Nanking Cherry: Prunus tomentosa
The Nanking Cherry showed up
on a list of edible hedge species, but I didn't know if the
plant was actually a cherry botanically and (more importantly) what it
tasted like. Uncommon
Fruits Worthy of Attention, as usual, cut right to the
Is the Nanking Cherry a cherry?
Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
is in the same genus as cherries, plums, and peaches, but is a
different species than either sweet cherries (P. avium) or sour cherries (P. cerasus).
This means that your Nanking Cherries can't be pollinated by either of
these species, just as sweet cherries won't pollinate sour cherries and
Does the Nanking Cherry taste like a
Flavor of the Nanking Cherry seems to be extremely variable, probably
due to the fact that American nurseries grow the plants from
seed. In stark contrast, the Nanking Cherry is the most common
garden fruit in the Russian Far East, where many named varieties
exist. Some varieties taste like tart cherries and others like
sweet cherries (though a quick search of the internet suggests that the
former flavor predominates among unnamed varieties in the U.S.)
How do I plant my Nanking Cherry?
Since Nanking Cherries are shrubs or small trees reaching between nine
and fifteen feet tall and wide, they should be planted about fifteen
feet apart. Alternatively, they can be planted four feet apart
and trimmed into a hedge. Be sure to plant more than one Nanking
Cherry for cross-pollination. Place them in an area with full sun
and well-drained soil.
Where can I grow the Nanking Cherry?
They can be planted in zones 3 to 6, which makes them a good choice in
more northern areas where traditional cherries can't be grown.
How do I propagate the Nanking Cherry?
If you don't mind the plants not breeding true, seeds are easiest (and
will grow a long, drought-resistant taproot, absent in plants grown
from cuttings.) Remove the seeds from the pulp, air dry slightly,
then stratify for three months. Seedlings bear by the third
year. Alternatively, take softwood cuttings when the fruit is
ripening, treat the base with rooting hormone, then keep the cuttings
under a mist. Or take 8 to 12 inch hardwood cuttings of one year
old wood, planting in well-drained soil in the fall or spring.
Why is the Nanking Cherry a
Permaculture emphasizes making maximum use of your gardening
space. Since the Nanking Cherry is a shrub, it can fit into parts
of the garden where a standard cherry couldn't grow. Using the
Nanking Cherry as an edible hedge plant has forest
pasture implications as well.
Are you growing them? I'd like to find a named variety (or someone's backyard
shrub) that tastes like a sweet cherry, but in the meantime I bought a couple of seedlings to get us started. If you've tried them and have tasty plants, I'd love to
trade for some seeds or cuttings!
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