How to Grow Cherry Trees in the Desert


Cherry trees like well-drained soils, and many varieties are somewhat drought tolerant, making them good candidates for the desert orchard. Sweet cherry trees, the ones that bear the fruit most often sold in grocery stores, need a long period of winter chill below 45 degrees F. Duke cherries, which are hybrids between sweet and sour types, also require long chill times, so are best avoided in deserts with mild winters. Sour cherries can be grown in lower deserts, and will fruit dependably where winters are milder.

Step 1

Select a cherry tree appropriate for your climate. Plant at least two cherry trees if you want to grow sweet cherries, since they must cross pollinate to bear fruit. Grow sour and Duke cherries singulary, since they are self fruiting.

Step 2

Dig a planting hole at least twice as deep and three times as wide as the cherry tree's pot or root ball. Add up to 1 part sharp builder's sand or fine gravel to 1 part back fill, if the soil is not well-drained.

Step 3

Add 1 part organic compost to 2 parts back fill if the soil is relatively loamy and fertile. Mix in up to 1 part organic compost to 1 part back fill to improve the structure of very sandy or heavy clay soils.

Step 4

Build up a pedestal of amended soil in the bottom center of the hole, high enough to support the bottom of the tree's root ball so that the crown will be at exactly the same level that it was growing.

Step 5

Remove the tree from the pot, or remove all wrapping materials from the root ball. Place the root ball carefully onto the pedestal in the center of the hole, making sure that the crown will be neither covered nor elevated by the back fill. Fill the hole with the amended back fill. Carefully firm to remove air pockets. Make a 6-inch well around the outer edge of the planting hole to prevent irrigation runoff.

Step 6

Cover the planted area with a 6-inch layer of organic mulch, such as cedar chips, to reduce evaporation.

Step 7

Water on the surface of the planting hole to completely fill the 6-inch well. Allow the water to infiltrate the soil and then repeat. Irrigate the cherry tree deeply about every 10 days during the growing season. Do not allow the tree to dry out during the first one or two growing seasons while it establishes roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Sharp builder's sand
  • Organic compost
  • Organic mulch


  • University of Georgia: General Culture
  • Washington State University: Why Fruit Trees Fail to Bear
Keywords: desert cherry trees, desert cherry varieities, types of cherries

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.