(Prunus avium, Prunus crasus)
About this Fruit Tree
There are two main types of cherry trees grown in our region:
Sour cherries are the more dependable of the two types. These tart pie cherries usually grow on smaller trees or shrubs. Sour cherry trees are self-pollinating and don’t require a second pollinator tree.
Sweet cherries will grow here, but are less long-lived. Sweet cherry trees are typically larger than sour cherry trees so they need more space in the landscape. Sweet cherry trees usually need another cherry tree for cross pollination, like another sweet or sour cherry variety with a similar bloom time. Make sure there’s enough room in the landscape for two fruit trees that will grow to a minimum of 15’ wide by 15’ tall.
How to Grow Cherry Trees
Cherry trees need plenty of sun each day during the growing season to help with developing and ripening the fruit. If growing sweet cherries, protect from frost by planting on slopes or places that are higher than the surrounding area.
Select a sunny spot in the landscape and prepare the soil so it’s well-drained. For clay soils, amend the soil deeply with an organic amendment, like compost or well-aged manure. The best soil for fruit trees is one that allows for good air and water circulation. For sandy or loamy soils mix about 1/3 compost with 2/3 native soil for good drainage.
Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole that’s shallow, but wide, and also amend the backfill before the tree is planted. Make sure the hole is no deeper than the root ball. Planting too deep slows root growth.
To prevent problems in the future, give your tree the best start possible. Keep in mind these planting tips to reduce transplant shock and to encourage root growth:
- Plant the tree at least a foot away from the lawn area.
- Set the root ball on undisturbed soil 1-2 inches above the soil grade. Give roots plenty of oxygen and make sure there is no backfill over the root ball.
- Make sure the crown of the tree (where the tree trunk meets the tree roots) is above the soil line.
- Fill in around the root ball with the soil removed from the planting hole.
- Mulch over the root ball (keep mulch away from the trunk) and around the tree to maintain soil moisture and help eliminate weeds.
- Water newly planted trees deeply, but infrequently.
Fruit trees take time to grow and newly planted trees might not yield much fruit. The yield of fruit crops on older trees may also vary from year to year.
Be patient and continue to care for trees through the year, which may include watering during dry winters. Water once or twice over the winter when the temperatures are above 40 degrees and there is no snow cover. Water early in the day so it soaks in before freezing overnight.
Cherry trees can be fairly drought-tolerant once established; however, new trees need to be kept watered and the soil shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. Water at soil level, around the drip line, slowly and deeply. Mulch will help maintain soil moisture.
Cherry trees have few fertilizer requirements, but they may need a boost of nitrogen if they aren’t growing or the leaves show signs of being stunted.
Keep both types of cherry trees thinned of old wood. Also prune to remove crossing branches, dead branches or diseased branches.
Special Considerations for Growing Cherry Trees
Squirrels and birds love cherries as much as gardeners do. When green cherries begin to form, use orchard netting to cover the entire tree to the ground.
Cherries are ready to pick when they’ve reached their full size, are ripe-red and pass the taste test. Harvest cherries and enjoy fresh or prepare cherries into jams, jellies and pies.
Materials for Cherry Tree Success
- Spade or shovel
- High-quality compost or well-aged manure
- Soaker hose or other method for deep watering
- Orchard netting
- Balanced fertilizer for fruit trees
- Tree pruners