Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Prune a Wild Cherry Tree

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017

Native to the United States, the wild cherry tree (Prunus serotina) bears white blossoms in the spring and small reddish-black edible fruits in summer. Wild cherry trees can grow up to 80 feet tall if untended, and they grow quite rapidly. Prune the trees annually to keep them compact and healthy. Prune wild cherry trees in the fall before winter temperatures set in, or in the early spring, once frost danger has passed.

Check your wild cherry tree for signs of dead, diseased or damaged branches. Dead branches feel brittle and remain still when the wind blows. Damaged or diseased branches bear discoloration or physical markings. Remove this wood to protect the health of your cherry tree.

Cut off unhealthy limbs at their base using your pruning tools. Use lopping shears for growth larger than 3/4 inch in diameter and anvil pruners for thinner limbs. In between cuts, spray the tools with disinfectant spray to avoid passing fungus from bad wood to healthy wood.

Thin out the tree canopy by removing limbs from crowded areas. Cut away branches that grow vertically or downward and remove any branches that cross over or rub up against other branches. Remove up to 1/4 of the old growth at one time.

Head back the wild cherry if it's too tall. Cut the ends of branches back to a lateral intersection to remove some of the excess growth. Avoid pruning back to skinny shoots; choose thick and healthy-looking shoots instead.

Trim away any suckers that grow from previous pruning cuts or from the trunk of the tree. Suckers are fast-growing vegetative shoots that sap energy from the tree.


Things You Will Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Ladder


  • Wild cherry leaves are poisonous to livestock.

About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.