Montmorency cherry trees produce fruits regarded as "sour, tart or pie" cherries since they are considerably more sour-tasting than sweet cherry types. According to the University of Georgia, the variety Montmorency accounts for 99 percent of all sour cherry fruit production in both the United States and Canada. Grow this cherry tree in U.S. Department of Agriculture winter hardiness zones 4 through 8.
Montmorency is a variety of sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) with historic origins in Turkmenistan and northern Iran. Some regard Montmorency a hybrid, resulting from manipulated breeding of the wild sour cherry with other cherries; nonetheless, Prunus cerasus remains a primary component of its lineage.
Montmorency sour cherry trees grow to a maximum mature height of 20 feet with canopy spread of 15 to 20 feet. When compared to sweet cherry trees, Montmorency is small in mature size and more rounded in shape. Blooming in mid-spring, its white flowers are pollinated by bees to yield fruits that are bright red, soft and juicy. They have a sweet but sour taste. The green leaves appear as the flowers wane. In autumn the tree drops its orange foliage.
Sour cherry trees, when compared to sweet cherry trees, are more resilient to cold and bloom later in spring and usually escape late spring frosts that often destroy sweet cherry flowers and diminish crops. Montmorency, like other sour cherries, are also self-fertile, meaning they produce fruits from the insect pollination that occurs within the tree. Sweet cherries need additional cherry trees nearby to ensure a food fruit set. Montmorency is a good choice for a cherry tree in colder winter regions and hot summer regions where sweet cherry trees falter.
Plant Montmorency cherry trees in a fertile, moist but well-draining soil of any pH, whether sand, loam or clay. For good branching and abundant flower and fruit production, it needs to receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Water it during periods of drought to prevent abortion of flowers, developing fruits or premature loss of foliage. An all-purpose granular fertilizer can be applied to the root zone of the tree annually if desired. Use of organic mulch as a top dressing for soils that are fertile typically suffices for good performance of this sour cherry variety. Avoid planting Montmorency cherry in a location where soil floods or remains soggy after a typical rainfall or irrigation application.
Fruit Production Tips
According to the University of Georgia, Montmorency produces two-thirds of its fruits from horizontal twigs. Flowering occurs on twigs that grew the previous summer so if you prune in late winter to shape the tree, focus on removal of more upright twigs and any branches that are damaged, rubbing against each other or diseased. Songbirds will frequent this tree once the fruits approach ripening, which is about two to three months after the spring flowering. Consider using a bird net over the trees to prevent birds from diminishing the harvest.