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How to Grow And Care For Cherry Trees

Last Updated on November 14, 2022 by Plant Mom Care

Cherries belong to the Prunus genus and are related to other fruit trees, several wild species, and ornamental flowering trees. There are thousands of fruiting varieties but these stone fruits are categorized into two main types – sweet or sour cherries.

Sweet cherries typically are juicy and rich with a sweet flavor and are eaten fresh, dried, frozen, or cooked. They thrive in climates of mild temperatures and low humidity. They are a bit difficult to cultivate as they need rich and fertile soil and prefer growing in zone 5 to zone 7. They are self-sterile, so you have to plant 2 or 3 trees nearby for pollination and producing fruit.

Sour cherries prefer cooler temperatures and prefer growing in zone 4 to zone 6, needing about two months of temperatures below 40 °F. They are beautiful trees for landscaping in spring and are cold-tolerant, disease resistant, self-fertile, and can adapt to poor soil. They are largely used for cooking and baking.

Are cherry trees hard to grow

Growing either type requires some varying differences in care. They both need good air circulation, enough sunlight, and well-draining soil. They start bearing fruit after 3 – 7 years. Growing them from seeds takes plenty of time so it’s better to get young 1 – 2-year-old plants from a garden center. 

They come in standard and dwarf varieties that vary in mature height – standards grow to 25 – 30 feet high, while dwarfs grow 10 – 15 feet, making them easy to grow and maintain as well as growing them in containers.


Cherry Trees Light Requirements

Plant the tree where it receives a daily exposure of 8 hours of direct light because all fruit trees require full sunlight to produce fruit. A bit of shade during hot afternoons will be helpful in the southern ranges of their preferred zones.


Cherry Trees Watering

Young cherry trees need watering 2 – 3 times weekly, while established trees require less watering. The trees might need extra water in hot summers or in times of drought remember, soil can dry up faster in hot or windy conditions.

Can I grow a cherry tree in my backyard

A 3-inch mulch layer around the tree’s base will help the soil retain moisture and also moderate soil temperature. 


Cherry Trees Humidity

These trees prefer low humidity.


Cherry Trees Temperature

They prefer cool weather as high temperatures and humidity can interfere with their growth. The trees also need to undergo a period of cold to flower and produce fruit – the exact number of hours depends on the specific variety because of this need for a cold period, no plants from the Prunus genus can successfully be grown in tropical climates. 


Cherry Trees Soil

They need well-draining soil – growing them in rocky areas or clayey soil will be a problem. Dig the planting hole wider and deeper than normal and replace ¼ of the native soil with compost to give the tree a good chance to set and spread roots in its new home. 

Sour types prefer pH values of 6 or 7, while sweet types prefer pH values of 6.3 to 7.2.


Cherry Trees Repotting

Dwarf varieties can be grown in large pots – which is good for patios or small gardens. Repot the tree into a larger container after one year, then repot it every 2 – 3 years until it reaches its mature height.

Remember, always choose deep pots with plenty of drainage holes and try to repot in late autumn or winter to minimize damaging the roots. First, water the tree thoroughly for a few hours before repotting to keep the soil damp (this helps to loosen the soil). 

Grip the base of the stem and pull the tree up. If you’re relocating it to a larger container, fill in any empty spaces with a mixture of compost and soil and add some soil to the pot before placing the plant in it. 

Water thoroughly and keep the tree well watered for a few weeks

When the tree is mature, it will be difficult to repot, so replace 30 – 50% of the mix with a fresh combination of compost and soil every 2 years, to replenish the supply of nutrients.


Cherry Trees Propagation

Both sweet and sour cherries are propagated from hardwood or semi-hardwood cuttings. Semi-hardwood cuttings should be taken in summer when the wood is still somewhat soft and somewhat mature, while hardwood cuttings should be taken when the plant is dormant and the wood is mature and hard. 

First, prepare several 6-inch pots with a moistened mix of perlite and peat moss. Choose a leafed branch with 2 – 4 leaf nodes from a tree that is about five years old. Cuttings from older trees must be taken from young branches. Take 4 – 8-inch cuttings from the tree. 

Leaves should be removed from the bottom half of the cuttings. Dip the ends in rooting hormone, make a hole with a finger in the mix and insert the cutting, tamping down the mix around it. 

Place plastic bags over the containers and keep the cuttings in a sunlit area under 65°F. Keep them moist by misting them twice daily, remove the bags after 2 – 3 months to check if the cuttings have been rooted by tugging the cuttings gently. 

Continue growing them in the same pots until the roots fill up the pots then transfer the cuttings to one-gallon containers filled with a mix of compost and potting soil. Gradually acclimatize the new trees outdoors by placing the containers under shade during the day for about a week or so before transplanting. 

Cherry Trees Additional Care

These trees are low feeders so feed them with low-nitrogen fertilizers or general-purpose fertilizers at a half dose in spring. Apply compost twice a year around the tree in spring and summer to help flower and fruit production.

Prune away dead branches, once in spring before buds appear and once in summer after the fruits are harvested. Spring pruning should also remove any weak branches that can’t support the fruit and might potentially break. 

This provides the tree with strong fruit-bearing branches. Summer pruning is done to open the canopy to improve air circulation and prevent fungal infections.

Cherry Trees Common Problems

Pests like aphids, Japanese beetles, various caterpillars, mites, thrips, leafhoppers, cherry fruit flies, and borers can attack the trees. You can use a general fruit orchard spray to eliminate and control these bugs.

Diseases like powdery mildew, cankers, galls, and numerous types of fungi can affect fruit production. These diseases are harder to identify and control than pests. Neem oil and copper fungicide can remove most fungal problems.

Another common problem with cherry trees is “gummosis”. The trees release resin-like sap to heal wounds when the stems or trunk gets damaged. Most of these are minor injuries and the damage is easily fixed. Sometimes sap expulsion might be caused by cankers or borers, a sign of an infestation is sawdust around the tree’s base or beneath the area of sap exuding. Spray the tree with an appropriate fruit orchard spray.

If there is no sawdust, remove the sap and inspect the bark – if it’s brittle and dead, then cankers are the problem. Either cut affected areas away to remove them, or call a horticulturist to do it if you’re hesitant to do it yourself.

Fungi like Cytosporina and Phytophthora can also cause gummosis and are more serious to deal with and need careful excision of infected plant tissue and application of suitable fungicide to control their spread. Proper maintenance by removing dead foliage and branches in winter can help potentially prevent these infections.

Are cherry trees easy to maintain?

They need good air circulation, enough sunlight, and well-draining soil to prevent problems like root rot.

What does a cherry tree need to survive?

Plant the trees in a sunlit area with plenty of air circulation and avoid planting them near buildings or large trees that will prevent them from getting full exposure to the sun.

What is the ideal fertilizer to use for a cherry tree?

These trees are low feeders so feed them with low-nitrogen fertilizers or general-purpose fertilizers at a half dose in spring. Apply compost twice a year around the tree in spring and summer to help flower and fruit production. Do not over-fertilize them as fruit production can be affected and make the tree prone to pests and diseases.

How long do cherry trees live?

Cherry trees typically live for 15 – 30 years. Prunus serotina (black cherry) can live almost 250 years.

Where do cherry trees grow better?

They thrive in sunlit areas of temperate zones between 4 – 7 and cannot survive tropical climates.

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