Research Importance

Dwarf sour cherries are well suited to commercial production in the Intermountain West. They are the product of many years of breeding for a combination of cold hardiness, dwarf stature, and good fruit quality. Dwarf sour cherry bushes are typically 8-12 feet tall at maturity and are cold hardy to Zone 2. These bushes may produce multiple trunks and may require pruning. Fruit can be hand-picked or mechanically harvested and is dark red (wine red) when ripe. Some varieties produce fruit sweet enough to be eaten fresh.

Research Summary

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has released six varieties over the last 15 years. Only four are available in the U.S.: ‘Romeo’, ‘Juliet’, ‘Crimson Passion', and ‘Carmine Jewel’. 'Carmine Jewel' and 'Crimson Passion' were planted at four locations across the state (Corvallis-WARC, Bozeman-MSU, Kalispell-FVCC, and Helena) in 2015 and 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' were planted a year later. At the Western Agricultural Research Center (WARC), an additional short-statured sour cherry ('Lutowka Rose') was also planted in 2015. Each cultivar was represented at each site by 9 plants (3 plants sets, planted in 3 locations or blocks). Metrics assessed annually include plant survival, pests, fruit yield, berry size and sugar content (⁰Bx). Juice yield and characteristics were also recorded.


All cherry varieties have proven cold hardy to Zone 3. Deer tend to prefer browsing on cherry shoots—especially in winter—and will cause significant damage if not fenced out. Aphids are the only pest with the potential to cause significant damage. However, there has been evidence of cherry fruit fly larvae (Rhagoletis cerasi), which has the potential to decimate a crop if not kept in check. Most varieties produced small amounts (<1.0 lb/plant) of fruit in the third year after planting. 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' (planted in 2016) had larger (<2 lbs/plant) in their third year (Table 1). Cherries ripened to sugar content levels seen in U of S studies (Bors 2011). In 2018, 'Carmine Jewel' ripened in the last week of July. 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' ripened in the first week of August. 'Lutowka Rose' was harvested in mid-August. Flowering and fruiting in 'Crimson Passion' have been low to non-existent. 

Table 1. Yields, fruit weight, and sugar content of WARC dwarf sour cherry cultivars in the field on day of harvest.

  Yield (lbs/plant)    
Cultivar 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Individual average
fruit weight (g)
Average °Bx*
Carmine Jewel 0.7 16.7 18.1 17.2 20.1 3.4 15.1
Juliet 0.0 2.4 8.7 12.1 10.4 4.3 17.4
Lutowka Rose 0.6 5.8 10.7 37.4 38.8 4.6 16.5
Romeo 0.1 7.7 10.4 8.1 13.5 2.9 18.4

Table 2. Juice characteristics of WARC dwarf sour cherry varieties (14 lbs berries yield approximately 1 gallon juice via commercial juicer).

Cultivar pH Titratable Acidity
(g citric acid /
L equivalents)
Sugar (°Bx)Lorem ipsum
Carmine Jewel 3.2 13.95 22.75
Juliet 3.35 17.2 21.82
Lutowka Rose 3.36 15.68 17.15
Romeo 3.21 17.31 25.68


Conclusions are tentative since cherries are slow to mature. We expect production to continue increasing over the next few years. Note that 'Carmine Jewel' yields increased from a few handfuls to nearly 20 lbs/plant in one year. During establishment, 'Carmine Jewel' and 'Romeo' have been the most productive. The flavor of all varieties are good, but 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' are slightly sweeter-tasting. 'Juliet' and 'Lutowka Rose' have the largest fruits. 'Crimson Passion' has been the slowest to mature. This variety has also not regularly produced fruit in trials at the NDSU Carrington research and extension center.   


University of Saskatchewan dwarf sour cherry website

Bors 2011 report

NDSU-Carrington REC- Hardy Fruit program, dwarf sour cherry page

2010 Fruit Grower News article about mechanical harvest of dwarf sour cherries

2018 Good Fruit Grower article

2018 BBC story on Canadian cherries