Variety Sylvia


Article by David Marks

Sylvia was raised in British Columbia, Canada and first released in 1987. It was specifically bred to be weak growing, upright and suitable for growing in containers.

Use the checklist below to decide if the Sylvia cherry tree variety is correct for you and your garden. If this is not the correct variety, see our cherry tree varieties page, to select another variety which may suit you better.

  • The fruits of Sylvia are produced mid season, ready for eating, on average, in the second week of July.
  • Fruits are of average size. They are dark red and have a sweet flavour.
  • The picking period is seven days.
  • The parents of Sylvia are Van and Sam.
  • This variety reliably produces a good amount of fruit.
  • Disease resistance is good with no significant problem areas.
  • Sylvia is normally self-fertile but will crop better with a suitable pollination partner.
  • Naturally a compact tree, an excellent choice for container growing.
  • It is fully hardy in all parts of the UK (however, see above about blossom) and a good choice for cooler areas.

Sylvia variety of cherries
Picture from public sector information licensed under the Open Government
Licence v2.0.


Sylvia is rarely found in your local garden centre but is also available online from a few suppliers on Gisela 5 and Colt rootstock.  It is best grown on Colt rootstock and pruned to the required height. It can be bought as both a potted tree (generally more expensive) all year round or as a bare-rooted tree from October to March (cheaper). We would  recommend buying bare-rooted.


Sylvia is in pollination group 3 to 4, mainly self-fertile but will benefit a suitable pollination partner to produce fruit. The following varieties produces blossom at roughly the same time (late April to early May) and are suitable for pollinating Sylvia. They are easily obtainable in the UK:

  • Van, pollination group 3, eating variety
  • Summer Sun, pollination group 3 to 4, eating variety
  • Sweetheart, pollination group 3 to 4, eating variety
  • Stella, pollination group 4, cooking variety
  • Sunburst, pollination group 4, eating variety
  • Morello, pollination group 4, cooking variety



On Colt rootstock Sylvia will grow to about 3m / 10ft tall when it has reached maturity after about 7 years. With an annual prune it can easily be kept to 2m / 6ft high for a manageable tree in most gardens. We do not recommend growing it on Gisela 5 rootstock unless intended for a container.


The variety Sylvia is suitable for growing in containers. Choose one which is grown on the smallest cherry tree rootstock which is Gisela 5.

Use a pot which is heavy if possible (not plastic) to help it not being blown over in heavy winds. A pot size of at least 50cm / 20in wide is best, the larger the better to reduce the need for frequent watering. It’s best for stability if the pot is the same width at the top as the base – pots with a small base are more easily blown over.

Ensure you put some stones in the base of the pot before planting the tree to help drainage and provide some weight at the base. Fill with a John Innes loam type of compost although multi-purpose compost will do a similar job. The pot should have several drainage in the base to allow excess water to escape.

Feed twice a year with a handful of fish, blood and bone fertiliser. Don’t feed with nitrogen rich fertilisers, they will reduce the amount of fruit it produces. To some gardeners this can sound a slightly harsh regime, especially given the adverts for Miracle Gro and other nitrogen rich fertilisers. But for fruit trees in containers, they really do produce the best fruit (in volume and taste) when slightly “starved” of food.

Water frequently, especially in warm weather, this can mean once a day in warm weather. If you can possibly water with rainwater that is by far the best. Rainwater can be collected in a water butt (see here for our recommendations).


Click on the box below to see the full range of cherry tree varieties which we have reviewed in detail. Click on any one of them to see the full variety review.



The following are the key rules for growing this variety, click here for more detailed information about growing and pruning cherry trees:

  • Plant and grow in a full sun position.
  • The best time to plant Sylvia is in late autumn to early winter. It can be planted at other times of year but will require watering more frequently to ensure it establishes well.
  • Plant the tree to the same depth as it was in the pot. If planting bare-rooted trees you will see a natural soil mark just above the roots which indicates the correct depth for planting.
  • Spread an 8cm / 3in layer of mulch around the base of the tree but not touching the main trunk. A mulched circle of about 1m / 3ft will be sufficient. This will retain moisture in the soil below and greatly help the tree to establish well.
  • Water very well immediately after planting.
  • Stake the tree for the first its life on a Colt rootstock.
  • In the first summer after planting the tree, water well if conditions become dry.
  • Prune Sylvia in the first year according to the suppliers instructions. Prune annually in later years, immediately after the fruit has stopped being produced which will be about the third  week of July for Sylvia. See our detailed article on pruning cherry trees.
  • An annual mulch in late Spring will help to retain moisture and an even supply of water.
  • If any pests or diseases appear treat them as soon as possible. Consult our cherry tree pest and disease page for detailed information on identifying and treating problems.