Problems With Cherry Trees

Grow a cherry tree (Prunus spp.) both for its ornamental foliage and its fruit, which can be either sweet or tart depending on the cultivar. Most cherry tree types are hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 6. Wherever your backyard orchard is located, several common cultivation, pest and disease problems can afflict your cherry tree and reduce both the tree's lifespan and your seasonal fruit harvest.

Soil Selection

Cherries are finicky when it comes to substrate material. Gardeners must choose the right dirt to avoid a wide variety of soil-related problems, according to Iowa State University. Cherries require well-drained, moist soil. If they're grown in soil that does not drain well, the trees will quickly succumb to a variety of diseases or problems like root rot.


Depending on the cherry tree cultivar, gardeners may need to grow several cherry trees to overcome the problem of self-pollination. Most sweet cherry trees need to be grown with at least one other cherry tree of another cultivar for proper pollination and fruit development, according to Iowa State University. Otherwise, the tree will not grow fruit. This does not apply to sour cherry varieties or special cultivars that have been specifically bred to be self-fruitful. The nursery or garden store from which you obtained the tree can provide you cultivar-specific guidelines in terms of spacing and pairing suggestions.

Powdery Mildew

Several fungi are behind the powdery mildew disease. When present, the mildew attacks the cherry tree's foliage and covers twigs and leaves with patches of white powder. If left untreated, the mildew will cause widespread foliage loss. Gardeners should rake up all fallen leaves and discard them to keep the mildew spores from spreading. A topical fungicide spray, such as a fixed copper solution, can kill the fungi.

Black Cherry Aphids

Black cherry aphids are a reported pest that's common in almost all cherry orchards, according to It's most prevalent on sweet cherry cultivars. The black bugs only measure 1/25 inch long but can wreck havoc on the tree, causing curled leaves and stunted development. Young cherry trees are most susceptible to the bugs, which can kill saplings. A standard insecticide will kill the aphids and can be applied with a focus on the underside of the foliage where the bugs tend to congregate. Natural biological controls include lacewings and lady beetles, which can be purchased from some specialty nurseries.

Keywords: cherry diseases, cherry pests, growing cherry trees

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.