Caring for Young and Mature Cherry Trees

Cherry trees provide us with a dazzling spectacle of blossoms in spring followed by a sumptuous harvest of fruit in summer but only if they are cared for properly. Good care of cherry trees starts with planting the right varieties for your location in the right spot in your garden. After that, irrigating, pruning, and fertilizing are the main tasks in cherry tree care.


Plant Cherry Trees in the Right Location

Sweet cherries grow best in USDA climate zones 5 to 9 and sour cherries in zones 4 to 6. However, there are many varieties of both sweet and sour cherry, and some are more suited to warmer or colder conditions. Check with the nursery where you buy your trees and ask for varieties which are best adapted to your exact growing zone. Sweet cherries must be planted with other cherry trees of a compatible variety for pollination and fruit set.

  • All cherry trees grow best in full-sun and well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH level. Choose the sunniest spot in your garden for planting your trees and test the soil for pH levels and fertility. If necessary, amend the soil to create a good planting site.
  • Space full sized sweet cherry trees approximately 30 to 35 feet (9 to 10.6 meters) apart and allow dwarf cherry trees a spacing of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 and 3 meters) between trees. Plant sour cherries approximately 20 feet (6 meters) apart for full-sized trees and 10 feet (3 meters) apart for dwarf varieties.

Caring for Young Cherry Trees as They Grow

Once you plant a new cherry tree, it takes two to five years before the tree starts producing fruit. During this time it is important to prune the young tree to create a sound structure of limbs for the fruit it will bear later.

Water newly planted trees thoroughly right after planting and whenever the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil dries out. Water the soil to a depth of about 18 inches (45 cm) to help the tree develop a deep root system.

Watering and Fertilizing Mature Cherry Trees

As long as your trees are receiving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of rainfall every 10 days, you probably do not need to give them additional water once the tree is established. Dig a hole about 18 inches (45cm) deep outside the tree’s root zone to help you determine when the soil is drying out. Use this, or a moisture meter, to determine when to apply irrigation.

Fertilize cherry trees each year with a fruit tree fertilizer or an application of compost around the tree.