Home Orchards: Stone Fruit Variety Selection

Available peach, nectarine, and apricot varieties will do well on frost-free sites in warmer areas of the state, but where winter temperatures dip as low as -10 degrees, they are a risk.
Home Orchards: Stone Fruit Variety Selection - Articles


Currently, no suitable dwarfing rootstocks exist for peaches, nectarines, plums, or apricot that will survive under Pennsylvania conditions. Dwarfing rootstocks have been introduced for cherries. It is doubtful that the available peach, nectarine, and apricot varieties will do well in the colder areas of the state.

Peach Varieties

The number in parentheses is the number of days a variety ripens before (-) or after (+) Redhaven.


(-20) The first early peach of the season with any quality, its fruit are yellow and medium in size. A large percentage of the fruit tend to produce split seeds, which limits this variety's usefulness in canning. The fruit ripens approximately 20 days before Redhaven.

Harrow Diamond

(-15) A medium to medium-large fruit with an attractive scarlet-red skin over a greenish-yellow ground color. The fruit is semiclingstone.

Garnet Beauty

(-10) A good early peach that ripens just before Redhaven. Semiclingstone to freestone, very productive, and medium sized.


(-8) This yellow-fleshed peach is attractive, medium large in size, moderately firm and semifreestone. This variety has low susceptibility to bacterial spot.


(-6) Developed in New Hampshire, its chief advantage is that it has better-than-average bud hardiness. The fruit quality is only fair, but if growers are on a marginal site in the state for growing peaches, this is the only variety they should try.


(0) The standard and most popular peach variety in the industry. The fruit quality is good, although fruit size may be small if it is not properly thinned. The fruit has above-average quality for freezing but below-average quality for canning. The average first harvest in southcentral Pennsylvania is around August 1. In central Pennsylvania it is around August 8.


(+4) Released from Agriculture Canada at the Harrow Station, this is a productive freestone with medium to large, round fruit. It has good winter hardiness and is reported to have some resistance to bacterial spot and brown rot.


(+14) A medium to medium-large fruit with a crimson-red skin. Fruit is firm and freestone. Tree has low susceptibility to bacterial spot.


(+16) A red sport of Sunhigh found in an orchard in Boyertown, Pa. The fruit is very firm and of a high quality, and the flowers are very showy and large.


(+21) This is a productive, winter-hardy variety. The fruit is medium to large and freezes well. It also is sometimes listed in nursery catalogs as Canadian Harmony.


(+24) This firm-fleshed, high-quality peach is good for freezing. The trees are more tolerant to frost than other varieties and are recommended in northern areas of the state.


(+27) The fruit is medium to large, nearly round, and very uniform. The color is golden, overlaid with an abundance of bright red. This is a yellow-fleshed freestone that shows considerable red around the pit. Harvest is approximately 27 days after Redhaven.


(+30) A large-size, 60 to 70 percent crimson-red fruit with a greenish-yellow ground color. Fruit is firm freestone and ripens in late August to early September.

Nectarine Varieties


A medium, dark red-skinned fruit with a yellow ground color. Fruit are semifreestone. The flavor is somewhat acidic but very good. It matures about 7 to 10 days before Redhaven peach.


A medium to large fruit with bright-red skin with an orange-yellow ground color. The fruit are semiclingstone and ripen approximately 4 days before Redhaven peach.

Crimson Snow

This is a new white-fleshed nectarine that has a pinkish overcolor with a slight greenish ground color. Fruit may be on the small size and needs to be heavily thinned. Fruit ripens with Redhaven peach.


A large, yellow-fleshed fruit that is firm, highly colored, and of good quality. The tree is somewhat susceptible to bacterial spot. Harvest is approximately 27 days after Redhaven.


A good late-maturing freestone, whose skin color is red over yellow. The flesh is yellow with red around the pit. It is susceptible to bacterial spot. Harvest is approximately 20 days after Redhaven.

Apricot Varieties

Although apricots have good flower hardiness to low winter temperatures, they tend to bloom too early. Therefore, plant them only on the best sites or in a sheltered area. All the apricots listed are self-fruitful.


