By: Teo Spengler
Given the reputation of the Rainier sweet cherry as the most delicious yellow cherry in the world, you might thing that this cherry tree would be difficult to grow. Despite the many spectacular qualities, care of Rainier cherry trees is relatively easy. Read on for tips on how to grow Rainier cherries.
Rainier cherries resulted from a cross between the Bing and Van varieties. The trees are gorgeous in spring with showy pink-white blooms filling the garden with a lovely fragrance. This is followed by the next act: a large crop of outstanding cherries. And for the grand finale in autumn, expect a fiery fall foliage display.
The trees bear fruit early. Those with a Rainier in the backyard will be picking Rainier cherries in May or June, while other cherry trees are nowhere near ripe. Rainier sweet cherry fruit are yellow on the outside with a scarlet blush. The inner flesh is sweet and creamy white, giving it the nickname “white cherry.” Most gardeners agree that this is the best yellow cherry, and some insist that Rainier is the best cherry of any color.
The large, yellow fruit is both bud hardy and crack resistant, giving it another edge over the competition. The cherries also tend to attract less birds than red cherries, probably due to the yellow coloring. The cherries store well too. They are wonderfully sweet right off the tree, but they also work well for baking, canning and freezing.
If you are wondering how to grow Rainier cherries, the first step is to make sure that you live in an appropriate hardiness zone. Rainier cherry trees thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.
Plant the tree in loamy soil in a full sun location. Care of Rainier cherry trees is not harder than that of other cherry varieties, and includes irrigation, pest control and occasional use of organic fertilizer.
The trees grow to 35 feet (11 m.) tall, but can easily be kept smaller by pruning. This makes picking Rainier cherries easier and gives you the chance to remove dead and damaged wood.
The tree is usually a heavy bearer, but it needs a pollinator. Black Tartarian, Sam or Stella varieties work well and help keep those delicious cherries coming. But remember that the tree takes some three to five years to fruit.
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Can I get some help on starting Rainier cherry trees from the seeds? I just ate some and they are so good. I have saved the seeds. Do I need to dry them or soak them before planting in pots or what? Thanks so much for your help.
I have started many cherry trees from the pits left from canning. I don't know if Rainier cherries will grow true to their parent plant or not, but if you have the space, why not give it a shot? If it doesn't work, you can always have a horticulture student graft some Rainier cherry branches onto your tree. Best of luck!
I also don't know if a true rainier cherry will come from its pit. I do know that cherries are like peaches and called "stone fruit" because the pit is hard like a stone. Putting a pit in a moisten wet cloth will do nothing but create a moldy wash cloth or bunch of paper towels.
I know this is a VERY late reply and I just ate two kinds of cherries and will be trying to grow trees with the pits. After a little research, the best instruction that I found for me since I live in Texas is to wash the seed thoroughly, let dry in a sunny location for up to 5 days. Store in the refrigerator inside a wet paper towel in a zip lock bag or container for at least 10 weeks to 3 months, keeping the towel moist and not wet. Take out of the fridge and let come to room temperature for a day. Plant in a seed starter or pot with a light sandy mixture about 1 inch thick. Set planters in sunny spot receiving at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Keep moist, NOT wet and wait for them to spout in a couple of months or so. After they sprout, plant in the yard, mulch, protect from deer and rodents and enjoy!
Jul 10, 2014 | By Brianna Shales
They’re golden yellow with a perky pink to red blush and a sinfully sweet flavor. Delicate inside and out and a must to devour by the handful during the few short months they are in season.
They are Rainier cherries! And with National Rainier Cherry Day happening on July 11th, we’re celebrating this delicious cherry variety here by unveiling 7 things you might not know about Rainier cherries.
1. Bing + Van = Rainier cherry variety.
It still baffles me to think that Bing and Van, two red cherry varieties, were combined to create the golden Rainier cherry that we know and love today. But in 1952, that’s exactly what happened when Harold Fogel and other researchers from the Washington Agriculture Experiment Station in Prosser, WA crossed the two well-known red cherry varieties using traditional breeding methods of crossing pollen. It’s rumored that the mother Rainier tree still resides in Prosser!
2. The name for this cherry comes from Washington State’s largest mountain, Mt. Rainier.
Rainier cherries are large in size, so it’s fitting they were named after our state’s most mammoth mountain. Mt. Rainier sits at an elevation of 14,409 feet and is the highest peak in the Cascade Mountain range.
