A Butterfly on a Bitter Cherry plant.
image by USFS Region 5/Flickr.com
Bitter Cherry is a deciduous shrub or tree. Shrubs can grow to 12 feet high and trees up to 30 feet or more. The fruit is bitter, hence the name, and is best used for making jams. The flowers bloom in clusters of five to 12 blooms and are very fragrant. The fruit of the Bitter Cherry is edible and was used by several North American Indian tribes for medicinal purposes. Because the fruit is a preferred food of many animals, the shrubs or trees are planted to enhance wildlife in many north western areas.
Prepare a seed bed by filling with 2/3 peat and 1/3 sand. Mix in a couple handfuls of compost to fertilize the soil. A seed bed is a special box for sprouting seeds. You can make it yourself or purchase one at the local nursery.
Plant seeds in the seed bed 1/2 inch deep in the fall and keep the soil moist. Leave the seed bed outside as the seeds need at least three months of cold to germinate. You will need to protect the seed bed from birds, mice and other seed eating animals. The bed can be covered with screening or clear plastic with some ventilation holes cut into it, if necessary. Germination can take anywhere from four to 18 months.
Transplant seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle without damaging them. Use the same soil mixture and keep the soil moist, but not wet. Keep the seedling protected from wind and animals with an open frame. Bitter Cherry will tolerate a little shade but prefers full sun. Take the seedling into a porch or greenhouse for its first winter.
Plant the Bitter Cherry plant into its permanent place in the late spring after it's first winter in soil that is well draining. Add sand and compost to the soil if it does not drain well. Choose a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Water the plant at least once a week or more if it is particularly hot and dry. It is better to water the plant for a long period of time once a week than to water a little more frequently. This will help to establish a deep and healthy root system.