Widely consumed as a fresh fruit, sweet cherry trees offer ease of growth and care. The trees can grow 50 feet tall, but when grown for commercial cherry production the height is kept below 14 feet with regular pruning. The sweet cherry requires winter stratification to break dormancy, bloom and produce fruit. Most varieties require up to 1,600 chilling hours during the winter months. Sweet cherries are produced in abundance 60 to 80 days after flowering. A few varieties of sweet cherry trees offer self-pollination, but others require a partner cultivar planted in the vicinity for pollination and fruit production to occur.
Plant 1-year-old cherry trees for best results. Fruit production begins when the tree reaches five to eight years.
Choose a sunny location. The soil should be well-draining for best results. The cherry tree does not tolerate a wet root system.
Space sweet cherry trees 30 feet apart for best results and to offer the trees ample growth room. In the northern states where the winter is exceptionally cold, planting should occur in the spring. In southern states where winters are mild, planting can occur in the fall.
Dig a hole twice as large as the tree's root system. Plant the tree at the same depth that it was planted from the nursery.
Add peat moss and aged manure to the soil. Mix until the soil feels crumbly to the touch.
Tamp the soil down around the cherry tree's root system to remove all air pockets. Water the tree thoroughly once planted.
Place 2 to 3 inches of mulch, such as peat moss or bark chips, around the tree's base. The mulch will keep the soil moist and help keep weed growth reduced.
Prune the young cherry tree lightly to maintain its shape. Remove any dead or damaged wood in the spring. Grown sweet cherry trees are often pruned back 30 inches.
Fertilize the cherry tree in the spring using a general purpose 12-12-12 fertilizer. Apply according to the directions on the label. Use additional nitrogen if the soil is deficient.
Paint white latex paint on the south facing trunk of the tree. The paint will limit sun scald damage to the tree during the height of summer.