Ornamental Cherry Trees & Fruit: Sorting Out Misconceptions

Discover the enchanting beauty of cherry trees! For generations, these stunning trees have captivated individuals with their vibrant flowers and delicious fruits.

The differences between ornamental and fruiting cherry trees can be a bit confusing, and questions regarding fruit production and edibility are common.

Ornamental cherry trees produce fruit, but they are typically small, less than half an inch in diameter, and not particularly palatable to humans due to their bitter taste. Rather than their fruit, they are primarily grown for their stunning spring blossoms and attractive form.

If you’re intrigued by this initial revelation, read on! You’ll learn all about the fascinating differences between ornamental and fruiting cherry trees, including their flowering habits, seasonal interests, fruit production, care needs, and wildlife value.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the perfect cherry tree for your needs and preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Ornamental cherry trees are bred for their beautiful blossoms and generally produce small, bitter fruits. Fruiting cherry trees produce larger, sweeter cherries for culinary use.
  • Both ornamental and fruiting cherry trees offer year-round interest and provide value to wildlife.
  • Some ornamental cherry trees, such as ‘Autumnalis’ and ‘Yoshino’, produce small but more palatable fruits.
  • The choice between an ornamental and a fruiting cherry tree depends on your goal, whether that’s aesthetic appeal, wildlife attraction, or fruit production.

There is so much to learn about cherry blossom trees! Find answers to your concerns and get expert insights into cherry tree care in my detailed article, Ornamental Cherry Tree Questions.

Ornamental Cherry Trees vs. Fruiting Cherry Trees

When it comes to cherry trees, understanding the difference between ornamental and fruiting varieties is key.

Both types have unique characteristics and uses, making them suitable for different purposes and settings.

Ornamental Cherry Trees

Ornamental cherry trees are a sight to behold. These trees are celebrated for their spectacular springtime display of blossoms, which can range from white to deep pink.


Ornamental cherry trees are renowned for their profuse flowering. In spring, they are covered in a cloud of blossoms that can last for several weeks.

The flowers are usually small and borne in clusters, creating a stunning visual effect.

Seasonal Interest

Beyond their spring blossoms, ornamental cherry trees offer year-round interest.

Their leaves provide a vibrant display of color in the fall, and their attractive bark and overall form add winter interest.

Fruit Production

While ornamental cherry trees do produce fruit, it’s not the kind you’d typically associate with cherry trees.

The fruits are small, often less than half an inch in diameter, and not tasty due to their bitter flavor. However, they can be a food source for birds and other wildlife.

Care Needs

Ornamental cherry trees require well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade, and routine watering.

They are relatively low in maintenance needs but do benefit from regular pruning to maintain their shape and health.

It’s also important to monitor for pests and diseases, such as aphids and cherry blossom blight.

Wildlife Value

Despite their small and bitter fruits, ornamental cherry trees offer significant value to wildlife.

The blossoms attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, and the fruits provide food for birds. The trees can also serve as nesting sites for certain bird species.

Lovely pink cherry blossoms against a bright blue sky.

Fruiting Cherry Trees

Fruiting cherry trees, as the name suggests, are grown primarily for their delicious and sweet fruits. These are the trees that give us the cherries we enjoy fresh off the tree and in pies and jams.


Like their ornamental counterparts, fruiting cherry trees put on a beautiful display of blossoms in the spring.

However, the flowers are typically followed by the development of larger, edible cherries.

Seasonal Interest

Fruiting cherry trees also offer seasonal interest, with blossoms in the spring, fruit in the summer, and colorful foliage in the fall. Their winter silhouette is less ornamental but still attractive.

Fruit Production

The main event for fruiting cherry trees is, of course, their fruit production.

The cherries are larger and sweeter than those of ornamental varieties, making them perfect for eating fresh or using in cooking and baking.

Care Needs

Fruiting cherry trees require a bit more care than ornamental varieties.

They need well-drained soil and plenty of sun, and they also require regular pruning to promote fruit production and maintain tree health.

Pest and disease management is crucial as issues like cherry flies and fungal diseases can affect fruit quality.

Wildlife Value

Fruiting cherry trees also offer value to wildlife. Birds and other animals enjoy the sweet fruits, and the blossoms attract pollinators.

However, if you’re growing these trees for the fruit, you may need to take measures to protect the cherries from wildlife.

A cherry tree loaded with ripe cherries.

Why Ornamental Cherry Trees Generally Don’t Produce Edible Fruit

Ornamental cherry trees are primarily bred for their aesthetic appeal, particularly their profuse and beautiful blossoms.

The focus on these visual characteristics often comes at the expense of fruit development. As a result, while these trees do produce fruit, it’s typically small and not palatable to humans.

The tree’s energy is directed more toward flower production and less toward fruit development, resulting in more appealing fruits to birds and other wildlife than to people.

Ornamental Cherry Trees That Do Produce Fruit

While most ornamental cherry trees produce small, bitter fruits, there are exceptions.

Some varieties, such as the ‘Autumnalis’ and ‘Yoshino’ cherry, produce small fruits that, while not as large or sweet as those of fruiting cherry trees, are less bitter and palatable than other ornamental varieties.

These can be a pleasant surprise in the landscape, offering a dual benefit of beautiful blossoms and small fruits.

How To Decide Between Ornamental and Fruiting Cherry Tree

Choosing between an ornamental and a fruiting cherry tree depends on your goals.

An ornamental cherry tree might be the best choice if you’re looking for a tree that offers stunning spring blossoms and year-round visual interest.

These trees are also a good choice if you want to attract wildlife to your yard.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in harvesting cherries for eating or cooking, a fruiting cherry tree would be the better option.

These trees still offer beautiful blossoms, but they also produce large, sweet cherries that are perfect for culinary uses and enjoying straight off the tree.

Related Questions:

Can You Eat the Cherries From an Ornamental Cherry Tree?

Technically, yes, you can eat the cherries from an ornamental cherry tree.

However, they are typically small and have a bitter taste that most people find unappealing. They are not toxic, but they are not particularly enjoyable to eat either.

Is Ornamental Cherry Wood Good To Burn?

Yes, cherry wood, including that from ornamental cherry trees, is good for burning. It burns slowly and produces a good amount of heat, making it a popular choice for firewood.

However, it’s important to remember that cutting down a tree for firewood should be a last resort as trees provide many environmental benefits.

Closing Thoughts

Ornamental and fruiting cherry trees each offer unique benefits and can bring beauty and interest to your landscape.

Whether you’re drawn to the spectacular spring blossoms of ornamental varieties or the sweet, juicy fruits of fruiting varieties, a cherry tree is perfect for your needs.

We hope this article has helped clear up some misconceptions and provided useful information to guide your choice.

The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to grow healthy and gorgeous cherry trees. Continue learning by reading these articles next: