Cherry trees, with their beautiful, pink blooms in spring, make a decorative addition to any landscape. They also produce delicious fruit, either sweet or tart. They also make excellent shade trees and are favored by birds for their fruit which makes them a good choice for backyard bird watching. Starting new cherry trees from seed begins with the cherries themselves, as the pits or stones inside the fruit are the seeds.
Cherries are one of earliest fruits to ripen each year with a typical harvest time of between the first week of June to the first week of July. Seeds or pits as they are called can be collected from ripe, unblemished cherries. Trees showing signs of poor health or cherries that appear infected by insects should be avoided for seed harvesting. Only collect seeds from healthy trees and cherries.
Nature provides a cooling-off period for many plants. Winter naturally creates temperatures that are often near freezing in areas where cherries grow best. Cherry seeds must go through this experience in order to germinate. They can be left outside for the winter to experience it naturally, or they can be stratified, a process which simulates the winter experience manually. They should be stored at 33 to 41 degrees F for 90 to 150 days.
Using the natural stratification method, seeds can be sown outdoors in the fall. For manually stratified seeds, the seeds are planted in the spring. These should be planted at a depth of 1/2 inch in the outdoors or in flats indoors. It is recommended that you plant extra as cherry seeds have a low germination rate of 50 percent or less.
The seeds will germinate once temperatures warm to above 70 degrees F for several straight days. Sprouts will begin to emerge from one to three weeks after germination takes place. If sown indoors, the seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once they reach 4 to 6 inches in height. Seedlings should be located in full sun, away from strong winds in well-drained soil.
Seeds collected from hybrid trees will not produce true fruit. This means the fruit from the tree grown from the seed of the hybrid tree will not be identical to the parent tree. Most nursery stock cherry trees sold today are grafted onto other trees to enhance certain qualities. This alters the fruit they produce. Seeds they generate will produce fruit that is similar to the original variety of cherry prior to the grafting.