Santina Cherry Tree Care – Growing Santina Cherries At Home

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

An attractive, reddish-black fruit with a somewhat flattened heart shape, Santina cherries are firm and moderately sweet. Santina cherry trees display a spreading, slightly drooping nature that makes them especially attractive in the garden. These cherry trees are valued not only for their flavor, but for their high productivity, crack resistance and long harvest window. Growing Santina cherries is relatively easy if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. Read on to learn how.

What are Santina Cherries?

Santina cherry trees, the result of a cross between Summit and Stella, were bred at Pacific Ari-Food Research Station in Summerland British Columbia in 1973.

Santina cherries are multi-purpose and can be eaten fresh off the tree, cooked, or preserved by drying or freezing. They are delicious incorporated into hot or cold dishes. Santina cherries paired with smoked meat and cheese is a delightful treat.

Santina Cherry Tree Care

Santina cherries are self-fertile, but harvests will be more plentiful and the cherries will be plumper if there is another sweet cherry tree in the vicinity.

Prepare the soil before planting by digging in a generous amount of organic material such as manure, shredded leaves or compost. You can do this any time the ground isn’t frozen or saturated.

As a general rule, cherry trees need no fertilizer until they begin bearing fruit. At that point, fertilize Santina cherries in early spring. You can also feed the cherry trees later in the season, but never after July. It’s a good idea to have your soil tested before fertilizing. However, in general, cherry trees benefit from a low-nitrogen fertilizer with an NPK ratio such as 10-15-15. Santina cherries are light feeders, so be careful not to over-fertilize.

Cherry trees don’t require a lot of water, and unless you live in a dry climate, normal rainfall is usually adequate. If conditions are dry, water deeply every 10 days or so. Mulch the trees generously to prevent moisture evaporation and keep weeds in check. Mulch also moderates soil temperature, thus preventing temperature fluctuations that can cause cherry split.

Prune Santina cherry trees in late winter. Remove dead or damaged branches, as well as those that rub or cross other branches. Thin the middle of the tree to improve access to air and light. Remove suckers as they appear by pulling them straight out of the ground. Otherwise, like weeds, suckers rob the tree of moisture and nutrients.

Watch for pests and treat them as soon as you notice them.

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Soil for Planting a Cherry Tree

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Prized for their beautiful spring blossoms, whether they are purely ornamental or bred for their fruit, cherry trees have definite soil preferences. Mostly, they need well-draining soil, so their roots never sit in water. The distinctions between species of the Prunus genus tend to blur commercial cherry trees also bear lovely flowers, sweet cherries may have a bite and some sour cherries are sweet enough to eat fresh. However, differences still exist in the growing conditions required by each.

So, What Types Of Cherries Are What?

Are you wondering what types of cherries will you find in the Okanagan Valley BC? Sweet cherry varieties like Rainiers, Van cherry, Chelan, Lapin, Sweetheart, Skeena, Staccato, Christalina and Bing cherries.

A Cherry Is A Cherry Is (not) A Cherry

A little 'did 'ya know'. The first cherry trees in the Okanagan were planted in the late 1800's, and as the fruit industry grew, so did the varieties.

Cherries are part of the 'Rosaceae' family, and has cousins including apricots, almonds, peaches and plums. The world history of cherries is somewhat scant, but some say the cherry tree originated in the territories of Asia Minor near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and dates back to 300 B.C.

Once planted, a cherry orchard takes 4 to 6 years to reach full production. The Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston areas now sell over $20 million of cherries annually in Canada and export markets around the world.

Cherry season generally begins in June, in the Osoyoos area, and lasts until about mid July, weather pending, of course. In the more northern parts of the Okanagan you may be able to get cherries until the end of August at some local orchards.

Okanagan Cherry Varieties

Rainier Cherry Variety - The 'Princess' of cherries are a large sweet cherry with a red blush similar to the Royal Ann cherry. These types of cherries are firm, with a clear to light yellow flesh, a fine texture and distinct sweet flavor.

Rainier Cherries

They are excellent for eating fresh. Rainier's are also known as the white cherry because of the flesh color and the skin is yellowish red blush when they are ripe.

Rainier cherry trees usually blossom around the end of April, but like all other fruit, it depends on the weather.

The Van Cherry is another popular cherry fruit that has been grown in the Okanagan for a very long time. Van cherries are a medium size fruit, slightly smaller than a Bing, but are very firm black color, and they are such a sweet cherry.

