How to Grow

Cherries are a home-grown garden favourite, producing tasty fruits of either sweet cherry or acid cherry variety from trees.

Sweet cherries are delicious eaten straight from the tree or used in a fruit salad, whereas acid cherries are best as a dessert variety in pies, tarts and compotes.

Self-fertile and pollinating partner cherry trees

Acid cherry trees are self-fertile, which means they don’t need another partner tree near them to produce successful fruit in the harvest.

Sweet cherry trees are either self-fertile or they need a nearby pollinating partner tree to help them bear fruit. The variety you buy will clearly say whether it’s a ‘self-fertile’ or ‘pollinating partner’ type.

Bare-root or potted cherry trees

Cherry tree plants arrive as either bare-root varieties, with a stem and exposed roots free from soil, or as more mature potted plant with a developed main root ball.

When to plant cherry trees

Bare-rooted cherry trees have quite a wide window for planting, between late autumn November time and early spring, around March.

Don’t plant in waterlogged or frosted soil or in severe cold spells.

Potted cherry tree plants are suitable for planting at any time of the year but avoid doing so during very hot or very cold periods.

Where to plant cherry trees

Both potted and bare-root cherry tree plants like a sunny or part-sunny location, with little exposure to wind and away from taller or overhanging trees.

  • Don’t plant in an area that’s susceptible to frost, known as a frost
  • Keep new plants away from soil that’s had fruit trees removed recently, because this could create the risk of soil disease spreading.

Preparing the soil for cherry trees

Before planting, add manure and bulky compost to the soil as you dig it over. This makes the soil stronger and adds more nutrients.

  • Remove deep-rooted and shallow weeds from the soil.
  • Work in a fish-based organic fertiliser to the ground you’re preparing.
  • Cherry trees don’t like sandy or shallow soils. Add lots of manure or compost to correct this or consider growing the cherry tree plant in a container.

How to plant bare-root cherry trees

  • Create a planting hole about 6inches (15cm) greater in diameter than the root system of the plant, when they are fully spread out.
  • The planting hole should be deeper than the soil mark you can see on the plant stem.
  • Create small fork holes in the side of the hole, which lets the roots take hold in the soil and establish.
  • Firmly knock a stake post at the hole’s edge, to give the tree stability and support as it grows. The tree will need to be tied to the post.
  • Gently stand the plant inside the hole, spreading the roots out delicately.
  • Fill layers of soil into the hole, firming each layer down (use your foot or a spade) so that the hole is eventually full.

How to plant potted cherry trees

Follow the same planting methods as used for bare root plants, as detailed above. Remove any visible weeds from the top and main ball root of the plant, if possible.

Watering and feeding cherry trees

It’s important to add a layer of mulch, such as manure, to the top soil level after planting. Keep mulch away from the plant’s main stem.

  • In the 12 months after planting, keep the cherry tree well-watered.
  • Create a small water ring that circles the main stem. Let this soak into the soil, then fill up again.
  • Water in the morning and evening during hot and dry conditions.
  • Until the tree’s first flowers arrive, put a general-purpose fertiliser into the water as extra feed.
  • After the cherry tree’s first flowers arrive, use a potash feed such as tomato food instead of the general fertiliser.

When to harvest cherry trees

From mid-June to July, when the fruits are fully coloured and ripe, the cherries are ready for picking.

  • Sweet cherries can be eaten straight away for best flavour, although they will freeze.
  • Acid cherries don’t freeze very well.
  • Use secateurs or snippers to pick, making a clean cut. Picking with your hand may introduce a disease.

How to prune cherry trees

Trees younger than three years should have the main stems cut back (pruned) to about half of their size. Do this in the spring.

  • For older trees, prune the stems which are diseased, dead and damaged and those which crowd the middle of the tree.
  • Prune established trees in late July and August.

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