Introduced from Canada, this has been a consistent producer when not frosted out. It needs to be well thinned to achieve acceptable size. The fruit is attractive with a red blush, has good fresh quality for the early season, but is unsuitable for canning. Harvest is approximately the first week in July in southcentral Pennsylvania. Reports from New York indicate the fruit is resistant to brown rot and bacterial spot.


The fruit is medium to large, round, and very firm with a deep-orange color. The flesh is smooth textured, slightly juicy, and cans well. Harvest is approximately the second week in July.


Developed in Harrow, Ontario, these glossy fruits average a 50 percent orange-red surface blush. The fruit is somewhat flattened but has a mild good flavor. Reports from New York indicate the fruit is resistant to brown rot and bacterial spot.


A medium-sized fruit that has a bright-red, glossy blush over an orange background. Tree growth is very upright, and the trees are very resistant to cold. Ripens about July 21 in southcentral Pennsylvania. Reports from New York indicate the fruit is resistant to brown rot.


Bright-red, blushed fruit, often small in size, therefore requiring careful thinning. The fruit is best suited for fresh eating. Harvest is approximately the third to fourth week in July. Reports from New York indicate the fruit is resistant to brown rot and bacterial spot.

Cherry Varieties

Cherries can be classified into two types: sweet and tart. The sweets are used mainly for fresh eating, while the tarts are used for pies and canning. Sweets have a disadvantage--the fruit will split or crack as it approaches maturity if rainfall occurs. Some of the sweets are less susceptible to this tendency and should be the only ones planted. With both sweet and tart cherries, bird damage will be a major problem; steps should be taken to reduce bird feeding. Tart cherries are self-fruitful and do not require a pollinizer. Many of the older sweet cherries, on the other hand, do require specific varieties for pollinators (see compatibility chart below). The exceptions are four recently released self-fertile varieties: Lapins, Starkrimson, Stella, and Sunburst it is not necessary to plant more than one variety. Little is known, however, about these varieties' performance in Pennsylvania.

Cherries: Tart Varieties


A new tart cherry developed in Hungary. The fruit are very large and have a dark red flesh. Although it is considered a tart cherry it is not as tart as Montmorency. Fruit has very high sugar levels.


A popular variety from Europe, the fruit are dark red and slightly sweeter than Montmorency. The fruit are medium to large. The trees may be a little less winter hardy than Montmorency. Fruit ripens about 1 week before Montmorency.


This is the number one tart variety and the industry standard. It is productive, but the flowers are susceptible to late spring frosts. It ripens around the last week of June to the first week of July.


A recent introduction from Cornell University. This tart variety is late blooming thereby, avoiding damage from spring frosts. The fruit is bright red and medium in size.


A new late-maturing tart variety that ripens about 7 to 10 days after Montmorency. The fruit is large, very firm with a red burgundy juicy flesh.


A dark-juiced cherry with mahogany-red fruit, medium in size. Trees are very hardy and small, which makes them easier to cover with a net to keep birds out. It ripens about July 7 in southcentral Pennsylvania.


Medium-sized, semifirm, good-quality fruit. The trees are somewhat larger than Northstar and are equally hardy. Because the oddly shaped pit can shatter during processing, this variety has not been commercially accepted; for home use, this is not a problem. Harvest is approximately 3 to 7 days after Northstar.

Cherries: Sweet Varieties

The following list of sweet cherry varieties are all self-unfertile and will require a compatible pollen source. Before ordering from a nursery, be sure the varieties you have chosen are compatible.


A nearly black, excellent-quality fruit, 7/8 inch in size. It ripens around the last week in June.


A medium-sized, firm, dark-skinned, dark-fleshed cherry introduced from New York. Harvest is approximately 2 days after Vista.


Released from the Vineland Research Station in Canada. The fruit is dark red and 3/4 inch in diameter. It ripens around July 4.


Early season crack-resistant black cherry. It is a vigorous tree that crops consistently and ripens around July 4.


Released from the New York Agricultural Experiment Station as a large dark sweet cherry, it has high sugar levels in the fruit and is somewhat crack resistant. It is cross-compatible with Emperor Francis, Kristin, Sam, Schmidt, and Ulster.

