8 Cherry Trees to Grow in Maine (Edible & Ornamental)

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For Maine gardeners who want the benefits of both delicious fruits, and the spring visuals of a blossoming ornamental tree, a cherry tree might just be the perfect choice for your property.

Cherries come in three types: sweet, sour, and duke cherry (a cultivar hybrid between sour and sweet). As with any fruit tree, your success growing these cherry trees in Maine will depend on their growing zone.

Maines growing zones run from 3b to 6a.

Fortunately, most cherry tree varieties are hardy to zone 5, which means you’ll find plenty of options to grow in Maine if you live in the southern half of the state.

For those in the north, you will need to find more cold-hardy varieties such as the Mesabi, North Star, and more.

While there are plenty of cherry tree varieties you can grow in MA, here are some of the best options based on the ME climate, as well as taste and appearance.

8 Beautiful Cherry Trees That Grow Well In Maine

1. Bali Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

The Bali sour cherry is a highly desirable variety in colder climates, as it is cold-hardy but considerably sweeter than most of its sour counterparts. It gained attention in the early 20th century due to being found in Edmonton, Alberta, a climate originally considered to be too cold for any cherry variety.

The Bali is a sour variety, but it is surprisingly sweet compared to most sour counterparts. It is an ideal option for ME growers as its bright fruit is excellent eaten fresh or cooked into desserts. It also bursts into abundant white blossoms in spring, making it a lovely ornamental option too.

The Bali sour cherry is an extremely hardy self-pollinating variety that can thrive in zone 3a and needs full sun and well-drained soil.

Other Common Names: Evans Sour Cherry

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 feet tall with a width of 10-15 feet

Fruiting Season: Mid-summer

Flowering Season: Mid-spring

2. Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)

Nanking cherry
Image by Cataloging Nature via Flickr

If you are looking for a large ornamental cherry for your landscape, the Nanking cherry is probably not the option for you. This variety typically grows as a shrub, reaching average heights of between 6 to 10 feet. However, it yields prolific tart fruit through July and August and displays gorgeous pink blossoms in spring.

The fruits of the Nanking are unusually small and tart but flavorful. Another great benefit to the Nanking cherry is that its height allows it to be easily picked using little more than a step ladder. These ornamental shrubs can even be used as wind guards and hedge trees.

The Nanking is a very reliable cherry variety for gardeners in cold climates, able to grow in zone 3 and upward to zone 9. They require pollination, so be sure to plant multiple shrubs at least 5 feet apart. These shrubs are not fussy and will do well in a variety of well-draining soil types.

Other Common Names: Manchu cherry, Ando cherry, Dwarf cherry, Bush cherry, Mountain cherry

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 6-10 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Summer

Flowering Season: Early spring

Available at: Nature Hills

3. Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

black cherry
Image by Amy via Flickr

The first thing you’ll notice about the majestic black cherry is its size, being one of the largest cherry varieties indigenous to North America! If you plan to grow in a more restricted space, this may not be the best option for you.

These trees bear white flowers which grow in clusters on short stalks known as racemes, which make a stunning display through spring. Their ripe purple-black fruits are sweet and tart, delicious both eaten fresh or cooked into desserts, jams, and wines.

This hardwood tree is also highly desirable for its timber, known as cherry wood, due to its strength and attractive coloring, and according to the University of Kentucky its bark can even be used in “cough medicine and sedatives.”

Black cherry trees are self-pollinating but have higher chances of success with a pollinator nearby. Grow these trees in moist, well-drained, acidic soil in full sunlight for best results. If you are living near a coastline avoid growing black cherries – they are highly intolerant of salt spray.

Other Common Names: Wild Black Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry, Rum Cherry

Growing Zones: 3 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 60-90 feet tall

Fruiting Season: Late summer to early fall

Flowering Season: Mid-to-late spring

Available at: Nature Hills

4. Early Richmond Cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘Early Richmond’)

The Early Richmond cherry tree was introduced to Americans via English settlers, brought over for a number of reasons, chief among them being the plant’s ability to adapt to different growing conditions. When it comes to growing cherry trees in Maine, adaptability is a key feature for any fruit tree.

This cherry tree is blessed with bountiful white blossoms in late spring, followed by bright cherries. These juicy cherries have a piquant flavor that certainly packs a punch, making them a worthwhile addition to desserts, preserves, and the classic cherry pie! Just be warned – for some these cherries can be unpleasantly tart when eaten fresh.

If you want a purely ornamental tree to grow in MA, the self-pollinating Early Richmond makes a good choice. They require full sun but can grow in varying soil conditions, and fare well in areas with high precipitation.

