitable to mild-winter climates.

I am still evaluating other self-fruitful varieties, including ‘Craig’s Crimson’ (a top taste-test scorer, but no bloom since planting three years ago) and ‘White Gold’ (a Stella cross that I planted a year ago) to see if they might fruit here. I also have a ‘Bing’ (700 hours and not self-fruitful) just for the fun of it. So far, the ‘Bing’ has not bloomed, but it is growing well. Often deciduous trees that do not get their nedded chill will not even have good foliar growth, so I am still hopeful that the lushness and vigor are harbingers of fruit as the tree matures.

10 thoughts on “Low chill cherries?

  1. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

  2. Dave Wilson offers two new “low chill” cherries – Minnie Royal and Royal Lee; est 400-500 hours. You must buy a pair to cross pollinate. I have gotten a set and will plant soon.

  3. I planted those two this past spring. Of course, you need to buy the grafted tree to ensure that what you get is (a) low chill, and (b) good quality.

  4. How do you caculatate and observe the chill hours? If the nights are under 45 degrees F (8 hours/night) and the days are well above that (60 degrees F) for 2 months, can I count that as 400 chill hours?

    • It’s a good question, without a really clear answer (as far as I know). If you really had 8 hours a night, on average, under 45F for two months, you’d have almost 500 hours before taking account of any “negative” hours. And that also assumes no significant hours below about 37 or so (where the effect is again less than a “chill hour” per hour). So the question would be, how much are your daytime temperatures offsetting the nighttime chill? This is really hard to say, but if you did not get much about 60, the negative effect would be minimal.

      So, maybe somewhere between 400 and 450 overall. But it is hard to be more precise than that.

      The initial assumption of 8 hours a night below 45F is a strong one. I mean, not many places achieve that without also having freezing weather, and while getting into the upper 50s or higher in the daytime.

  5. Pingback: Fog and chill | Fruits and Votes

  6. Thanks a lot for your answer. I have just read your new post, so it’s also clearer for me now. FYI, I’m talking about Sapa, a small town in the northern mountainous area in Vietnam. At sea level of 1.500 m, it has sub-tropical highland climate. It does have freezing temperature, sometimes even snow, but only for a few days per year.

    Btw, do you think it would be possible to grow the low chill cherries from their seeds? I understand that by growing cherry tree from seeds, you might end uup with another type of cherry. But transporting the tree from US to Vietnam doesn’t sound like an easy task.

    • That is very interesting! I don’t know much about that climate and whether low-chill deciduous trees would grow there, although I know there are some that do OK in highland areas of Hawaii (which is, of course, tropical). But you are right that seed-grown would not be the same variety, and presumably could not be certain to have the same chilling needs.

      Please do not import seeds or plant material without proper certification. Plant diseases can be spread by unauthorized transfer of plant products.

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