April 23, 2018

Stone Fruits

Some cultivars of hybrid plums and tart cherries are reliably hardy in Minnesota, but there is very little commercial production of stone fruits here.

Prunus species trees are quite short-lived, only productive for about ten years. This means that the trees have only a few years to make money for a grower. A couple of years of poor crops can mean not breaking even on a planting. So there’s more financial risk in stone fruits than in apples.

Plums and cherries bloom earlier than apples, so the flowers have a greater chance of being killed by a late spring frost. Crop failure is not uncommon in central Minnesota. Birds are likely to be a very serious pest of the ripening fruit.

Marketing plums can be more difficult than marketing apples, in part because it’s much easier to damage the fragile fruit. Marketing tart cherries can be even more difficult, because the fruits are fragile and small, and because consumers need to pit them in order to use them.

However, a small planting of plums could be a smart addition to your planting if you are growing other fruits. Likewise, a determined marketer might be able to derive some income from a planting of tart cherries. Hybrid plums are not self-fruitful; therefore, at least two cultivars must be planted. Tart cherries are self-fruitful, so a single-cultivar orchard could be planted.

Hybrid Plum Cultivars to Try

Origin: U of M, 1986
A large, reddish hybrid plum with firm, sweet, yellow flesh. Hardy in the Twin Cities and at the Horticultural Research Center in Chanhassen.


Origin: U of M, 1933
Large, dark red fruit with yellow juicy flesh.


Pollenizers for Superior and Alderman
Toka –
small fruit with intense flavor.
South Dakota – medium sized fruit.

Tart Cherry Cultivars to Try

Origin: U of M, 1952
Small, bright red fruits have colorless juice. Semidwarf tree grows 8 to 14 feet tall.


Origin: U of M, 1950
Very small dark red fruits have dark red juice. Dwarf tree grows 6 to 10 feet tall.

Stone Fruits Not Suitable for Commercial Plantings

The apricot cultivars ‘Sungold’ and ‘Moongold’ are fully winter-hardy in much of Minnesota. However, they bloom so early that the flowers are nearly always killed by frost.

Peaches, nectarines, and sweet cherries are not hardy here. In a favorable, protected site, the trees may survive for a time, and may even bear a crop once every few years, but certainly do not crop reliably enough for commercial consideration.