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All About Nanking Cherries

Fruit trees in your backyard are like having a grocery store of readily-available fresh fruits right out your backdoor. One type of fruit that requires very little maintenance and, once it is established, will produce heaps of fruit every year is the cherry tree.

Cherry trees are typically cold-hardy and produce an abundance of fruit every single year without much upkeep on your end. A special type of cherry is the Nanking Cherry, which typically grows as a bush, and although it may be smaller in stature, it will continue to provide plenty of fresh cherry fruit.

Nanking cherries are an excellent option for anyone wanting to start an orchard in their backyard while also needing a plant to act as a hedge of privacy or against the wind. This article will guide you through how to grow a Nanking Cherry and use all the fruit it provides you each summer.

Looking to buy a Nanking Cherry Tree? Check availability.

Nanking Cherries
Growing Nanking cherries

What are Nanking Cherries?

As with most cherry trees, Nanking Cherries (Prunus Tomentosa) is another great option to offer you year-round visual appeal. Nanking Cherries display soft pink flowers in the Spring, followed by tart fruit in July thru August and red bark in the fall months. There are many common names for this cherry tree, including Ando, Dwarf, Bush, Manchu, Mountain cherry, and more.

One significant difference between Nanking Cherries and other cherry tree types is that these cherries typically grow as shrubs. When you plant a Nanking Bush Cherry, you can expect to harvest cherries after two years of maturity. These fruits are smaller than most cherries, as they typically reach a little bit bigger than a blueberry. With their small size, it would not be surprising if they were all snacked on rather than them making their way into the kitchen every day.

With a Nanking Cherry tree, you can also have everyone in your family able to reach and pick cherries when they need to be harvested versus climbing a ladder to pick the ones at the tippy top. The Manchu Cherry provides you with convenience, functionality, and delicious fruit.

Once the fruit begins to ripen on a Mountain Cherry tree, it will stay ripe on your tree for at least two to three weeks. Bush Cherry varieties provide easy access to picking fruit, which is perfect, so you have time to use it a little bit at a time.

Between the spring flowers and fall foliage, this shrub is a great option to add a show stopper to your home garden. Many people in the more northern areas of the United States decide on a Nanking Cherry because of its cold hardiness and reliability.

What does a Nanking Cherry Taste Like?

A Nanking Bush Cherry will provide branches coated with cherries in the summer months that you can simply eat right off the plant. These cherries have a tart flavor, making them the perfect snack on a summer day.

Many people love to turn the Nanking Cherries into jams and even can use them throughout the year or to give away to friends. Nanking Cherry shrubs give you heaps of fruit every year that you can use in many different ways.

A bite into a Nanking Cherry not only gives you a punch of flavor but also fuels you with antioxidants and vitamin C. These cherries are chocked with nutritional value that only adds to their allure.

Nanking Cherry Branch

How to Use a Nanking Cherry?

Nanking Cherries are a tart cherry that many love to use in their kitchen in multiple ways. It is important to note that these cherries do not last as long as some of their counterparts, so using them quickly or canning them is important.

Many people love to use Nanking Cherries to create juices and syrups that savor the tart fruit flavor without worrying about how long the cherry skin will last before it starts to shrivel. These cherries are smaller than many cherries you see in the grocery store today, so it can often be more work to pit them before they are used.

The Ando Cherry/Nanking Cherry tree is also a very common fruit to be used in meads or wines and allows you to experiment with a variety of recipes every summer.

Birds also love to snack on these tart fruits, so if you have extra fruit, you can leave them to the birds to devour with ease. Various animals love Dwarf Cherry trees as a steady habitat, so you must thin out dead branches if you don’t want wildlife in your tree.

What is the History of Nanking Cherries?

Nanking Cherry trees are originally from Asia, and they go by a ton of different names. Nanking Cherry trees are also called bush cherries, Manchu cherry, mountain cherry, and even dwarf cherries.

Nanking Cherry Blossoms

The Nanking Cherry shrub was first introduced into the country in the late 1800s which came from China and had been growing strong ever since.

How to Grow Nanking Cherries?

Unlike many cherries trees, Nanking Cherries are ornamental shrubs that can be used in various ways in your landscape. Many people love using Nanking Cherrys in their landscape as a natural barrier or wind guard.

Nanking Cherries are lovely to plant multiple together to create a solid hedge that will act as privacy while also providing you stunning colors in the spring and fruit in the summer. When deciding on site selection for your bush cherries, place them at least 5 feet apart to ensure they grow together well.

