Bush cherries are cherries that grow on a shrub or bush instead of a tree. There are several types of cherries with the common name of bush cherry including Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena), Hansen’s Bush Cherry – also sometimes called Sand Cherry (Prunus bessyi), Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa), Prunus cerasus X Prunus fruiticosa, and Prunus japonica x P. jacquemontii. That last one is the only one I have tasted the fruit from so far.
Bush cherries can be grown as a hedge, windbreak, or as a single shrub in situations where you may not want a cherry tree. Their cherry-like fruit may not be recognized by the passerby as an edible fruit and so if planted along a sidewalk you may not have the fruit picked by others without permission. The bush cherries I planted ripen later than tree cherries and so a crop may not be lost due to weather or birds and is also late enough to not attract cherry fruit fly.
The fruit of Prunus japonica x P. jacquemontii is red like Montmorency tart cherries and has a simliar flavor and size. At my house they ripen around the first part of August. My two shrubs purchased by mailorder from Hartmann’s Plant Company are about 1′ tall and are producing a small amount of fruit. Their mature size is 4 x 4′ when they will be producing a few pounds of fruit. A minimum of two bushes of different varieties should be planted.
Bush cherries vary in mature height from 4′ up to 10′ or more. Flavor, color, size, and harvest time and quantity will also vary. Some would be better used for jams than fresh eating. Bush cherries may also keep birds away from other fruit in your yard that ripens at the same time. Bush cherries are something you may want to consider in place of non-edible shrubs in your yard.