Nanking Cherry is native to Northern and Western China, Korea, and Mongolia. Zones 2 to 7. Deciduous shrub growing 6 to 10 feet high and somewhat wider. It has alternate leaves with irregular serrate margins that are pubescent above. Flowers have male and female parts and are pollinated by insects. Plant usually blooms 2-3 years after planting. Flowers bloom in april and are white or pink that open before the leaves appear or at the same time. Flowers are born on previous years growth. They prefer full sun to part shade. They reliably flower heavily. They produce a sweet cherry fruit that are slightly tart. The unripe fruits can be pickled and dye can be made from the leaves.
Has been long cultivated for various purposes. The fruit is edible, and is a good ingredient for juice, jam and wine, and in pickled vegetables and mushrooms. It can also be grown as an ornamental for it’s beautiful flowers and pruned for bonsai. It is used as a dwarf rootstock for other cherry varieties which is great. In the Midwest it is used in hedgerows to provide wind protection. Also can be used for erosion control and naturalized plantings. It attracts birds.
It likes well drained soil, can tolerate a variety of soil types and uses a moderate amount of water and requires little maintenance. It can tolerate drought. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much is present. Thrives in hot summers and sheltered positions. Propagation from seed requires 2-3 months of stratification. It will sucker if the roots are damaged because they are shallow rooted. You can layer it in the spring and use cuttings for propagation as well. The seeds have a small amount of hydrocyanic acid or cyanide. Much like apple seeds or almonds. Said not to ingest or eat really bitter fruit or seeds because of this. Plants in this genus can be susceptible to honey fungus.
- Jon K.