Other Common Names: Old Kentish Cherry, Early Richmond Pie Cherry

Growing Zones: 4 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 25 feet, with a spread of 18 – 30 feet

Fruiting Season: Early summer

Flowering Season: Late spring

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Western Sandcherry (Prunus besseyi)

western sandcherry
Image of Western Sandcherry Tree via Nature Hills

Throughout most of the year, the petite Western Sandcherry has a unique visual appeal, from its fragrant white flowers in spring to its dark purple fruits in summer, and its varying shades of red, purple, and orange leaves in fall. Its small size also makes it ideal for use in windbreaks and shelterbelts.

One important note to make of the Western Sandcherry is its comparatively short life. According to the North Dakota State University handbook, the average sand cherry lives for less than 20 years, so if you are trying to build a landscape or home garden that lasts for generations, this is not the tree for you.

For best results, plant this tree in loamy, neutral soil with full sun exposure.

Other Common Names: Pawnee Buttes

Growing Zones: 3 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 3 – 6 feet tall, with 5 -6 feet spread

Fruiting Season: Early summer

Flowering Season: Early-mid spring

Available at: Nature Hills

6. Rainier Cherry (Prunus avium ‘Rainier’)

Rainier cherry
Image of Rainier Cherry Tree via Nature Hills

Named after Mt Rainier, the Rainier cherry is a cherry cultivar developed in 1952 at Washington State University and is one of the sweetest varieties that can be grown in MA, and one of the sweetest varieties of cherry overall.

The yellow-red Rainier cherries are particularly delicious and relatively easy to grow, though they do need extra protection from cold winter weather.

Rainer cherry trees should be grown in full sun and loamy, well-drained soil. It is not self-pollinating, so be sure to plant it with other cherry tree varieties such as the Van, Bing, Lapins, Lambert, and Black Tartarian.

It’s important to remember that the Rainier cherry is hardy to zone 5 at the lowest, meaning that gardeners can grow it successfully in the southern third of ME and along the coast, but this tree will not fair well in the upper majority of the state.

Growing Zones: 5-8

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall with a roughly equal spread

Fruiting Season: Late spring to early summer

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. North Star Cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘north star’)

North star cherry
Image of North Star Cherry Tree via Nature Hills

Over 50 years ago the North Star cherry cultivar was engineered into existence, a cross between the English Morello and the Serbian Pie no. 1.

The North Star is a cherry variety that was practically made to be grown in Maine, as it was created to be cold hardy while still retaining a delicious flavor (though growers in northern Maine who fall into zone 3 will be out of luck!).

This compact cherry tree is also a dwarf variety, making it a compact and attractive addition to even the smallest gardens. There are the traditional delicate white spring blossoms, its cherries are a rich, vibrant red, and its leaves flush purple in fall.

The North Star is self-pollinating, making it an excellent choice as an individual ornamental tree, though several trees will improve your fruit yield. Trees will thrive with 6-8 hours of full sun and in loamy, well-draining soil.

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 8-12 feet tall with 6-10 feet spread

Fruiting Season: Late spring to early summer

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

8. Mesabi Cherry (Prunus ‘mesabi’)

Mesabi cherry
Image by Marcu loachim via Flicker (not exact cultivar discussed)

The cold-hardy Mesabi cherry is a sweet and sour hybrid introduced in North America in the early 1960s, quickly becoming a popular variety in colder Northern states. This dwarf variety is slightly larger than its peers but still fits perfectly in a compact landscape.

Its cherries are a bright, light red with red-yellow flesh that is excellent for use in desserts, preserves, and wine-making. The fruits are tart but juicy and may attract wildlife such as birds and raccoons. Though the tree doesn’t have the heaviest yield, its fruits are large compared to other cherry varieties.

The Mesabi is a self-pollinating variety that requires full sunlight and evenly moist, well-drained soil. It is surprisingly tolerant of air pollution, so may make an ideal choice for Maine growers who want to grow in urban environments.

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall with a 10-foot spread

Fruiting Season: Mid-summer

Flowering Season: Mid-spring

Delicious Cherry Varieties For Your Maine Garden

While the unpredictable ME climate can make it difficult to grow certain types of popular fruit, fortunately for you cherries are not one of them. There are plenty of cold hardy varieties to go around, even beyond those mentioned on this list.

And what’s more, if you live in the chillier northern half of Maine you are not limited to the tart sour cherry trees of the past – you can also grow sweet cold-hardy varieties like the Bali Sour, Rainier, and North Star.

No matter which variety or cultivar you choose to plant, cherries are truly an excellent choice if you are looking for the perfect fruit tree to grow in Maine.

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Fern Berg - Founder

Expert Gardener & Horticulturist in Training

Fern has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees. She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants. Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture. Fern founded Tree Vitalize to help guide others with an interest in tree planting, identification and care.

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