While they are genetically different, different species of cherries (Prunus) are still able to crossbreed to produce similar trees. You can identify a cherry tree in springtime from its white or pink flowers and shiny, red-brown bark having brown or gray horizontal stripes. It is more difficult to identify the species of the tree; distinct species have somewhat distinct flowers and leaves, shapes and growth habits. Cherry species include both fruiting and flowering trees.
The cherry species whose fruit you find most often in grocery shops, sweet cherry (Prunus avium), grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8 to approximately 35 feet tall with an erect and spreading contour. Like all cherries, sweet cherries do best with complete sun, regular watering and well-draining soil. Varieties include “Bing,” which produces large, dark red fruit, and “Van,” which produces smaller black fruit.
With fruit used primarily for baking, sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) grow about 25 feet tall in USDA zones 4 through 9 and create purple or red fruit throughout the summer. “Surefire” produces bright red fruit that truly has a sweet flavor so that you may eat it fresh, while “North Star” has very sour fruit with reddish skin and yellow flesh.
Standard Upright Flowering Cherries
Standard, upright cherries incorporate those located on the Washington Monument grounds in Washington, D.C., such as the Yoshino flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis), at USDA zones 5 through 8, and also the “Kwanzan” cherry (Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan”), at USDA zones 5 through 9. Standard cherry species grow up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, with white or pink flowers. They function nicely versed above flower beds to offer partial shade, lining a drive or growing in a prominent spot in your lawn as a tree that is standalone.
Other Flowering Cherries
Flowering cherry trees arrive in weeping, spreading and columnar shapes as well as vertical shapes. Weepers grow from 10 to 15 feet tall, and include the “Pendula” variety (Prunus x subhirtella “Pendula”) for USDA zones 5 through 8. Spreaders grow wider than they are tall, like “Shirotae,” a variety of the species Prunus serrulata. Columnar trees have a tall and narrow shape, growing from 40 to 60 feet tall.