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Monday, February 29, 2016

Growing Cherries Can Be a Problem in the Hot Desert

Q. From my Googling, it sounds like if I want cherries in this climate a good strain is royal Lee with Minnie Royal as a pollinator tree.  Do you know if they will grow and fruit well here?

A. Cherries produce erratically in the Las Vegas Valley. In some locations cherries produce abundantly and in other locations they produce almost nothing.
For instance, at the University Orchard in North Las Vegas we produced about 15 cherries in 15 years from 17 different varieties of trees. Virtually nothing. They flowered every year abundantly, there were no freezing temperatures after flowering that would eliminate fruit but the fruit failed to mature. In other words, the fruit failed to set.
However, some people in backyard locations here have produced cherries abundantly every year. Reports to me by homeowners are anecdotal but varieties that produced here include Bing, Lambert and a few others known to have a high chilling requirement.
In the Las Vegas Valley we don’t have enough cold winter weather to satisfy fruit trees with a high chilling requirement. Picking fruit trees with the proper chilling requirement for a certain climate is thought to be a cornerstone of good fruit production.
A chilling requirement is the amount of cold temperatures fruit trees should sustain during the winter in order to flower and produce a normal crop of fruit. Most research supports the concept that all fruit trees must satisfy their chilling requirement in order to produce fruit abundantly.
My observations at the University Orchard in North Las Vegas don’t agree with this universal concept 100%. When I interview homeowners about their abundant cherry crop and the location of their trees, one common theme seems to appear; cherry trees that produce fruit abundantly are located in areas where there is higher humidity such as near a lawn area or a swimming pool. Higher humidity may also play an important role for a good crop of Hachiya persimmons.

In my opinion the location of the cherry tree is more important than selecting a variety. My recommendation would be to locate cherry trees near a lawn area or swimming pool to improve your chances of having a good crop. Otherwise it’s a crap shoot regarding cherries regardless of the variety.


  1. I have a Lapin's cherry in its first year here in SW Vegas. We shall see how that goes. Ive heard of many in Phoenix having good success with a Barbados Cherry(Acerola). I'm thinking about giving these a try here in Vegas. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malpighia_emarginata

    1. We had Lapins at the University orchard in North Las Vegas and had no luck with it in ten years of testing.

  2. Hi Bob. We are successfully growing both the Minnie Royal and Royal Lee cherry trees in our backyard orchard.

    Our trees are now four years old and are planted along the west side of our property about 8-10' away from a block wall that helps to provide shade for the trees in the afternoon. They are not planted anywhere near a pool, pond or anywhere they would receive humidity. They also receive no extra water or special care than the rest of our orchard.

    As an experiment, we planted a dwarf Royal Lee and a dwarf Minnie Royal on root stock 3CR178 (now called New Root 1 or Z-dwarf). These two trees were planted in the same hole. In a separate hole, we also planted together a semi-dwarf Royal Lee and a semi-dwarf Minnie Royal on Colt root stock. The 3CR178 performed exceptionally well and last year produced several pounds of the sweetest most delicious cherries I've ever tasted. The tree is currently loaded with flowers so we can't wait until this year's harvest in May. One note, the trees did take a couple of years to flower at the same time.

    The trees on Colt struggled and performed extremely poorly with very little growth, very little flowering, couple of cherries ~ nothing to write home about. We're definintely going to replace these two trees on Colt with the 3CR178 root stock cuz you can never have enough cherries.

    Ted and April Asher :)

  3. Great information! Thank you for sharing. It will help others who are making these kinds of decisions. I would encourage people to follow April and Ted Asher on their Las Vegas gardening blog The Artistic Gardener https://artisticgardener.wordpress.com/for some great information on nutrient dense gardening. Always impressive!!!!

  4. Just a quick note...sour cherries seem to produce better than sweet cherries here. And I think they are much more versatile as a food crop. You can do more things with them. Also they are much more appreciated as a crop internationally.

  5. Just a quick note...sour cherries seem to produce better than sweet cherries here. And I think they are much more versatile as a food crop. You can do more things with them. Also they are much more appreciated as a crop internationally.

  6. which cultivars have you tried there Bob? I always thought Montmorency and English Morello might do well in Phoenix.

  7. The only sour cherry we tried before I left was English Morello. It did set fruit.