Nanking Cherry Makes Bees Happy

Honey bees are happy to find my Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa) is now in full bloom.

Some shrubs are planted as hedges and others are planted for their foliage. But I planted my Nanking Cherry several years ago just to make the bees happy.

Today the shrub is in full bloom, loaded with lovely pinkish-white blossoms that cover every dark brown branch from top to bottom. It’s always the first shrub to bloom in my yard, well before I’ve had a chance to tidy up the perennial garden. Dark green leaves will follow shortly.

It’s always a nice surprise to look out my office window and see these flowers burst open in April looking a little like a popcorn bush, while many other trees and shrubs are just starting to think about spring.

The Nanking Cherry is a good choice for gardens and gardeners in Zone 3 and higher. It’s hardy through cold, dry winters. It grows quickly and can spread to at least 6 feet wide. It can also take the summer heat and wouldn’t consider wilting even when times are dry.

But I think its best attribute is being able to serve up an early sweet treat for hungry honey bees. There’s not much food available for them just yet.

In summer, these blossoms will grow into small cherries that ripen to a bright red. I like their tart taste, but leave them on the bush for birds and other wildlife to enjoy.

Arbor Day is just around the corner and if you don’t have room in your yard for another tree, consider planting a Nanking Cherry. The bees will definitely appreciate your efforts.


 

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Comments

Wow, Jodi! I can’t believe your Nanking cherry is blooming. How exciting! I planted the first of three the other day (it’s quite the process digging and planting with the one-year old in the backpack), and look forward to their early blooms. I’m glad to know the bees love them, too. Grant’s been feeding the hives with sugar syrup because there isn’t anything out there for them. Have you eaten the fruit? How is it?

Hi Amy–thanks for dropping by. I think you’ll love your Nanking cherry shrubs, that is as soon as you finish planting them. I seem to remember mine grew quickly and now it’s the star of the show each spring. The cherries are small and tart so I leave them for the birds, although I like to nibble the few that they miss.

I just purchased my first Nanking cherry plants. I live in zone 8. Do you have any advice for the plants this far south?

Hi Becky:

Thanks so much for dropping by WesternGardeners.com and asking about growing Nanking cherry shrubs. Because I’ve grown them only in Zone 5, I’m not sure I have any advice for growing them in Zone 8 conditions. I do know from experience, these are very hardy shrubs.

However, you may want to contact the County Extension office in your area and ask a horticulture agent who is more familiar with growing in a warmer climate.

Sorry I couldn’t be more help–but thanks again for getting in touch.

Regards,
Jodi

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