Cornelian cherry - plants, cut and multiply

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The Cornelian cherry is widespread, especially in southern Europe. But even with us, the large shrub thrives magnificently with proper care.


The Cornelian cherry is one of the dogwood plants and is also known under the name Herlitze, Dirndling, Hirlnuss or Tierlibaum. Especially in southern Europe, the large shrubs are widespread. They reach heights of growth between four and eight meters. For centuries, the plant has been native to our latitudes and was partially verwildert from the gardens.

The shrubs grow very slowly and can be more than 100 years old. The long and eye-catching flower makes the Cornelian Cherry a popular eye-catcher in the late-late winter garden. The plant can also be cut as a hedge. In the home garden, the attractive early bloomer delivers a rendezvous with witch hazel and forsythia.

Spread of the Cornelian cherry

The actual distribution of the Cornelian Cherry is located in the eastern Mediterranean. The plants are predominantly found in Turkey or the Caucasus. Notable occurrences are also reported from Luxembourg, southern Russia and southern Belgium. In Germany, cornelian cherries are increasingly found in the Jena area or in the Rhine and Mosel areas wild. There, the plant is often found in the immediate vicinity of ivy, hornbeam, hazelnut shrubs or rose species. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the plant was even included in the Red List of Endangered Species.

A look at the history books

As excavation finds prove, the Cornelian cherry was already used in the Neolithic period. Layers of cornelian kernels have been found in Italian pile dwellings, suggesting that the plant was used as a food by ancient people. The wood also had great importance in ancient times. Thus the Trojan horse, according to traditions of the Greek writer Pausanias, is said to have consisted of cornelian wood. In ancient Rome spears and lances were made of hardwood. Homer, on the other hand, referred to Cornelian cherries as the preferred food for pigs.

Use of the cornelian cherry

Although the use of the plant today is limited mostly to the ornamental wood with its showy flowering, our ancestors used both the fruits as well as the wood, the bark, the leaves and the flowers. The fruits produced fruit brandies, juices and jams. Knife handles, cobblestones, wheel spokes and various tools were made from the conspicuously hard wood of the cornelian cherry. The bark is attributed to a fever-reducing effect and the fruits were used in natural medicine for the relief of gastrointestinal complaints. In Turkey, the ripe fruits are also pickled in vinegar and oil and eaten like olives.

Types of Cornus

As the following overview illustrates, there is a whole range of cultivated varieties of Cornus, which have some differences in flowering, fruit and growth habit.

Kornelkirsch speciesparticularities
Alba❍ grows very slowly
❍ is only about five feet high
❍ fruits almost white
Aurea❍ yellow leaves
❍ red fruits
Jolico❍ yellow flowers
❍ big, red fruits
❍ maturity from August
pyramidalis❍ rare plant
❍ upright growth
❍ spherical fruits
shan❍ strikingly large buds
❍ rich carrying
❍ big fruits
variegata❍ leaves outlined in white
❍ only gets up to four meters high
❍ small, red fruits
violacea❍ very old variety
❍ very rare
❍ purple fruits

When does the Cornelian cherry blossom?

The Cornelian cherry surprises with its early flowering. In our latitudes, the yellow flowers show up in March and thus often before the forsythia shrub. The golden yellow flowers are extremely decorative and have, like all dogwood plants, four petals. Even before the leaves burst the flower buds. These are produced already in the fall. Leaf and flower buds differed in their shape. While the leaf buds are formed in spring and rather elongate, the flower buds already formed in the fall are spherical.

Plant Cornelian Cherry - All facts at a glance

If you want to plant cornelian cherries, you should note that these are heartworms. The plants therefore have no conventional root ball. They grow almost vertically into the ground with their main roots. In addition, several roots are created, which spread radially around the main roots. This guarantees the stability of the cornelian cherry. You will therefore often be offered the plants in the trade as a container plant.

The plant is quite robust and is preferably planted in the fall.Then the Cornelian cherry still has enough time to develop its characteristic roots and grow well until winter.


At its location, the cornelian cherry makes few claims. A shade place would get the plant but less, because cornelian cherries love the heat. A sunny and warm location is therefore ideal. The plant also tolerates partial shade. Likewise, windy locations are no problem for the sturdy plant. Heat and drought are largely tolerated.

❍ floor:

Cornelian cherries do not like dry, but not too wet, soils and can be sensitive to waterlogging. The plant tolerates prolonged dryness but generally better than persistent wetness. It is therefore important to find a good middle ground. Waterlogging can be used, for example. Prevent it by applying a drainage of stones or clay. Cornelian cherries have a preference for calcareous soils, but also tolerate slightly acidic substrate.

