Pie, Tart, Sour or Sweet Cherry? What’s the difference?

Pie, Tart, Sour or Sweet Cherry? What’s the difference?

Picking Cherries Off Of Tree

It’s the age-old question, what’s the difference between all these cherry tree varieties? Ok, so maybe it’s not considered an age-old question, but it’s certainly one many ask and for good reason.

Cherry trees are beloved across the world. Partly because of their beautiful blossoms and partly their scrumptious fruit. Picking a few off of the backyard tree makes the perfect snack for warm summer days lounging on the patio.

However, you’ll want to make sure you’ve picked the best cherry tree for the job at hand. Will you be snacking right off the tree or are you hoping to bake a county fair award-winning pie? The answer will determine which variety you want.

I Want a Pie Cherry Tree for my Cherry Pie Filling

Cherry Pie

Ok, great! Pies are superb and cherries are certainly a key ingredient in desserts in general. You’re looking to get your hands on some sour cherry trees. They’re quite tart when taken right off the tree but absolutely explode with flavor when used for baking!

Add in a healthy helping of sugar and maybe a little butter and you’ll have some of the best jelly or jam to can and eat with a little peanut butter on bread in the coming months. You could give them as holiday gifts but, just between us, you’ll want to keep all of it for yourself!

Can I Get Tart Cherry Juice from Sour Cherries?

cherries in tree

The answer, absolutely! Sour cherry varieties are preferred when making juice. Many consider Romeo Dwarf (Prunus cerasus 'Romeo') the best tree for the job because of the plethora of tart red cherries it produces along with it’s easy to maintain height.

There are plenty of ways to juice your harvest. You can pit and throw them into a juicer, crush them by hand, or blend them. Try taking advantage of the health benefits by taking a few frozen cherries and adding them to your morning smoothie!

Grow your own to gain access to a plentiful harvest. However, a little help in discerning which trees are which never hurt anybody! Some tree varieties have helpful names that identify them as sour but most don’t. No need to fret we’ve got a list of the best sour cherry tree varieties.


Montmorency - Widely accepted as the most popular sour varieties, Montmorency (Prunus cerasus 'Montmorency') blooms brilliant snow-white flowers in the spring that are followed by bright red fruit. It’s self-fertile, so you’ll only need one tree but we’re pretty sure you’ll want more!

Early Richmond - The abundance of stunning white blooms each spring is just one of many incredible traits of the Early Richmond Cherry tree (Prunus cerasus 'Early Richmond'). Sour cherry trees have a notoriously quick harvest season and this tree can help extend that by a week or two. Instead of waiting for summer to pick your soon-to-be pie filling, this tree’s fruit will be ready as spring is winding down.


Meteor - Meteor (Prunus cerasus 'Meteor') is a sour cherry tree and a pretty fantastic one at that. It’ll give you a show of lovely white blossoms in the spring that will take your breath away! Meteor is self-pollinating with its fruit ready to harvest mid-season. You’ll want to prepare yourself though, this tree can yield quite a bit of fruit, sometimes up to 50 pounds on a single tree!

What Can I Do With a Sweet Cherry?

Sweet Cherry Trees are best at producing heaps of delicious fruits for eating fresh off the tree. A mature tree will produce enough fruit to make a single person all but burst! You can always share with a friend or keep these all to yourself.

Sweet Cherry Tree Infographic

Again, trying to figure out which trees are which can be confusing. That’s why we’ve made a list of our favorite sweet cherry trees.

Bing - When thinking about the most popular sweet tree variety, it’s impossible not to think of Bing (Prunus avium 'Bing'). It’s positively one of the finest and most famous of the sweet cherry varieties. Each year, Bing produces large, delicious fruits with smooth, glossy skin. This is the cherry that set the standard for all others for over 100 years!

This is another variety that will require a pollinator in order to fruit. Van (Prunus avium 'Van'), Rainier, Stella, and Lapins (Prunus avium 'Lapins') all work wonderfully. Like other cherries, Bing’s fruit is high in antioxidants and is a refreshing and healthy snack on those hot summer days!

Stella - Stella Cherry Trees (Prunus avium 'Stella') are just about everything you’d want in a sweet cherry tree. It’ll give you beautiful red-pink blooms in the spring for an ornamental look but its real show comes mid-season when it’s time to harvest!

Stella is self-fruitful and will produce an abundance of heart-shaped, shiny black-red fruit with delectable red flesh. These plump, firm, sweet cherries resist that pesky cracking you might come across in other cherry varieties. While you don’t need a partner for this tree to give you fruit, Stella makes a great pollinator for other varieties!

Rainier - This semi-dwarf cherry tree is a crowd favorite! Perhaps you’ve come across and enjoyed a bag of these decadent yellow and red fruits from your local Farmer’s Market? They certainly are delicious once harvested mid-season, they won’t last long before becoming a tasty treat. Don’t even get us started on this trees' gorgeous white and pale pink spring flowers!

Rainier Cherry trees (Prunus avium 'Rainier') will need a pollinator in order to produce fruit. We suggest coupling it with a Van, Lapins, Bing, or Stella to enjoy the largest harvest possible! As an added bonus, keeping Rainier to a manageable height is easy with some light pruning each year!

Let’s Talk Pollination

Cherry Tree Outside

You might find yourself asking the question, “Do you need two cherry trees to pollinate each other in order to get fruit?”

It’s a great question and the answer is both yes and no. Some cherry trees are self-pollinating and others require a partner. One thing to keep in mind is that sweet cherry tree varieties will not pollinate sour varieties.

It can be a lot of information and feel like a bit of a headache but here at Nature Hills Nursery, we’ll list whether the tree you’re looking at is self-pollinating or not. If the answer is no, and it’ll need a pollinator partner, we’ll list those for you so you won’t have to drive yourself crazy trying to figure all that out on your own.

Cherry trees are amazing additions to your garden and being an expert on the types of cherry trees out there shouldn’t have to be a prerequisite to having one of your own. We have all the information you’ll need on your cherry tree journey and there are many more varieties out there. Check them all out on our Cherry Tree Page!

Happy gardening!

Shop Cherry Trees

← Previous Next →