Trees and plants with the common name “cherry” grow in Florida, but traditional cherry trees of the genus Prunus, with their distinctive, small fleshy fruits, require cold temperatures and more chilling hours than the Florida climate provides. The Ornamental Prunus species grow in Florida, as well as other trees and shrubs commonly called “cherries.” Surinum cherry is invasive in South Florida.
Black cherry (Prunus serotina) grows 60 to 90 feet tall, with an oval shape. It is a deciduous tree with dark green, shiny leaves that turn yellow, orange or red in fall, depending on weather conditions. Black cherry leaves and twigs are poisonous to animals if consumed in large quantities, according to University of Florida extension.
Grow black cherry trees in part shade, part sun, or full sun in well-drained soils. Black cherry trees have high drought tolerance and are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 3B through 9A. Cherry laurels (Prunus caroliniana) are similar to black cherry trees, but evergreen, and have weak branches and messy berries.
Brabados cherry (Malpighia glabra) is a large shrub or small tree when pruned to a central trunk. Its shiny light green to deep green leaves vary in size and shape and its blooms vary by cultivar as well, ranging from pink to rose. The Barbados cherry flowers in spring and throughout the summer months. It fruits from May to November with an edible crop used fresh or juiced, or made into jams and pies.
Grow Barbados cherry in well-drained sites, and in protected locations when grown in central Florida and northward. Allow for at least 15 feet of space between plants or closer if grown as a hedge. Plant different varieties for best fruit production. Protect young trees when temperatures fall below 30 F. Mature trees tolerate temperatures as low as 28 F for short periods.
Weeping Higan Cherry
Weeping Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella cv. Pendula) is a graceful tree growing 20 to 30 feet tall with 15 to 25 foot spread. It is a deciduous tree with drooping branches of glossy green leaves that turn yellow in fall. Very showy, light pink, 1-inch flowers cover the branches each spring before the leaves emerge. Its small fruit attracts squirrels and other small animals.
Grow weeping Higan cherry in full sun on various, well-drained soils. Grow in USDA zones 5A through 8B.