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How-to grow and care for fruit bearing cherry trees



When planting cherry trees, you will need to determine what purpose you have for the cherries and how many trees you want to plant. There are two types of cherry trees and each has their unique traits.

Sweet cherry trees need another variety of sweet cherry to cross-pollinate it. The dwarf variety “Stella” is the exception to that rule, as “Stella” is self-fruitful. Sweet cherries are commercially grown in an orchard with 2 or 3 varieties and sweet cherries are larger and typically what you find in the grocery store. Sweet cherries grow in zones 5 to 7. Two different variety sweet cherry trees are all you need to grow sweet cherries in your yard. Find Your Zone


Sour or tart cherry trees tend to grow better a little more north than sweet cherries as they grow in zones 4 to 6. This trees fruit is typically smaller and used more in preserves and pies and not typically eaten raw. Sour cherry trees are self-pollinating and do not require a second tree to produce fruit but a second variety of sour cherry would help increase yields.


Time to harvest

Sweet cherries will start producing fruit once the tree is 4 to 7 years old. Sour cherries will produce fruit within 3 to 5 years. Sour cherries will be bright red and pull off the stems once they are ripe. Sweet cherries should be tasted when harvesting. Because neither cherry will continue ripening once picked, make sure it is to your liking.

Bird netting is crucial with cherry trees because when the birds show up, this is another sign that your cherries are ripe and ready. Typical harvest falls between early June and late July in most regions.


You will need to thin out the tree by pruning out some of the less productive sucker branches. This will allow sunlight into the tree, keeping your tree from trying to over produce and help your tree produce larger, sweeter fruit. You can thin your trees out once small fruit starts producing 3 to 4 weeks after blooming starts. Check out our article on Pruning fruit trees.


Like all crops, fruit bearing trees can deplete a soil of certain nutrients. Specialty fertilizers are great for fruit bearing trees. Not only do they have Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, they also have essential micronutrients like Iron, Sulfur, Calcium and Magnesium to help alleviate such deficiencies. At Home Depot, you can also find a wide variety of organic fertilizers for your fruit trees.


Bing cherry is one of the most commonly planted of the sweet cherries. Other varieties like Brooks, Sweetheart, Chelan, Sequoia and Staccato are other great varieties to cross-pollinate each other. Of course, dwarf “Stella”, Glacier, Lapins and Sunburst are good options for sweet cherries if space is an issue and you can only plant one tree. Bing, Royal Ann and Lambert do not make good pollinators for each other. Because trees must have overlapping bloom times, late blooming varieties like Republican and Lambert should be used together.

Montmorency cherry is the most commonly planted of the sour cherries. Other varieties like Amarelle, Northstar, Evan’s and Red Morello are other recommended varieties.

Flowering ornamental cherries like Kwanzan, Yoshino or Okame will not pollinate fruit bearing cherries.

Planting site and spacing

February and March is the ideal time for planting your cherry trees. You will want to find a site with full sun for your tree and a place within the proper spacing for a second tree to receive full sun. Sweet cherries grow taller and wider than sour cherries. Space sweet cherries 30 to 40 foot apart and dwarf sweet cherries 8 to 12 foot apart. Space sour cherries 20 to 25 foot apart and dwarf sour cherries 8 to 10 foot apart. Never space fruit trees more than 100 feet apart or cross pollination will be diminished.

Planting Guide

STEP 1: Digging the hole

  • Find a location that has suitable sun exposure for your particular type of plant.
  • Dig your hole an inch or two shallower than the rootball of the plant.
  • Dig the hole twice the diameter of the rootball.
  • Scuff up the sides of the hole with a shovel to help roots break through the native soil.

STEP 2: Putting plant in hole

  • When removing the plant from the pot, check to see if the roots were circling the pot.
  • If the plant is rootbound, gently break up the roots with your hands until loosened up.
  • Set plant level, in the center of the hole.
  • Make sure the top of the rootball is just above soil level.

STEP 3: Amending the soil and filling in the hole

  • Amend the soil with proper amendments for your soil type. 
  • Incorporate 50% native soil with 50% amendment soils like garden soil, composted manure or soil conditioner.
  • Make sure dirt clods are broken up or removed from hole along with rocks.
  • Fill the hole with soils to the soil level and pack down. Do not cover top of rootball with dirt.
  • Water in thoroughly to remove air pockets.

STEP 4: Mulching and fertilizing

  • Cover the planting site with at least 2 inches of the mulch of your choice (pinestraw, cypress mulch,etc.)
  • High Phosphorus root stimulator fertilizers like Quick Start from Miracle Gro are great to use at time of planting.

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Posted 2018-02-21T16:25:03+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL