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STELLA CHERRY TREE


Stella is an excellent choice for a sweet cherry and you are unlikely to be disappointed with this variety. It was first introduced in 1968 and in the UK has outsold all the other varieties by a very large margin.

However, take some time before buying a cherry tree to consider some alternative, more modern varieties which in many cases may be better suited to your garden conditions. We analyse the alternatives towards the end of this article.

Use the checklist below to decide if the Stella cherry tree variety is correct for you and your garden.

  • The fruits of Stella are produced mid to late season, ready for eating, on average, in the third week of July. Cherry trees in particular vary in the time when they produce fruit depending on where in the UK you are and the weather during the growing season
     
  • Fruits are of slightly larger than average size. They are red to dark red and have a sweet, full flavour with a good texture. By any standards these are good tasting cherries to eat straight from the tree.
     
  • The picking period lasts a week.
     
  • Stella was bred by the Summerland Research Station in British Columbia, Canada. It was first released for sale in 1968.
      
  • This variety reliably produces a large amount of fruit. For those in cooler parts of the UK, Stella is a good choice.
     
  • Disease resistance is overall good. It has some resistance to canker, and the blossom fares better than average in cold conditions. Resistance to fruit splitting and brown rot is just average.
     
  • Stella is fully self-fertile and does not require a pollination partner (see below). In fact, over-fruiting is more likely to be a problem with Stella rather than lack of fruit.
     
  • It is fully hardy in all parts of the UK.

WHERE TO BUY STELLA CHERRY TREES

If your garden centre sells cherry tree then almost certainly Stella will be one of the varieties available. The same applies to online suppliers.

A few words of warning about buying Stella from cheaper non-specialist suppliers such as Aldi, Lidl, other supermarkets and DIY stores. The chance of being sold not only the wrong variety but even more often, not even a sweet cherry tree, appears to higher than normal with the Stella cherry tree variety.

Online forums and notice boards frequently have questions posted about cheap cherry trees producing masses of blossom but fruit which never ripens or turns out to be that of another variety. Click here for one example of seven posts in a well known forum with two of the posters clearly having been sold an ornamental cherry tree rather than the sweet Stella one they had hoped for.

Another problem with discount stores that affects cherry trees in particular is that many do not specify the rootstock which the tree grows on. That in itself is an indication of low quality control. But without knowing which rootstock has been used you will not know the eventual height of the tree or how it should be pruned and cared for.

Yes, it's possible to save maybe £5 or a little more, buying your cherry tree from a discounter but when you wait three years for it to produce fruit which is inedible or not the variety you carefully selected, the disappointment will be great.

And you probably won't even have the option of leaving the tree in the ground and at least enjoying the blossom because an ornamental cherry tree can easily grow 10m high.

Why this mistake happens more frequently with Stella cherry trees we can't say but you have been warned.

Stella cherries
Picture from public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.

POLLINATION PARTNERS FOR STELLA CHERRY TREE


Stella is in pollination group 4, self-fertile and does not need a pollination partner which means it will reliably produce fruit even as a stand alone tree. It is suitable for pollinating the following cherry tree varieties in the UK:
  • Van, pollination group 3, eating variety
     
  • Penny, pollination group 3 to 4, eating variety
     
  • Summer Sun, pollination group 3 to 4, eating variety
     
  • Merton Bigarreau, pollination group 4, cooking variety
     
  • Sunburst, pollination group 4, eating variety
     
  • Morello, pollination group 4, cooking variety
     
  • Napoleon, pollination group 4 to 5, cooking variety

HOW LARGE WILL STELLA GROW


On Colt rootstock Stella will grow to about 3m / 10ft tall when it has reached maturity after about 7 years. It can easily be pruned to reach a maximum height of 2m / 7ft. On Gisela 5 rootstock it will grow into a 2m / 7ft tall tree but will need more care than if grown on a Colt rootstock.

ALTERNATIVES TO STELLA CHERRY TREES


Click on the box below to see the full range of cherry tree varieties which we have reviewed in detail. Click on any one of them to see the full variety review.

Stella is so overwhelmingly popular in the UK that we devote some analysis of the alternatives below. The reason it is so popular is the that Stella was the first self-fertile variety to be introduced which produced good tasting cherries. Previously you needed at least two cherry trees for pollination purposes.

Purely by chance the semi-dwarfing rootstock "Colt" was introduced in 1971 which enabled cherry trees to be restricted to a reasonable height for picking and protection against birds. The combination of the Colt rootstock and and the self-fertility of Stella took the cherry "world" by storm. In reality, during the 1970s and early 80s there was no sensible alternative to Stella grown on Colt rootstock for the amateur gardener.

This state of affairs has changed over the last 30 years with the introduction of many highly tasty and disease resistant varieties which are also self-fertile. Unfortunately, many books and internet articles about cherry tree growing have not been kept up to date and still proclaim Stella as the best and only variety for gardeners in the UK.

To narrow down the alternatives we stick to those varieties which have an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. Somewhat of an arbitrary method of selection but it's impossible for us to compare every variety available.

KORDIA
Awarded an RHS AGM in 2014. This eating variety is in fact self-sterile but has still managed to gain the RHS award. One of the key reasons is its high resistance to canker and fruit-splitting, probably the two most common with cherry trees in the UK.

The fruits are dark red, very tasty and larger than average. They are produced mid-season. Kordia, in our opinion, is superior to Stella with its only failing being being that that it is not self-fertile. Read the full review of Kordia here.

LAPINS
A self-fertile variety which produces excellent dark red to black cherries mid-season. Awarded an RHS AGM in 2014. It is resistant to fruit-splitting. Superior to Stella if you live in warmer parts of the UK but it does not grow particularly well in cooler parts. Read the full review of Lapins here.

PENNY
Another self-sterile variety but it does produce fruits late in the season when shop and market sold cherries are starting to rise in price. The fruits are almost black and sweet. Awarded an RHS AGM in 2014. Read the full review of Penny here.

SUMMER SUN
A self-fertile mid to late season variety which produces lots of large and dark red fruits. A superior taste to Stella. Awarded an RHS AGM in 2004 which was reconfirmed in 2014. Read the full review of Summer Sun here.

SWEETHEART
A self-fertile variety which produces red to dark red fruits very late in the season. Taste and texture make this an outstanding variety. With the exception of mildew, disease resistance is good overall. Awarded an RHS AGM in 2014. Read the full review of Sweetheart here.

SUNBURST
Not on the RHS AGM list and this a surprise. A late fruiting variety with very tasty, large cherries. Disease resistance is good. Read the full review of Sunburst here.

CONDITIONS FOR GROWING STELLA CHERRIES


The following are the key rules for growing this variety, click here for more detailed information about growing and pruning cherry trees:
  • Plant and grow in a full sun position.
     
  • The best time to plant Stella is in late autumn to early winter. It can be planted at other times of year but will require watering more frequently to ensure it establishes well.
     
  • Plant the tree to the same depth as it was in the pot. If planting bare-rooted trees you will see a natural soil mark just above the roots which indicates the correct depth for planting.
     
  • Spread an 8cm / 3in layer of mulch around the base of the tree but not touching the main trunk. A mulched circle of about 1m / 3ft will be sufficient. This will retain moisture in the soil below and greatly help the tree to establish well.
     
  • Water very well immediately after planting.
     
  • Stake the tree for the first its life on a Gisela 5 rootstock. On Colt rootstock the tree will only need staking for the first two years of its life.
     
  • In the first summer after planting the tree, water well if conditions become dry.
     
  • Prune Stella in the first year according to the suppliers instructions. Prune annually immediately after flowering in later years, in late July. See our detailed article on pruning cherry trees.
     
  • An annual mulch in late Spring will help to retain moisture and an even supply of water.
     
  • If any pests or diseases appear treat them as soon as possible. Consult our cherry tree pest and disease page for detailed information on identifying and treating problems.