The Nanking cherry is a lovely sight in early spring. The pink buds unfold into fragrant pale pink or white flowers. The profuse blossoms appear before the soft green leaves. The edible brilliant red fruits will ripen in early to late summer. The shiny, exfoliating, reddish brown bark is a distinctive attraction in winter. This is a vigorous adaptable shrub particularly suited to the cold winters and hot summers of the central and northern plains of the United States and Canada. The Nanking cherry can be used for shrub borders, hedge, windbreak filler, wildlife habitat, as a specimen or in masses.
Nanking Cherry is not self-fertile. Plant two or more shrubs within 100 feet to ensure cross-pollination. Closer spacing in a hedge row is preferable. This cherry is insect pollinated, so the shrubs' bloom times must be compatible.
The Nanking cherry is an upright, rounded, broad-spreading dense shrub becoming more open and irregular with age. The bark is a lustrous orange or reddish brown color, exfoliating in thin strips of vertical curls with age. The flowers are pale pink to white, fragrant and usually profuse. The leaves are a dull, dark green, and given a soft appearance in summer by the downy hair that covers the leaves, new shoots, and fruits. The Nanking cherry produces heavy crops of short stemmed strong red fruits that hold well on the plant 2-3 weeks after ripening. Although some self fertile clones have been identified, it generally requires cross pollination. Two plants should be planted within 100 yards of each other for pollination. The flowers and fruit are borne on branches produced the previous season. The early flowers are somewhat frost tolerant. It adapts to a wide range of growing conditions including drought and extremes of cold and hot temperatures. Annual pruning, although not necessary, will stimulate a steady supply of young, fruitful branches and keep the shrub open to sunlight.
The shrub provides habitat and the fruit attract birds and other wildlife.
The Nanking cherry is native to central Asia. It was introduced to the North America in 1882. Other common names are Manchu cherry, downy cherry, mountain cherry, Mongolian cherry and Chinese bush cherry, hedge cherry.
The word tomentosa indicates the hairy nature of the underside of the leaf of this tree. The tart, tangy fruit can be eaten fresh or used in pies, jams, and jellies. This shrub is dwarfing stock for cherries. Its branches can be cut in mid-winter and forced to bloom indoors in early spring.
The Nanking cherry prefers well drained soil, but will tolerate drought and grows under semi-arid conditions.
The leaves are alternate, simple, obovate to elliptic with unequally toothed margins and dull dark green summer color, no fall color.
Pinkish buds change to pale pink to white, 3/4" fragrant flowers.
The edible fruits are scarlet, 1/3" across, nearly round ripening in June to August.