How to Pick Cherry Trees


Hundreds of varieties of cherry trees exist worldwide, and if you've taken an interest in planting them, the sheer number of choices makes it hard to decide what kind to grow. Climate and growing site are key considerations; after that, feel free to follow your personal preferences. Cherry trees produce pink or white blossoms in the springtime, followed by fruit that is either sweet or tart, depending on the tree variety.

Step 1

Decide why you want to grow cherry trees. Do you want sweet fruit you can eat right off the tree, or do you want sour cherries to cook up into pies and jams? Or would you just like some pretty flowers in the spring? For sweet cherries, chose varieties like Bing or Royal Ann, and for sour cherries (also called pie cherries) look for Montmorency or Morello cherries. For cherry blossoms, consider growing a native cherry, such as pin cherries or chokecherries, both of which are very popular with birds and other wildlife. There are also ornamental cherries that produce no, or very small and inedible, fruit.

Step 2

Consider your local climate. All cherry trees need a period of cold in the winter followed by mild summers, so gardeners in desert or tropical locations will not be able to grow cherry trees. Sweet cherry trees need a slightly warmer climate, and do best in USDA zones 5-9, while sour cherries do best in zones 4-8.

Step 3

Measure how much space you have. Cherry trees come in either standard size or dwarf varieties. Standard size trees must be spaced 25 to 35 feet apart, while dwarf trees can be planted as close as 10 feet apart. Sour cherries and wild, native cherries are often self-pollinating, so you will only need to plant one for the tree to produce fruit, but sweet cherries require two or more trees to be planted for adequate cross pollination.

Step 4

Assess soil and light conditions. All cherry trees do best in full sun, although wild cherries will tolerate a bit more shade. Cherry trees do best in well-drained soil, and sweet cherries are especially picky about not having wet feet. Sour cherries can tolerate slightly moister conditions, and native cherries are often found growing alongside creeks in the wild.

Step 5

Choose a healthy specimen when buying your cherry tree. Bare root cherry trees may just look like sticks when you buy them, but they should be pliable and the bark should not be damaged in any way. Potted or balled and burlapped (B&B'ed) cherries should have robust leaves that are not yellow, brown, dry or wilted. Try to buy and plant cherry trees early in the spring or late in the fall, when they are not actively producing flowers or fruit.


  • Thrifty Fun: Growing Cherries
  • St. Lawrence Nursery: Pie Cherries
Keywords: growing cherry trees, sour cherry, sweet cherry, wild cherries, fruit trees

About this Author

Sonya Welter worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn., including "Zenith City News," for which she writes a regular outdoors column. She graduated cum laude in 2002 from Northland College, an environmental liberal arts college.