Van cherry variety is usually available in the Okanagan at the end of June or early July, and like most sweet cherries they are generally best eaten fresh. These cherries are also excellent for canning, and in your favorite yummy cherry recipes like cherry cobbler!

At one time Bing Cherries were the most popular of all the varieties of cherries grown in the Okanagan. These sweet cherries are extra large in size, slightly heart-shaped cherries with a deep maroon color, and a delicious, sweet wonderful flavor. Bings are one of the common types of cherries that you will find in grocery stores and supermarkets.

Bing Cherries

It's a good idea to store fully ripe Bing cherries in the fridge, because once they ripen, they will only last a few days. Bing cherries are preferred fresh by many people, but they are also excellent for cherry recipes such as jams, jellies and preserves, in cherry pie recipes, and desserts like a delicious cherry cobbler recipe. They are one of the most versatile types of cherries around!

Santina Cherry variety is a very sweet, average sized, black cherry. It is oval shaped, with a beautiful bright attractive skin. Santinas came from the Canadian cherry breeding program in British Columbia in the 1960's.

Santina cherry is an early cherry, usually harvested in mid to late June. Santina cherries are delicious when eaten fresh. They are also very delicious in sweet cherry dessert recipes, cherry cheesecake and in a homemade cherry pie recipe!

How to Grow Stella Cherry Trees

The Stella cherry tree is a self-pollinating variety that produces a medium-sized sweet fruit. This variety does not require another cultivar close by to pollinate for fruit production, making it a good choice for home landscaping. Plant the Stella cherry tree in a location that is protected from wind to prevent damage to the tree. Place trees 25 to 30 feet apart if multiples are planted. The Stella cherry tree will reach full fruiting production five to eight years after planting.

Select a planting location for the Stella cherry tree that has well-draining soil and full sunlight. Test the soil pH as cherry trees prefer a soil that has a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Add limestone to the soil to raise the pH number and ground rock sulfur to lower the pH number.

  • The Stella cherry tree is a self-pollinating variety that produces a medium-sized sweet fruit.
  • Plant the Stella cherry tree in a location that is protected from wind to prevent damage to the tree.

Dig a hole that is large enough to fit the root ball at the same depth as the container it came in. Gently pull the roots from the root ball to loosen them. Prune the root ball to remove broken and damaged roots. Set the Stella cherry tree in the hole and fill with soil.

Water the tree generously immediately after planting to stimulate root growth. Water the Stella cherry tree during the hot, dry summer months to prevent poor fruit growth. Do not create standing water around the base of the tree as this will promote root rot.

  • Dig a hole that is large enough to fit the root ball at the same depth as the container it came in.
  • Set the Stella cherry tree in the hole and fill with soil.

Sprinkle blood meal around the base of the cherry tree in spring as a fertilizer. Water the area well to stimulate absorption. Stella cherry trees do not respond well to chemical fertilizer applications.

Install a cage or fine netting around the tree during fruiting to prevent fruit loss to birds. Do not use loose woven netting as birds can get caught in the net.

Harvest ripe cherries by picking them. Cherries will store in a cool location for up to week.

Planting Cherry Trees

Successfully establishing a young cherry tree starts with your planting site and planting method. Once a cherry tree is well established, it needs little assistance to grow and bear fruit.

NOTE: This is part 4 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow cherry trees , we recommend starting from the beginning.

Cherry trees require fertile, balanced soil for good growth, so before you plant, test the soil where your trees will live – including the soil pH. Refer to the section on Soil Preparation for tips on testing your soil.

Sweet and sour cherries have similar needs, but sweet cherries are fussier about drainage and pH, which should range between 6.3 and 7.2. Sour cherries are more adaptable to a wider range of soils, and prefer a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Take a look at the established trees and plants around the site. Do they look healthy? Are they growing well? This will help give you an idea of the success you can expect with new plantings in the same area. Remember to steer clear of heavy clay soil or any soil that is poorly drained, especially if you’re planting sweet cherry trees.

Cherry trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool, especially if they arrive bare-root and dormant. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Do not expose roots to temperatures that are freezing or below. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

Steps to Planting Cherry Trees

Planting Bare-root Cherry Trees

  • Before planting: soak the cherry tree’s roots in a bucket or large tub of water for 1 to 2 hours. This keep the roots from drying out while you dig the planting hole. Avoid soaking roots for more than 6 hours. Remember: do not expose roots to freezing temperatures (or below) prior to planting.

