Life Cycle of Cherry Trees

Overview

Cherry trees are valued for their fruit, the beauty of their spring flowers, and the shade and aesthetic value they add to a landscape or backyard orchard. Every year Washington, D.C., holds the National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate springtime in the capitol and the gift of cherry received from Japan in 1912. Whether raised from seed or transplanted from a nursery, the life cycle of most varieties is the same.

Starting

Most cherry trees planted today are started from saplings purchased from nurseries. They are grafted onto rootstock to enhance various properties, depending on the variety of cherry tree. However, cherry trees can be started from seeds, the pits found inside cherries. They must go through stratification, a cooling period equivalent to enduring a winter season before they will be able to germinate. Following the cooling period, the seeds can be planted outdoors or in starter pots.

Seedlings

Seeds that have been properly stratified will take one to three weeks to sprout, depending upon environmental conditions. Seedlings and nursery-bought saplings will continue to grow in the same way from here on out, with the only exception being the nursery tree will be slightly larger than the home-grown variety. On average, the cherry tree should attain a height of 4 to 6 feet the first year.

Young Trees

Cherry trees, depending on the species, can become quite large. Annual growth should range between 6 and 18 inches at the terminal ends of branches. A few springtime blossoms may be produced in the first few years, but typically the trees will not fruit for several years, allowing sufficient time for the tree to develop adequate structure to support a crop of cherries.

Fruiting

Once cherry trees have reached 3 to 5 years of age, they will begin to blossom in the spring. Sour-type cherries are self-fruiting and do not need cross pollinators while sweet cherries are not self-fruiting and must, in most cases, be cross-pollinated. Once pollination has occurred, the petals drop and fruit begins to set. Fruit matures in a matter of a few weeks.

Cycle Repeats

Ripened cherries not harvested or eaten by wildlife will fall from the tree. The fruit will decay and the seed will be exposed. Left on the ground, it will pass through the seasons, including the necessary cooling period. In the spring, the seed may germinate and begin the cycle again while the parent tree begins to blossom and fruit again.

Keywords: cherry tree, cherry life cycle, cherry growth stages

About this Author

Theresa Leschmann has been writing since 2005. Her work has appeared in the "Southern Illinois Plus" and on numerous websites. She is a property manager who writes about gardening, home repair, business management, travel and arts and entertainment topics. She is pursuing an associate's degree in English from Oakton Community College.