Another reason that you will need multiple bush cherry shrubs is for pollination. Nanking Cherry trees are not self-fertile and, therefore, will need a pollinator to produce fruit for you and your family to harvest by cross-pollination. This chart shows some cross-pollination options for the Nanking Cherry. Make sure you know how to attract bees to get the best pollination results.

Nanking Cherry (Prunus Tomentosa) is considered a bush cherry because of how they grow and thrive in hardy zones throughout the country that falls in a hardiness zone of 3-7. A Nanking Bush Cherry will do best in full sun and can grow a foot or two years. These cherry bushes will grow six to ten feet tall without being trimmed and expand around fifteen feet wide once fully mature.

If you are wanting the Nanking Cherry to act as a hedge, it is important to keep it trim-backed and shaped, or else it will continue to grow taller and taller. The Downy Cherry has a steady growth rate and typically grows in height by a foot or two every year.

Regarding soil conditions, Nanking Cherries are not very particular and can grow in a variety of soil types. Like most plants and trees, Nanking Cherries do best when they are in well-draining soil, but they are also tolerant of drought conditions.

If you plant your Nanking cherry trees early enough in the season and allow them some time to get stronger, you may get fruit within the first year. Most of the time, these shrubs will produce up to eight quarts of fruit in their second year and continue on without much-added maintenance.


Where to buy Nanking Cherries?

Nanking Cherries are a unique and purposeful addition to any yard or home garden. If you are wanting to create a hedge out of Nanking Cherries, you will need to find multiple plants to place together. While many local nurseries will likely carry these shrubs, it may be easiest to buy online from Nature Hills Nursery to have all of your cherry bushes sent straight to your home. Add a few to your cart, and you will be on your way to crafting the perfect backyard orchard.

Does Nanking cherry need a pollinator?

Yes, unlike the Montmorency cherry, Nanking Dwarf Cherry trees must have a pollinator to be successful.


Nanking Cherries may go by many names, including Bush Cherry, Dwarf Cherry, Mancuh Cherry, Mountain Cherry, and more, but no matter what they are called, they pack a lot of flavor inside a small fruit.

These shrubs thrive in hardiness zones 3-7, which cover most of the country and are highly adaptable to different soils. Nanking cherry trees have been known to survive drought-like conditions and be immensely cold-hardy.

For home gardeners and experts alike, a Nanking cherry provides a significant harvest from a smaller-sized shrub. The Nanking cherry is also practically disease resistant too, making this shrub almost too good to be true.

Fruit trees are an amazing choice for your home and a low maintenance one that gives you fresh fruit every year without much work on our end is an absolute win-win. A Downy Cherry may be the answer to what fruit tree you need to buy next.

Excited for more cherry content? Then visit our cherry page for more planting tips, growing guides, recipe ideas, and more!


Sunday 14th of May 2023

How many chill hours does the bush cherry need? And is it going to die in the heat of a Texas summer? (Zone 7b but we spend months over 100F)

Delores Martens

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

Why is there red and white berries on my nanking cherry tree


Saturday 20th of August 2022

Sorry Delores, hard to know. Can you describe further?


Friday 22nd of July 2022

This article stated if they were planted early enough in the spring you might get fruit in the first season. But what about if you plant them in the fall? Will they do ok then, and be ready to go by spring?


Monday 25th of July 2022

Exactly. When planted in the fall you are really just getting them ready to wake up and start growing the next season.


Thursday 27th of January 2022

When you say that they need a pollinator, does it need to be a different variety? For example, if I get ten "Jan" bush cherries, would they pollinate each other, or do I also need another variety such as "Joy" to do the job. If I do need another variety, what ratio would suffice? How many bushes would the alternate take care to pollinate? Would one Joy take care of ten Jans? Thanks.


Thursday 9th of June 2022

@Barb, I purchased Nanking cherries, all of the same variety. They have had no problem producing tons of cherries without the use of another cultivar. I had lots of bees in the spring, they helped!


Saturday 29th of January 2022

Hi Barb - Yes, you'll need another cherry variety nearby. I updated the post with a link to a pollination chart from Bron & Sons Nursery that shows some options. Generally, you can have a pretty high ratio of one variety to another and get good pollination results. The key we take for granted here is the bees! Make sure you're attracting them!