Cherry trees are deciduous fruit trees of the Rosaceae family that has more than 100 cultivars, according to University of Georgia horticulture professor Mark Rieger. These trees have a moderate growth rate and have a maximum lifespan of about 20 years. Cherry trees are categorized into sweet or sour variations. While both variations produce showy trees with rich green foliage and fragrant white blooms, the care for each variation is just slightly different.
Plant the cherry tree in a well-drained location with nutrient-rich soil. Choose a location that receives at least eight hours of full sunlight each day. Plant multiple sweet cherry trees at least 30 feet apart. Expect single sweet cherry trees to be ornamental only as these trees are not self-fertile. Plant multiple sour cherry trees at least 18 feet apart or singly, as these trees are self-fertile, as recommended by the University of Georgia.
Begin training all cherry trees immediately after planting to develop a strong framework, as recommended by TreeHelp. Develop one central leader and prune the cherry tree into an open vase shape. Complete the pruning process in the midsummer to reduce the potential for disease or during its winter dormancy, based on preference. Shape the tree gradually over several seasons.
Use sharp, sterile pruning shears to complete each cut. Each year, prune away any dead, dying or damage branches and stems. Seal the wood's wounds with a pruning paste when pruning in the summer. Use an asphalt-free paste. Thin out interior branches and stems to promote good air circulation and sunlight penetration throughout the tree.
Irrigate the cherry tree immediately after pruning and regularly throughout the growing season. Irrigate the cherry tree slowly and deeply so that the water reaches the roots of the cherry tree, as recommended by TreeHelp. Water the cherry tree every one to two weeks, based on the needs of the tree. Adjust irrigation levels for periods of heavy rainfall and drought. Avoid overwatering as the cherry tree does not like wet feet and is susceptible to root rot.
The University of Colorado recommends that you feed the cherry tree in the early spring just before bud break, and again just after the final harvest. Use a well-balanced, slow release fertilizer. Use the trunk diameter of the cherry tree to determine the appropriate amount of fertilizer, applying about 1/8 pound of nitrogen per trunk inch.
Distribute the fertilizer evenly under the canopy of the cherry tree. Keep the fertilizer at least one foot from the base of the tree to prevent root burn. Irrigate the feed thoroughly into the soil.
Keep the area beneath the cherry tree's canopy free of weeds and debris. Apply a two- to three-inch layer of mulch around the trunk's diameter to reduce the potential of weed invasion and protect the soil's moisture levels.
Harvest the cherry tree in the fall as the fruit becomes ripe. Ensure that all fruit is removed from the tree during the final harvest. Remove any defoliate debris or fallen fruit from around the tree to reduce the potential of fungal disease during the following spring.