Why Growing a Cherry Tree from a Pit is Iffy
When you plant a cherry pit, the embryo inside is a combination of the genetics of the tree which provided pollen and the tree which had the blossom. The offspring will be a combination of these two parent trees and is unlikely to have the exact same characteristics as either of the parents.
Fruit trees, including cherries, are grown using two vegetative propagation methods called budding and grafting. These methods involve taking a small section from a tree with desirable qualities and attaching it to a rootstock especially bred for resistance to pests and diseases.
These methods produce trees which are true to the type of the parent tree because they are actually clones of one of the parents. Because of this, the best way of planting a cherry tree is to buy a sapling tree from a nursery or learn about grafting and budding techniques.
Planting a Cherry Pit for Fun
You still may want to plant a cherry pit and see what happens. This can be a fun and educational project for children, and there is a tiny chance the tree you grow will have fruit good for eating. Even if it doesn’t, it may be a pleasant landscape tree providing shade and food for birds and other wildlife.
Before you put your cherry pit into the soil, it must be exposed to cold temperatures for about two months. This is called a dormancy, or after-ripening, period, and it mimics what happens in nature when seeds from ripe fruit go through the cold of winter before germinating.
To start a cherry tree from a pit:
- Clean the seed of all fruit and put it in a paper bag in the refrigerator for 60 days or longer.
- In the spring, dig a 1 foot (.3 meter) square hole in a sunny location and mix compost with the native soil for drainage and nutrients.
- Plant two or three seeds about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep in the soil, and then place a wire screen over the hole and tuck the edges down into the soil to prevent squirrels or other animals from digging up the seeds.
- Water the area each week and wait for the cherry pits to sprout, then remove the wire screen.
It may take as long as several months before the seeds sprout and start to grow, so be patient.