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.