Emperor Francis

A large, high-quality cherry of the Napoleon type, but less subject to cracking. It can be used either for brining or for fresh use. The fruit has an attractive red blush over a yellowish background. The harvest date is approximately 1 week after Vista.


An early ripening, large, black sweet cherry. The tree is large, vigorous, and upright, and it blooms later than most other sweets. The fruit has good resistance to rain-induced cracking. The harvest date is approximately 11 days after Vista. Sam is pollen incompatible with Royalton and Schmidt.


Introduced from Norway, the fruit averages 1 inch in diameter. It is of a good quality, combining good flavor and high sugar content. It has moderate resistance to rain cracking. Harvest is approximately the last week in June in southcentral Pennsylvania. Kristin is pollen incompatible with Somerset and Group I cherries.


Introduced in 1983 from Canada, it produces medium-large, firm, good-quality, dark glossy-red cherries. It is productive and has good crack resistance. Harvest is approximately July 2 in southcentral Pennsylvania.


This is a medium-large, firm, good-quality black cherry with moderate resistance to cracking. Trees are early bearing and very productive. Harvest is approximately July 3 in southcentral Pennsylvania.

Sweet Cherry Pollination Compatibility Chart

Many of the older cherry varieties are self unfruitful; they produce viable pollen but are not always compatible with all varieties. Many sweet cherry groups are cross-incompatible. Varieties within a group should not be planted together without a suitable pollinizer. Below are some of the more common cross-incompatible groupings of the varieties recommended in this guide, as well as some commonly advertised in nursery catalogs. The Roman numeral indicates the classification group used by breeders.

  • I. Bing, Lambert, Napoleon, Emperor Francis
  • VI. Stark's Gold, Hartland
  • IX. Van, Venus, Windsor
  • X. Gold, Viva, Vogue
  • XI. Hedelfingen, Vic, Ulster
  • XII. Hudson, Schmidt, Rainier, Viscount
  • XIII. Seneca, Vega, Vista

Self-fertile Sweet Cherry Varieties

The following list contains cherry varieties that are all self-fertile. Therefore, you can plant just a single tree if you only have space for one. They can also be used as universal pollen donors for any of the self-unfertile varieties listed above, as long as their bloom periods overlap. Even though they are self-fertile, they may not be immune to cracking or bird depredation. Many of these varieties were developed in the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, we do not have good data on how they will perform in Pennsylvania.


Large, wine-red colored fruit have a kidney shape and purple juice. Vandalay was developed in Vineland, Canada.


This is a large, dark-red fruit. Trees are productive but can be tender in cold winters; it is not recommended in more northern areas of the state. Its outstanding feature is that it is self-fertile.


A mid-season cherry developed in Ontario, Canada. Cracking can be a problem.


Developed in British Columbia and introduced in 1996. It is sometimes labeled as Sumleta™. The fruit is very large, black, and moderately sweet.


An early mid-season, self-fertile, sweet cherry selection developed by Cornell University. Its primary use is for processing and would be used in a similar fashion as Napoleon (Royal Anne). It has considerable potential for brining and processing markets that currently use Royal Ann (Napoleon).


Introduced in 1997 from British Columbia, the fruit is bright red and matures late in the season. The fruit is moderately sweet and very large. Of the varieties released from this program, it has shown better rain-cracking resistance.


A late mid-season, self-fertile, sweet cherry selection developed by Cornell University. This is the latest-blooming sweet cherry in the Cornell collection and it has remarkable tolerance to spring frost. Its primary use is for fresh eating.


Developed in British Columbia and introduced in 1983. Fruit is large and firm. Trees are productive.


This was released from the Summerland Research Center in British Columbia. One of its parents is Stella, which makes this variety self-fertile. The fruit is very large and somewhat crack resistant.


A dark mahogany cherry that is very large. It is superior to Lapins, but its cracking susceptibility is unknown. Blooms in mid-season.


A high-quality cherry developed in British Columbia, Canada. Fruit matures late and is very large. Trees are productive, yielding dark-red, medium to large fruit that is firm with a good flavor.