Morello cherries, Prunus cerasus ‘Morello’, also know as sour cherries, are smaller than sweet cherries, with darker skin and a bitter, sour taste. They’re used mainly in cooking, particularly for pies, jams and tarts.
Morello cherries ripen later than sweet cherries, usually in July.
They’re self-fertile and bear large crops. They can be grown in pots, as standard trees or be fan-trained against a wall to save space.
How to grow morello cherries
Grow morello cherries in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full fun to partial shade. Prune after flowering to remove damaged or crossing branches, and to create an open, bowl shape so air and light can reach developing fruits (fan-trained trees need pruning differently). Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost annually, in autumn.
Where to grow morello cherries
Grow morello cherries in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. They are attractive trees and do well in a garden situation, but also work well in vegetable patches and allotments.
How to plant morello cherries
Plant bare-root morello cherry trees in autumn. Pot-growing trees can be planted all year round but remember that you’ll need to water them more often as the soil is drier in spring and summer. Dig a square hole and plant to the same depth as it was previously – look for a soil ‘tide mark’ towards the base of the stem to guide you. Firm soil around the roots and water well. Stake your tree to prevent wind rock, securing it at around a third of the tree’s height, using a tree tie.
Spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree, ensuring you don’t touch the trunk. This will retain soil moisture and help the tree to establish well.
How to care for morello cherry trees
In the first year after planting, water well if conditions are dry. Mulch annually, in spring.
Pruning and training morello cherries
Like sweet cherries, morello cherries are usually grown as open trees or are fan-trained against a wall or fence. Unlike sweet cherries, morello cherries fruit on one-year-old wood.
Prune standard trees after flowering, removing crossing or dead branches and helping to create an open, bowl shape.
Prune fan-trained trees to keep the basic fan shape, cutting older, fruited wood back to a new shoot and then tying the young shoot into the framework in place of the older wood. This new shoot should ripen and bear fruit the following year.
Remove shoots growing in the wrong direction such as into the wall.
Reduce shoots that can’t be tied into the framework to just two leaves.
Never prune morello cherries in winter, as this puts the tree at risk of developing silver leaf disease or canker.
How to harvest morello cherries
Cut bunches of cherries from the tree, with stalks intact, taking care not to bruise the fruits.
Storing morello cherries
Morello cherries freeze well, simply rinse and pat dry, then remove stones and stalks and seal in an airtight container in the freezer. You can then add to the store of them as and when the cherries ripen, and use them in cooking when you need to. Morello cherries are best used in cooking such as pies, jams and tarts.
Growing morello cherries: problem solving
Unlike sweet cherries, morello cherries are largely ignored by birds. However, diseases to look out for include canker, blossom wilt, brown rot and silver leaf disease. None of these threatens the life of the tree, but can reduce harvests. Silver leaf can be managed by pruning in spring and summer.
Advice on buying morello cherries
- Morello cherries are available from garden centres but you’ll find a wider range online or at specialist nurseries
- Check for signs of damage or disease before buying or planting
- Ensure you have the right growing conditions for morello cherries, particularly if growing a fan-trained tree
Where to buy morello cherries