Cherry Garden Guide

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Cherry Care At A Glance

Cherry Care At A Glance

  • Cherry trees can produce Sweet or Sour (pie) tasting fruits.
  • Organically rich, well-draining soils are best for cherries.
  • Hardiness varies by cultivar, but most do well in USDA zones 5-7.
  • Many sour cherries are self-fertile, but cross-pollination is needed for sweet types.
  • Sour cherries mature in 3-5 years and sweet types mature in 4-7 yrs. from planting.

Planting Instructions

Follow the same planting instructions, as you would for other bareroot trees.

  • Amend existing soil appropriately with organic material to help improve drainage.
  • NOTE: Proper drainage is critical for fruit-bearing trees to do well long-term. Do not use potting soil.

  • Soak roots for 8-24 hrs. prior to planting.
  • Tip pruning is essential for proper establishment.
  • Prune the top of the main leader by 1/3 to 1/2, immediately after planting.
    • With clean pruners, cut at a slight angle, just above a visible bud.
    • Side branches must also be pruned back by 1/2 their length to balance top to the roots.
  • Properly water newly planted trees using the 1 inch per week rule for the entire first growing season.
    • 1 inch of water equates to about 2.5-3 gal. every other day.
    • Remove competitive grass & weeds to form a 3-4 ft. tree well and add 2-3 in. of compost or mulch.
  • Cage or wrap tree trunks to prevent predation from deer or rodents.
  • NOTE: DO NOT rely solely on rain events to provide enough moisture to newly planted trees.


Sour (pie) cherry varieties are mostly self-fruitful.

  • Sour cherries will yield better crops with cross-pollination from a different sour cherry variety.
  • Sour cherries can pollinate sweet cherries as long as they have the same or overlapping bloom time.
  • For good cross-pollination pair 'Meteor', 'North Star', or 'Montmorency' together.

Sweet cherries can be partially self-fruitful, but for proper cross-pollination, another sweet cherry variety with the same bloom period is needed.

  • Danube™ is Sweet/Tart self-fruitful hybrid. They can yield better when paired with other early-blooming sweet cherry varieties.
  • Benton® is sweet, self-fruitful, and is mid to late blooming. Pairs with BlackGold™ or WhiteGold™.
  • BlackGold™ is sweet, self-fruitful, and late blooming. Pairs with WhiteGold™, or Benton®.
  • WhiteGold™ is sweet, self-fruitful, is mid to late blooming. Pairs with Benton® or BlackGold™.
  • Lapins is sweet, self-fruitful variety, that blooms early. Blooming can overlap with mid-season types like WhiteGold™, Benton™, or other early bloomers like Bing.

Nanking Bush Cherry

  • Not reliably self-fruitful. Plant two or more, or with another Nanking bush nearby or other early blooming cherries.
  • More closely related to plums than cherries, despite their common name.
  • Small fruits up to 1/2 in. diameter, shiny red, with sweet/tart flavor are produced on 1-year-old wood.
  • Trees reach bearing age about 2-3 years from planting.
  • Typically grow 8 to 10 ft. high and wide multi-trunked trees but can reach 15 ft. tall if manicured as a single-trunked tree.


  • Mazzard
    • Considered standard or full-sized rootstock.
    • Very popular cold hardy rootstock for sweet cherry varieties.
    • Vigorous with strong root growth trees typically grow to 20-25 ft. high & wide.
    • Mazzard roots tolerate heavier soils and are oak root fungus and root-knot nematode resistant.
  • Mahaleb
    • Considered standard but can have a slight dwarfing effect on sour cherries.
    • It is good cold hardy rootstock.
    • Works best on well-drained soils.
    • Can cause early fruiting.
  • Gisela 5
    • Dwarfing rootstock used for sweet cherries.
    • Trees typically grow 1/2 the size of those on Mazzard rootstock with open habit.
    • Good cold hardy rootstock.
    • Can cause early fruiting.
    • Tolerates clay soils.
    • Dwarfing causes a need for staking or support.

Pruning Maintenance

Pruning must also be done systematically every year to promote proper fruit-bearing wood and a healthy branching structure. Starting the 2nd season follow these basic pruning rules:

  • Hard annual pruning is done while trees are dormant in late winter to early spring.
  • First, remove diseased, broken, or damaged branches or limbs.
  • NOTE: Sterilize pruning blades prior to pruning and again after to ensure proper sanitation.

  • Next, remove any crossing or rubbing branches, including those that are or will grow across the central leader.
  • Lastly, remove branches as needed to open the top canopy to allow for air circulation and sunlight penetration.

Proper Pruning Cuts - are thinning cuts, which remove a branch all the way back to where it emanates from.

Avoid Heading Cuts - that only remove part or the end of a branch or limb, which causes more foliage to grow and inhibits future flowering. No flowers, no fruit.

Root Suckers & Water Shoots can be pruned off during summer or outside of winter dormancy, without worry.


Like all fruit trees, maintaining proper nutrition is important for trees and eventually fruit development. Fertilizing should be done in early spring, just prior to the tree leafing out. Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or use an organic food with complete 3-5-3 formula according to product label instructions.

NOTE: Although all plants require some nitrogen for proper growth, too much nitrogen fertilizer can lead to improper growth and limit or halt flowering entirely.