Q. How can I grow a cherry tree?
There are two kinds of edible cherries - sweet cherries (originating from Prunus avium) and sour cherries (originating from P. cerasus). Ornamental cherries (mainly japanese) produce fruits but these are generally not edible.These three types have somewhat different requirements for cultivation. Ornamental , flowering cherries are somewhat more finicky. For growing cherries, the following are important considerations
Cherries prefer moderate temperatures and do well in USDA Zones 5-7. Late frosts will kill their flowers so a site not susceptible to late frosts is preferable for edible cherry trees. Japanese cherries do better in warmer climes (to Zone 9).
Cherries require full sun, at least 6 hours a day. Ornamental cherries will tolerate some shade and a shady location is preferred in hotter areas.
Soils should be well drained and fertile. If your soil is sandy then compost can be added. Conversely, sand can be added to clay soils. Flowering cherries prefer moist but not water-logged soils.Rotted manure is good for all soil types. Sweet cherries prefer soil in the pH 6.3 - 7.2 range whereas sour cherries can tolerate pH of 6 -7.5.
Sweet cherry trees are generally not self-pollinating so you need to plant more than one tree. A few cultivars, e.g. 'Stella', 'Van', 'Rainier' and 'Bing', are self pollinating and can be grown if you have room for only one tree. Sour cherries are, however, self-pollinating. This is not consideration for flowering cherries.
Bare-root plants should be planted in winter but not when the ground is frozen. Container-grown plants can be planted in early fall or late spring.
Allow enough room for the trees to fill out. Dwarf trees should be planted about 8-10 ft. apart and standard trees about 20-25 ft. apart.
Water the tree well after planting and apply a layer of mulch around the tree. Continue to water weekly during the first year, particularly in dry weather. Flowering cherries may need more frequent watering particularly in warmer climates.
Cherries should be fertilized once a year in the spring once they start producing fruit (4-7 years after planting for sweet cherries and 3-5 years for sour cherries). A general fertilizer can be used, although a layer of compost is often sufficient.
Edible cherry trees should be pruned yearly for strength and fruit production. Flowering cherries are best left un-pruned except to shape the tree or to open up their canopy.
A more detailed discussion on growing cherries is available on this web site.
More information on cherry species to grow in the Northeast can be found in our FAQ.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information
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