  • Dig the planting hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily spread and grow. Keep the more nutritious topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it will do the most good.
  • To loosen the soil, mix aged/rotted manure, garden compost, coir or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. The peat moss should either be baled sphagnum or granular peat. Note: Peat is acidic (has a low pH), so if you use this rather than neutral coir, it may affect the soil pH around the roots. Coir, like our Coco-Fiber Planting Medium, can be added instead of peat – or just work in 2 inches or more of organic material with the existing soil.
  • Place the cherry tree in the center of the planting hole with its roots down and spread out. Holding onto the trunk to keep it vertical, backfill the hole, putting the topsoil back in first. Important: keep the graft union (the noticeable “bump” in the lower trunk) 2-3 inches above the ground for dwarf and semi-dwarf types. Read more about Planting Budded and Grafted Cherry Trees below.
  • Fill in the soil carefully around the roots, tamping it down firmly as you refill the planting hole. This will eliminate air pockets that could damage the roots.
  • Especially if you’re planting on a slope, create a rim of soil around the planting hole about 2 inches above ground level. This is called a “berm” and it works to catch water so that it can soak in, rather than run off and cause soil erosion. Spread the soil evenly around tree.
  • Read more about Digging a Planting Hole and Planting Bare-Root Fruit Trees.

Planting Potted Cherry Trees

Cherry trees that are grown and shipped in our Stark® EZ Start® 4"x4x"10" bottomless pots are a result of our continuing quest for providing you with the best trees with a robust root system. By following these simple instructions, you’ll be assured of getting your new potted cherry tree off to the best possible start.

  • Before planting: When your cherry tree arrives, carefully take it out of the package. Your potted tree has been watered prior to shipment and should arrive with damp soil around the roots however, it does need another drink when it arrives at your home. Be sure the water reaches all of the roots, all the way to the bottom of the container. If you can’t plant your tree immediately, keep the roots hydrated and keep the tree in a sheltered location until you’re able to plant. Do not place your potted cherry tree in a bucket of water. This could cause the roots to rot and weaken, or even kill the tree.
  • Your potted cherry tree is ready for planting as soon as it arrives. To remove the tree from its temporary container, simply grasp the sides of the pot and carefully slide the tree out. If the tree’s roots do not easily slide out of the container, you may need to gently pry the inside edges of the container away from the root system, and loosen it until the roots slide freely from the pot.

Note: do not plant the plastic Stark® EZ Start® bottomless pot in the ground. It is not intended to break down over time as your cherry tree grows, and it will cause root restriction, injury and may even be fatal to the tree. The pot your tree arrives in is only intended to be a temporary container.

  • While some potting soil might shake loose, most of it should remain around the cherry tree’s roots. Gently separate, untangle, and spread out the tree’s roots and place it, soil and all, into the prepared planting hole. Backfill the hole with topsoil, same as you would a bare-root cherry tree (see above). Water thoroughly.
  • Your potted cherry tree may have come with a bamboo stake, which helped straighten the tree as it grew in its pot. We recommend that you keep the tree staked when you plant to help keep it growing straight. You may remove the bamboo stake and replace it with a different tree stake, if you prefer.


Thoroughly water your newly planted cherry tree. A deep soaking with about a gallon of water is perfect. If a soil test determines that fertilizer is needed, then it is recommended that you wait a few weeks after planting to fertilize new cherry trees to protect their sensitive roots. If planting in the fall, wait until spring instead to apply fertilizer.


Apply 2-3 inches of organic material like wood bark (rather than an inorganic material, like rocks) around the root zone of your cherry tree. Mulching helps discourage weeds and prevent evaporation, water pooling and freeze injury around the trunk going into winter. In the fall, double the mulch layer or add a layer of straw for winter protection.

Note: Rodents and other small gnawing critters could take advantage of mulch that is applied too thickly. They may chew the tree’s bark as a snack – a type of injury that can be fatal, especially to new cherry trees.

One final point: Please be sure to remove the nametag from your cherry tree. As the tree grows, this small piece of plastic can choke off its circulation, causing damage like girdling and even tree death. If you’d like to keep the tag on your tree, retie it loosely with soft twine and be sure to keep it from becoming restricted as the tree grows.

Watch the video: How To Germinate A Cherry Seed At Home - Growing Tree From Pits

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