Cherry Overview

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New Zealand is ideally geographically placed to produce cherries at a time of year that can only be equaled in a practical manner by Tasmania. New Zealand grows extremely high quality cherries. Returns from growing cherries have been high in the past 25 years and the industry is growing rapidly.

Variety introductions by McGrath Nurseries dominate this industry and have in large part been a reason for its growth.


Most sweet cherry and sour cherry varieties are derived from the species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus. The native range of cherries extends through most of Europe, Western Asia and parts of North Africa.

Breeding and selection in recent times focused on large fruit size, self fertility and fruit tolerance to rain splitting. Large improvements in fruit quality have been made.


Tree form varies widely in cherry varieties from very weeping and spreading to very upright and tree density may range between 660 per hectare and 1000 per hectare depending on variety and resulting tree form alone.

Bud tolerance to cold injury, winter chilling requirement, disease susceptibility and fruit tolerance to rain splitting all vary widely depending on variety.


Pollination is an important consideration in cherries. Many modern varieties are self fertile and are universal pollen donors. There is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that even self fertile cherries give greater yields per hectare when planted in blocks of 3 rows with other pollen donors.

Most older and some new varieties are self infertile. These varieties are divided into pollination groups based on genetics except for universal donors. Pollen receivers and donors must come from different pollination groups and flower at the same time for effective pollination to occur. Note that the pollination groups are not always known for test selections and some very new varieties.


McGrath Nurseries are at the forefront of the development of cherry varieties and cultivation in New Zealand. We have been introducing and assessing cherry cultivars and dwarfing cherry rootstocks since the early 1990’s. Our exclusive varieties form the basis of the current New Zealand Industry. We are by far the major supplier of cherry trees in New Zealand.

Detailed information for each variety is covered in the specific variety information sheets.

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