Fruit trees produce best when they are regularly pruned. Pruning encourages new growth and allows more light and air to reach the fruiting branches. Pruning also keeps trees a manageable height, making future care and harvesting the fruit easier. Cherries are traditionally pruned with an open-center form, encouraging growth on the outside of the tree and allowing maximum light to reach all sides of the main branches. Prune trees in late winter when they are still dormant, before spring growth.
Select three or four strong limbs evenly spaced around the tree to be scaffold limbs. Choose limbs with a wide angle to the main trunk since cherry trees can be prone to splitting in harsh winter weather.
Cut back any other large branches, leaving the central trunk and scaffolding branches as the main frame of the tree. Leave strong side branches, or leaders, branching out from the tree if you wish. Make cuts close to the trunk or scaffolding branches with a sharp pruning saw. Trim smaller branches with pruning shears.
Trim away any new growth growing vertically, or in the center of the tree in following years. The goal is to encourage new growth from the scaffolding branches and horizontal growth.
Trim the tips from all fruiting branches each dormant season, removing one-half to one-third of every shoot to encourage more branching and better fruit production.