How to Care for Sweet Cherry

Sweet cherry trees bloom in early spring. image by Wonderlane/Flickr.com

Overview

Sweet cherry trees are members of the genus Prunus and produce edible cherries. They are prized amongst home gardeners for their attractive flowers and can be grown with only minimal care once established. One fully mature sweet cherry can yield approximately 300 pounds of fruit each year with proper maintenance, although it takes several years for the trees to begin producing cherries.

Step 1

Plant nursery-grown sweet cherry trees in spring in an area that receives eight hours of full sun per day and has fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid low areas where the soil is prone to wetness because sweet cherries are very prone to root rot. If necessary, use dirt to create a mound a few feet high on which to plant the tree. Space trees 25 to 30 feet apart to allow room for root growth.

Step 2

Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of sweet cherry trees to control weeds and insulate the roots. Make sure an area 1 to 3 feet square around the base is always covered with at least 2 inches of mulch. Heavy bark mulches are recommended for use around sweet cherry.

Step 3

Apply nitrogen fertilizer to the soil above the roots once per year in early spring. Use 0.1 pound of nitrogen per year of tree age, with a maximum of 1 pound per tree. Apply the fertilizer in a broad circular band around the trunk of the tree, beginning about one foot from the trunk and ending at the drip line, or where the branches end.

Step 4

Water sweet cherry trees immediately after planting them to settle the soil; continue watering regularly until the tree is well established. As a general guideline, water anytime the top 3 inches of soil are dry. The duration of time between watering will vary, depending on your climate and soil conditions. Do not over water, as root rot may occur.

Step 5

Use pruning shears to remove dead or dying branches as soon as possible but keep pruning to a minimum for the first few years of growth. Mature sweet cherry trees require only minimal pruning. Thin weak branches and occasionally trim back lateral branches in winter, if you need to keep the tree within an allotted space.

Step 6

Harvest sweet cherries from the tree when they are fully colored, soft and easy to separate from the tree. The fruit typically ripens around mid-summer but will not be produced until the tree is 3 to 5 years old. Store the cherries with stems attached in the refrigerator for up to two weeks for the best results.

Tips and Warnings

  • Birds love cherries and can do considerable damage to your fruit crop. Purchase and apply netting from your local home and garden retail store to keep birds away from your harvest.

Things You'll Need

  • Bark mulch
  • Nitrogen fertilizer
  • Pruning shears

References

  • Growing Cherries in the Home Garden
  • Growing Cherries in Indiana
  • Book: Landscaping with Fruit; Lee Reich; 2009
Keywords: sweet cherry, sweet cherry trees, sweet cherries

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including Gardenguides.com.

Photo by: Wonderlane/Flickr.com