❍ Planting instructions:

The best time to plant cornelian cherries is in the fall. After finding the right location, just do the following:

  1. Lift planting hole. When planting hedge, keep a distance of about 80 centimeters between plants.
  2. Insert plant and shake so that the soil spreads well.
  3. Close the planting hole and work the compost into the soil.
  4. Then pour well.

Maintaining Cornelian Cherries - How to do it right

❍ pouring:

Since the plant tolerates dryness better than wet, the shrub may also stand dry for a long time. However, the plant will then limit its growth and produce less fruit. If you are hoping for a rich harvest, you should make sure that the soil is watered regularly. Waterlogging should never occur.

❍ Fertilize:

The plants are very frugal and do not need too nutrient-rich soil. In addition, fertilizer inputs over the year are not necessary. If you mix compost in the soil in the spring, the Cornelian cherry is supplied with sufficient nutrients.

❍ pruning:

The Cornelian cherry grows very slowly and therefore does not necessarily have to be cut back. If you want to plant the shrubs as a hedge, you will have to deal with the pruning so that the hedge retains its shape. The plants are generally very good cut compatible. With a pruning the flowering is also supported and prevents overaging. If you regularly remove dead shoots and cut off long-grown shoots, you will ensure well-grown plants that bloom vigorously and produce rich fruit.

The cutting of the cornelian cherry should always be done immediately after flowering. Then give the plant enough time to form new shoots and plant the flower buds for the next season in the fall.

❍ overwintering:

The cornelian is considered hardy, so no additional protection is necessary. To create a natural barrier against severe frosts, the foliage can serve as protection. During the winter months you must take special care that the plant does not come into contact with road salt. The cornelian cherries react very sensitively to this and can even be damaged after years.

How can cornus cherries be propagated?


The propagation of the cornelian cherry is possible through seeds, cuttings and sinkers. All three options explained here in more detail.

❍ Propagation by seeds:

Propagation by seeds is not an easy task. The seed would take up to two winters for germination. This process can be accelerated by keeping the seeds warm for about a quarter of a year. Then the seeds have to be left in the fridge for another three months. The seeds are then placed in pots with moist peat and provided with a glass or plastic hood to accelerate germination. The sowing in the field takes place then in the autumn.

❍ Propagation by cuttings:

This form of propagation is rather easily possible. In the winter months to just cut the about 20 centimeters long cuttings. On frost-free days, the cuttings can then go directly into the ground. You can also cool the cuttings in moist, cool, winter, when permafrost prevails.

❍ Propagation by sinkers:

In order to propagate through sinkers, you must first loosen up the soil next to the plant. There you then draw a groove into which the shoot then comes. Then you must cover the gutter with earth and complain, so that the shoot finds support in the ground. The upper end of the drive remains free and must be attached to a plant rod. This then ensures an upright growth. If the sinker has formed enough roots and the first shoots show up, you can separate it from the mother plant. Until then, however, several years can pass.

Detect pests and diseases in the Cornus

The plants are generally quite robust and are hardly affected by pests or diseases.Care mistakes can only lead to a drying of the leaves. In addition, shoots and leaves can sustainably be damaged if the roots come into contact with road salt in winter. Young and weak plants are also occasionally vulnerable to fungal diseases. The following malodors occur most frequently in the Cornus:

❍ leaf spot disease:

Leaf blotch is a fungal infection that infests numerous ornamental and crop plants in the home gardens. The disease is shown on the leaves, which get yellowish to brownish spots. In the center, a fruiting body becomes visible. The plants appear visibly weakened and die untreated after some time.

➜ What needs to be done?

  • Cut back generously (clippings must not on the compost!)
  • disinfect used tools
  • Treatment with Neudo Vital Mushroom Protection (available from Amazon, for example)
  • repeated use necessary

Important: The mentioned mushroom preparation does not work in rainy weather.

❍ mildew:

An infestation with powdery mildew can be recognized by a flour-like coating on the leaves. Initially, this coating can be easily stripped off with your fingers. As the process progresses, the initial white deposits turn gray or brown. The leaves curl up and the plant remains in growth.

➜ What needs to be done?

  • Treatment with field horsetail stock (recipe for field horsetail stock)
  • Generously remove affected parts of plants
  • Repeat spraying of the plant several times

Video Board: Propagating Nanking Cherry.

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