A picture of cherry shrub branches. There are green leaves and a great number of red cherries hanging from it.
Photo Credit:
Kathy Wiederholt

Cherries in North Dakota

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Only sour (tart) cherries are hardy in North Dakota. Some of the best were developed at University of Saskatchewan-Saskatoon over the course of 50 years. These are Dwarf Hardy Shrub Cherries, aka the Romance Series, with the names: Carmine Jewel, Crimson Passion, Romeo, Juliet, Valentine and Cupid. There is also one extra variety in the US: Wowza!.

These cherries are hardy to USDA growing zone 2 – colder than North Dakota. The plants only grow to approximately 7 feet tall by 7 feet wide. They are each self-fruitful, meaning that just one plant will produce fruit. Some of the varieties sucker profusely, some not very much.

In the past, CREC has grown Carmine Jewel (productive, suckering, mid-season), Crimson Passion (shy bearing, few suckers, mid-season) and an unrelated tree: Evans/Bali (productive+, some suckers, late season). Due to SWD challenges, these were all removed. After a few years, Romeo and Juliet began to bear fruit. Romeo has been a disappointment here: very few fruits, late season, but few suckers. Juliet has been a star. It fruits early, so you have a chance to outwit the SWD, it’s quite productive, but it suckers a lot. The fruit is more tender than the other Romance Series cherries, but it is very nice. I’ve enjoyed several pies from Juliet fruit! 

USask 'Juliet' Yield (5 plants)

USask 'Juliet'
5 plants
Harvest DateYield
2020 (July 13)41 pounds
2021 (July 16)73.8 pounds
2022 (July 19)19.2 pounds
2023 (July 11)98.9 pounds

There are University of Saskatchewan cherries available in the US now that we have not grown: Valentine, Cupid and Wowza! are from the original release of this group. There are more recent releases, too: D’Artagnan, Sweet Thing and Cutie Pie.  All would be worth a try!

I hope you find all you are looking for in the seed and plant catalogs this winter.

Kathy Wiederholt
Fruit Project Manager