3. Rainier cherries are a dream snack of birds.
One of the most common problems Rainier cherry growers face is pesky birds snackin’ on the crop. With the fruit’s sweet flavor, you can’t really blame them, but growers go to great lengths to protect their crops from birds. Nets over/around orchards, reflective tape hanging on tree branches, nest boxes, and falcons flying overhead are all ways cherry growers help control bird problems.
4. Rainier cherries tend to grow a size larger than their dark sweet counterparts. They are also a high sugar (or Brix) cherry.
This may not be the best kept secret, but Rainier cherries are naturally big and super-sweet. The average Brix is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass Brix, or sugar levels, range for Rainier cherries is 17° to 23°. That means that one-fifth each cherry is sugar!
5. Rainier cherries are a common pollenizer for dark-sweet cherry trees.
Rainier cherry trees are often planted between dark-sweet cherry trees in orchard rows in order to provide a different pollen source for bees during the important cherry bloom stage. That’s because most cherry varieties need two sources of pollen for their blossoms to be successfully pollinated by bees. Rainier cherry trees are still used as pollenizers today, although here at Stemilt, we plant orchards of Rainiers in order to harvest and ship more of this delicious fruit to supermarkets!
6. Rainier is the only cherry (we know of) with its own holiday.
National Rainier Cherry Day happens every July 11th. It’s not well-documented how long this celebration has gone on, but it aligns well with the peak of the Rainier cherry crop in Washington State, and is a good time to find the premium Rainier cherry on sale at grocery stores.
7. Rainier cherries are most often eaten fresh, but also make a great ingredient in sweet and savory summer recipes.
From appetizers to fancy desserts, there are so many great cherry recipes that feature Rainier cherries as a main ingredient. Get inspiration for using Rainier cherries in new ways on our National Rainier Cherry Day Pinterest board.
Now that you know all about Rainier cherries, tell us, what is your favorite thing about this golden sweet cherry? Do you have any tried and true Rainier cherry recipes or tips? Share with us in the comments below.
We hope that your National Rainier Cherry Day is filled with delicious Rainier cherries from Stemilt. They’ll only be in season for a few more weeks!
Brianna joined the Stemilt family right after graduating from Washington State University (Go Cougs!) in 2007. She’s our chief communicator and writer of various fruit topics here on The Stem blog. Away from the office, Brianna is a mom of two young boys and former picky eater that has been transformed into a bit of a foodie thanks to her husband. Peaches are her favorite Stemilt fruit, but Piñata apples are a close second.
From the photos it appears as incidental insect feeding rather than a disease issue. But a disease cannot be diagnosed from just a photo - if a pathogen is suspected as the cause of the problem it needs to be cultured to determine what it actually is. And even if the cause can be determined, a fungicide may not be the answer. Also, most plants can tolerate a fair amount of leaf damage (from whatever cause, such as insect feeding, disease, storm damage, pruning) before the health of the tree is affected. Newly planted trees should be devoting all their energy to establishing roots, and often it is recommended to prune them back to reduce the canopy so the few roots won't have to support so many leaves, so it isn't surprising that the top part of the tree doesn't have any leaves. Most of the growth in the pictures looks normal. It may be that you need to prune the tree to help it succeed in establishing before winter.
I hope you realize that sweet cherries are only marginally hardy in most of Wisconsin (and Green Bay should really be considered zone 4, unless you are in a really protected microclimate). Sweet cherries are susceptible to winter injury and temperatures below -15F will kill the fruit buds. The Rainier variety also is self-sterile, so unless you have a compatible pollinizer nearby, you likely won't get fruit if those buds do survive the winter.
It takes a while to get there, but when your cherry trees are finally producing pounds and pounds of fruit, you’ll see that it was all worthwhile. Fresh fruit is always delicious, but fresh cherries are at top of the list for taste and flavor.
With self-fruitful (and self-unfruitful) options available, you’ve got plenty to pick from and to look forward to. Thanks for reading! Come back again soon, and leave us any questions or insights in the comments below.
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on July 14, 2019. Last updated: March 28, 2021 at 8:26 am. Product photo via Nature Hills Nursery and the Arbor Day Foundation. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.