Once you've added cherry trees to your landscaping or orchard, it's essential to maintain their health and productivity. Pruning your cherry tree will keep it growing and producing blooms and fruits for years to come. Regular annual pruning protects your cherry tree from insects and disease while also controlling growth and shape. Smaller trees will not require the use of all the tools recommended. The main trunk should have a scaffold appearance with branches that spread out perpendicular to the trunk.
Determine the desired size and shape for the tree such as round, oval or 15 feet high. Base this on how it should appear after trimming to prevent over or under pruning. Trim ends of branches to create the shape, stepping back frequently to inspect the progress.
Place a ladder under the tree, using care to ensure stability in order to reach upper sections. Set a ladder firmly into the ground, bracing your feet with heavy objects such as cement cinder blocks, and rest the top against the trunk with branches on either side to prevent slippage. Pinch new growth from the tips to control the size of the tree.
Cut any dead or damaged branches using hand shears for branches with thicknesses of 1 inch or less. Use lopping shears or a pruning saw for branches with thicknesses of more than 1 inch.
Remove any limbs that rub or cross over each another. Use the pole pruners to reach the taller sections of the tree that cannot be reached with the ladder alone. Lift the pole pruner so that the jaw frames the branch to be cut. Pull down on the rope, which causes the cutting jaw to close and cut the branch.
Create clean sharp cuts that leave no stub. Leave a small collar from the branch intact on the limb or trunk. Avoiding cutting too close to the trunk, which can cause damage.
Leave about 2 feet of vertical space between trimmed branches, to allow sunlight penetration to lower limbs. Make any trimming cuts, also called "heading back", about 1/4 inch above a bud or lateral branch.