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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sweet Cherries Are Hit and Miss in the Las Vegas Valley

Q. Cherries are on my mind.  I know you have spoken of them before but I guess I did not have the ears to hear then.  Can you suggest the right kind?  Do I need two different varieties and if so, can I plant right now safely? 
A. Cherries are hit and miss in this desert climate. In some places they produce very well and other places they set nearly no fruit at all. I think this has more to do with the setting than anything else. 
Poor fruit set in Bing cherry growing in the desert. Growing suite cherries can be hit or miss. Good fruit set of cherries happens but usually in backyard locations where lawns or a pool is nearby.
My personal observation is they set better in backyards where they are close to a lawn or a pool. I think this higher humidity may have something to do with it. They don't seem to be particularly sensitive to chilling hours or the number of hours it gets cold during the winter. They flower very nicely every year but the problem is setting fruit from these flowers.

I have not tried them but I am speculating that the so-called low chill varieties of cherries may have the same problems as traditional cherries such as Bing, Lambert and the like. You will get better fruit set with two cherries in your yard that help pollinate each other rather than relying on neighbors.

There are low chill varieties of sweet cherries that have been released and promoted for our climate such as Minnie Royal and Royal Lee which pollinate each other. I have no experience with these low chill varieties so I don't know how they will perform here. I tell people that all sweet cherries are hit and miss as I mentioned above.

You can plant from container now without too many problems. Have the hole pre-dug, the soil amended with compost and plant it from the container into a wet planting hole as quickly as possible and have the water running with a hose at the same time you are putting soil back around the roots. This will help minimize transplant shock and setbacks.


  1. Hi Bob! Just sent you an email update on our 4-year old low chill Cherry Trees. They are doing fantastic! As I mentioned in my email, we're not doing anything different with these trees and there is no pool, grass or pools of water anywhere on our property. So far this year, we've harvested 4 lbs of fruit with tons more on the trees. Same as last year. Sent you photos that you're welcome to share :)

  2. Be very careful when coming to conclusions about fruit trees after only a couple of years of production. I like to give a fruit trees five years before I start to recommend a particular variety. These last two springs have been wet. Cherries have done very well all over the valley during the last two years because of the last two wet springs. One woman reported to me today that her sour cherry did remarkably well this spring. Last year even Hachiya persimmon had an abundance of fruit that stayed on the tree when in previous years it had very poor fruit set. It flowers just fine. But doesnt set fruit.

    Chilling requirements are guidelines and it doesn't always work out. For instance, peaches with a high chilling requirement such as most of the Elbertas and Indian blood set fruit every year and they are around 700 to 900 chilling hours. High chilling hour apricots typically have no problem with our 200 to 300 hours of chilling that we normally get here. I just want to caution people that may be reading this to be patient and not jump to conclusions after one good year or two.