Dwarf Cherry Tree Or Cherry Shrub. Which is Better For Your Garden?

Which Is Best For Your Garden? A Dwarf Cherry Tree Or A Cherry Shrub?

For generations, there was no such thing as a dwarf cherry tree. Instead, cherry trees came in one size only and that size was “large”. Cherry trees can be huge, up to three stories high. But if you have a small garden and no space for a full sized tree, what can you do? Today, you’re spoiled for choice. You can invest in a dwarf cherry tree that’s been grafted onto dwarfing rootstock. Or you can opt for an easy-care cherry shrub. I’ll talk about both of those options in this blog.

Full size cherry trees can be over two stories tall. This garden might have benefited from a dwarf cherry tree instead.

Full size cherry trees can be over two stories tall. This garden might have benefited from a dwarf cherry tree instead.

Dwarf Cherry Shrubs Developed in Saskatchewan for Cold Climates

If you live in a cold climate, a dwarf cherry shrub may be the best option. Back in the 1940s, a breeder in Saskatchewan started to develop hybrid cherry plants that would grow in a shrub-like form. When he died, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan took over and continued to work on these plants until they were really happy with the taste of the fruit.

The team introduced their first dwarf cherry shrub, Carmine Jewel, in 1999. They followed up in 2004 with the introduction of “The Romance Series of Cherries” including cultivars named Romeo, Juliet, Crimson Passion, Valentine and Cupid. These shrubs produce sour cherries that are perfect for cooking and processing. And they are easier to prune than a dwarf sweet cherry would be.

Using grafting techniques, breeders have developed many types of dwarfing apple trees that grow just 6 or 8 feet tall.

Using grafting techniques, breeders have developed many types of dwarfing fruit trees that grow just 6 or 8 feet tall at maturity

Rootstock Choices for your Dwarf Cherry Tree

Cherry shrubs are terrific if you’re interested in growing cherries for cooking and processing. But if you want sweet cherries for fresh eating, you may opt instead for a dwarf cherry tree in which a branch from one of your favourite types of cherries (Like Bing, Lapins, Ranier and other popular cultivars) is grafted onto a rootstock from another compatible tree. The rootstock contributes many qualities to the new plant – one of the important ones is that the rootstock can help limit the size of the fruit tree when mature.

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Dwarf rootstock has been available for apple growers for a long time. But that was not the case with cherry trees until the 1970s. At that time breeders in Germany starting working to create a root stock that could be used to create a dwarf cherry tree that can be half the size of a full size tree . Over the years a few options have been created including Gisela and Krymsk that offer lots of benefits, including dwarfing qualities. Using those root stock options, your dwarf cherry tree can produce almost any types of cherries including sweet cherries like Bing, Lapins, Ranier and other popular cultivars.

Further Dwarf Cherry Tree Resources

Before you make your choice about whether to plant a dwarf cherry tree or a cherry shrub in your garden consider learning more about the different options. I cover both topics in more depth in recent episodes of The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast, which you can listen to below.

You can learn more about how to select a dwarf cherry tree that will thrive in your unique conditions in my online workshop in Beginner Fruit Tree Care. And then, when you’re ready to shop around and buy a dwarf cherry tree, download my fruit tree nursery resource list so that you can find a nursery that will provide you with exactly that type of cherry you would like to grow in your small garden.

So dwarf cherry tree or cherry shrub? It’s up to you. What will you choose?

Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner

Director, OrchardPeople.com Fruit Tree Care Education Online

Susan Poizner is the author of the award-winning fruit tree care book Growing Urban Orchards,  creator of the award-winning online fruit tree care training at www.orchardpeople.com, and host of RealityRadio101.com’s  Urban Forestry Radio Show. Susan grows fruit trees in Toronto, Canada.