What Is the Lifespan of Stella Cherry Trees?
Sweet cherry cultivars such as the Stella cherry tree (Prunus avium 'Stella') are not as long-lived as other fruit trees, lasting an average of just 10 to 15 years in the garden. These semi-dwarf or dwarf cherry trees do best in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 8, where they are grown as ornamental cherry trees for their delicate white blossoms and as fruit trees for their sweet, dark fruit.
Although Stella cherry trees are short-lived compared to other fruit tree varieties, you can maximize their lifespan by providing them with the best possible growing conditions and care.
Stella cherry trees are grown as ornamental cherry blossom trees but, unlike the pink flowers that adorn most ornamental cherries, they produce large white flowers.
About Stella Cherry Trees
Stella cherries are typically grafted onto dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock. They are self-fertile and do not need other cherry trees nearby to become pollinated, which makes them a good fruit tree for smaller yards with limited space.
Stella cherries are, in fact, universal pollinators that will help enhance pollination rates in most other sweet cherry and sour cherry trees.
Stella cherry trees live for about 10 to 15 years and take roughly 10 years to reach a height of 8 to 12 feet—but they bloom and bear fruit well before they achieve their mature size. Their first crop of fruit will form as soon as two years after planting, but it takes approximately four years for these trees to reach their maximum yield.
Planting Stella Cherry Trees
The right growing conditions and planting practices will help your Stella cherry tree live a long, productive life in your home garden.
- Sun Exposure: Stella cherry trees need a growing location with at least six hours of sunlight each day. Full sun is best for flowering and fruiting, but some light midday shade is a good idea in hot, dry climates.
- Soil Conditions: Choose a spot with moderately fertile, well-draining soil that retains moisture without being overly wet. Stella cherry trees do not tolerate continuously wet soil, so avoid planting in heavy clay soil with poor drainage.
- Shelter and Airflow: Stella cherry trees need shelter from strong wind but they also need good airflow. Position them 15 to 20 feet away from larger trees and structures so that they are protected from wind, but air circulation is still maintained.
Stella cherry trees can be planted in early spring or in autumn when the soil is moist. Prepare the planting site a week before planting by removing any debris and weeds, and tilling the soil to loosen it up.
One of the most important aspects to consider when planting Stella cherry trees is the planting depth. Unlike standard-sized cherry trees, dwarf varieties such as Stella should be planted with the graft union a couple of inches above the soil surface to prevent the grafted scion from producing its own roots.
- Dig a planting hole that is two to three times wider than the nursery pot and 2 inches shallower. Make the bottom of the hole bowl-shaped, but create a 1-inch hump of soil to the center.
- Grip the sapling at the base near the graft union and slide the rootball out of the nursery pot. Remove soil from around the rootball and untangle the roots.
- Set the Stella cherry tree in the planting hole with the center of the rootball on top of the soil hump at the bottom of the hole. Hold it upright and fill in the hole with soil to cover the roots. Keep adding soil until the hole is filled. Tamp the soil just enough to hold the tree upright.
- Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the planting area but leave a gap of a few inches between the mulch layer and the base of the trunk.
Use wood chips, shredded bark or other organic mulch around cherry trees.
Growing Stella Cherry Trees
Planting a Stella cherry tree under the right conditions will help prevent a host of serious problems, but that is just the start. These trees also need the ongoing care to keep them healthy and productive as they grow.
Regular watering during the summer months is recommended when growing Stella cherries in hotter climates or in soil that doesn’t retain moisture very well. Approximately 1 inch of water each week is fine, especially if the soil around the tree is well-mulched.
Cherry trees do not need fertilizer their first year in the garden. Start feeding in early spring of the second year. Use 1/10 pound of nitrogen fertilizer for each year that the tree has been in the garden until the tree has reached 10 years of age, then use 1 pound of nitrogen each year for the remainder of the tree’s life.
The fertilizer can be applied in one large dose in early spring or divided into two treatments in early spring and early summer. Do not feed Stella cherry trees after mid-summer.
There is no need to prune Stella cherry trees except to remove dead or damaged branches. If you wish to shape the tree, prune in winter when it is dormant.
Wipe down your pruning shears with household disinfectant before pruning to kill off any disease-causing pathogens.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
Pests such as black cherry aphids and shothole borers afflict all different varieties of cherry trees, from tart cherries to sweet cherries such as Stella. Healthy young trees will survive a moderate infestation of both pests, but older, less vigorous trees may need a helping hand to overcome an infestation.
- Aphid infestations cause curled, distorted leaves. The bugs are typically visible on the leaf stems and undersides of the leaves. Treat aphids by releasing predatory beneficial insects such as ladybugs or parasitic wasps.
- Shothole borer infestations cause small holes that ooze sap and will eventually cause leaves to wilt and branches to die. Severe damage can be prevented by pruning off older branches and dead or damaged branches where these opportunistic pests like to settle. Badly infested trees should be cut down and the wood burned.
Always throw away pruned cherry tree branches to eliminate a common hiding spot for pests such as shothole borers.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Prunus Avium 'Stella'
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: How Long Can I Expect a Cherry Tree to Survive?
- Royal Horticultural Society: Prunus avium 'Stella' (F)
- Thompson & Morgan: Cherry 'Stella'
- UC IPM: Black Cherry Aphids
- UC IPM: Shothole Borers
- Colorado State University Extension: Pollination of Fruit Trees
Sasha Degnan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Anthropology. Her written work has appeared in both online and print publications. She is a certified Master Gardener and dedicated plant enthusiast with decades of experience growing and propagating native and exotic plant varieties.