“This was among the very first self-fertile sweet cherry cultivars developed, meaning it does not need a second tree to set fruit. Naturally, ‘Stella’ quickly became popular in both commercial and home orchards. It is known for abundant yields of delightfully sweet fruit on easy to grow, vigorous, compact trees.
Deep green, shiny, serrated leaves cover the canopy of this tree throughout the growing season. In spring, it bursts into heavy bloom with clusters of sweetly scented white flowers that are five-petaled, cupped and ornamental in their own right. The juicy sweet red cherries are borne in clusters or singly and usually ripen by midsummer. Though self-fertile, the trees still produce a hardier crop if a second sweet cherry tree is nearby for cross-pollination.
Sweet cherries grow best in areas where winters are long and cool and summers are drier. Less summer moisture ensures the fruits will have maximum sweetness and won’t crack during development. All sweet cherries require full sun and well-drained soil that’s moderately fertile. Sandy loam is best. They also fruit better if pruned yearly. Prune while the trees are dormant to shape them or just remove the yearly onslaught of unwanted suckers. Cherries can only survive in regions with cold winters and require 1000 to 1500 annual chilling hours for good flowering and fruit production.
Protect the developing fruits from birds (bird netting is a favored method), and enjoy them eaten fresh, canned or baked.”
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Choose a sunny site with good air circulation and deep, well-drained soil. Avoid low areas or places surrounded by buildings or shade trees, where cold air settles.
Plant cherry trees in early spring. Set bare-root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots. If the tree is grafted, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the afternoon sun.
For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears. Don’t cover the top of the root-ball with backfill because it could prevent water from entering.
Space sweet cherries on standard rootstocks 35 to 40 feet apart; dwarfs, 5 to 10 feet apart. Space tart cherries on standard root stocks 20 to 25 feet apart; dwarfs, 8 to 10 feet apart. Set trees on standard rootstocks with the graft union a few inches below the soil level. Set trees on Colt dwarfing rootstock with the graft union several inches above the soil level.
Train dwarf tart cherry trees to a central leader. Train semi-dwarf or standard-size cherry trees to a modified leader. Prune trees every year in late winter to encourage the growth of new fruiting wood. Don’t prune in the fall. Fertilize each spring until trees start to bear, then fertilize only after harvest each season. Cherries are susceptible to a number of different disease and insect pests, depending on region. Contact your cooperative extension office for information on managing pests in your area.
The sugar content of cherries rises dramatically in the last few days of ripening, so wait until they turn fully red, black, or yellow (depending on the variety) before harvesting. Harvest as the cherries ripen over the course of about a week. Pick the cherries with the stems attached, being careful not to tear off the fruit spur that will produce fruit year after year.