Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

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Plant Details

Category: Nursery
Light: Full Sun
Bloom Season: Spring
Height: 25-80' / 
7.6-24.4m
Space: 15-25' / 
4.6-7.6m
Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Lowest Temp: -40° to -30°F / 
-40° to -34°C
Colors: White

Basic Care

Prefers climate ranges with cool, moist summers. Plant in a reliably sunny spot. Grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. Water regularly until established. Prefers slightly moist soil and will not tolerate extremes of very dry or very wet soil. Prune or trim after plant has bloomed.

Water

Water regularly until established.

Soil

Fertile, well-drained soil.

Feed

Slow release fertilizer or layer of compost in spring.

attracts pollinators

Attracts Pollinators

attracts birds

Attracts Birds

attracts butterflies

Attracts Butterflies

Native Plant

Sun Loving

Fruit

Good Fall Color

Features

Black cherry is a native North American tree that has also become established in other parts of the world as a result of early visitors to the New World transporting plants to new locations. The trees produce attractive, glossy foliage on arching branches followed by fragrant clusters of fragrant white flowers in spring. Unlike other common cherry species, the flowers appear after the leaves emerge. The fruits start out red and eventually mature to a deep black-red. The foliage turns yellow with a touch of red in the fall.

Black cherry fruits are bitter if eaten fresh from the tree but they are often used for syrups, jams and jellies, and for flavoring liquors such as rum, whiskey, brandy and wines. The hard, red-tinted wood of the black cherry tree is prized for use in making furniture, tool handles, gun stocks, and musical instruments.

The bark, roots, twigs and leaves of the black cherry tree contain cyanogenic compounds that are toxic to humans and plant-eating animals. Do not consume any of these parts of the tree.

Uses

A good specimen plant and a great tree for small spaces. Black cherry is also a good choice for a butterfly garden as it is a host plant for several butterfly species including: Viceroys, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Wild Cherry Sphinx Moth, and Promethea Moth. A host plant is where butterflies lay their eggs and the plant then provides food for the emerging caterpillars.

Birds and other wildlife will feed on the cherries. Recommend planting within viewing distance of a patio or deck, but not right next to them to avoid unnecessary messes from feeding activities and dropping fruit.

Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) Care Guide

Plant in spring or early fall to give plants the best start.

Choose a location that will allow roots to spread and branches to grow freely. Space plants far enough from building foundations, walls, and decks so that the growing foliage won’t crowd the structure. Consider whether tall trees or shrubs will block windows or interfere with the roof or power lines.

To prepare the planting area dig a hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. After removing the soil, mix it with some compost or peat moss. This enriches the soil and loosens the existing dirt so that new roots can spread easily.

To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot. The container can also be removed by carefully cutting it down the side.

Set the plant in the hole. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap fabric this must now be removed along with any string or wire securing the burlap. If roots are tightly packed gently rake them apart with your fingers.

Return the soil to the planting area packing it firmly around the root ball. Fill the hole until the soil line is just at the base of the plant, where the roots begin to flare out from the main stem.

Water the plant well then add a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, around the planting area. Keep the mulch at least 4” (10cm) away from the trunk of the plant as this can keep the bark too moist and cause it to decay.

Depending on rainfall, new plants need to be watered weekly through the first growing season. A slow, one-hour trickle of water should do the job. During hot spells thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.

To check for soil moisture use your finger or a hand trowel to dig a small hole and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Monitor new plants through the first two years to make sure they are getting the moisture they need. After that they should be sturdy enough to survive on their own.

Pruning may be needed to remove dead branches, encourage bushier growth, promote more flowers, or maintain a specific size or shape.

Dead branches should be removed close to the trunk, flush with the bark. When pruning to control a plant’s size or shape, cuts should be made just above a leaf bud and at a slight angle. This bud will be where the new growth sprouts.

Many shrubs can be regularly sheared to keep them shaped as a hedge, edging or formal foundation planting.

Always use sharp, clean tools when pruning. There are many tools available depending on the job. Hand shears, pruners, and loppers are ideal for most shrubs. Pole pruners and tree saws are better for large, mature shrubs or trees. If a tree is so large that it can’t be safely pruned with a pole pruner, it is best to call in a professional tree service.

Established trees should be fertilized every 2-3 years. Feed in early spring when plants start growing.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product designed for trees and shrubs, or go with a nutritionally balanced, general-purpose formula such as 10-10-10.

Always follow the fertilizer package directions for application rates and scheduling. Over-fertilizing plants or applying at the wrong time during the growing season can result in plant injury.

Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry Companion/Combination Plants

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