Gardening 101: When To Prune Cherry Trees And How

Maintaining fruit trees requires regular pruning, and cherry trees are no exception. Pruning is a preventative measure to protect both new and old plants from pests and damage. Either it’s for your apple tree, jasmine, magnolia tree, rose bush or cherry tree, there are some things you should know first!

Cherries hanging on a cherry tree

Whether to encourage faster growth or to remove unruly branches so you can harvest fruit easily, pruning cherry trees is a vital part of long term care. This guide lays out everything you need to know to prune your own tree without getting overwhelmed! 

Why trim a cherry tree?

Pruning or trimming them promotes new growth, healthier fruiting and a longer lifespan. These are three main reasons why trimming your tree regularly is crucial. However, the benefits are boundless, and there are many reasons why you should do it. 

During transplantation, the rootstock of a tree can lose fine roots. These roots act as a feeder by absorbing minerals and moisture from the soil. By correctly trimming the top, you give your tree roots enough time to balance existing and new parts that are growing.

Your tree also benefits from added stimulation and vigorous growth. Depending on when you prune yours, the remaining buds grow even bigger than before with stronger branches

As they grow, they take on a shape that is not always optimal to produce fruit. However, if you are regular with your pruning and use sharp, clean cuts that heal fast, you can ensure your tree grows stronger structurally

Sweet cherry trees can grow up to eleven metres tall if not maintained. Trimming the branches around a central point supports bushy canopy growth, protecting fruit from exposure to sun and other elements. 

Gardener with pruner trimming cherry tree

Some cherry trees, including duke and acid cherry varieties, should be pruned into a more open structure with branches growing outwards, like a fan. In contrast to sweet cherries, these types of trees require more air circulation and light to yield higher quality fruit. 

Depending on which type you have, it’s essential to know when and how to prune them correctly. This is because each tree has different characteristics which affect how the process is carried out. 

When to prune a cherry tree?

Typically, fruit trees, including most cherry trees, are pruned during their dormant season in winters. While pruning during colder months is more aggressive as larger parts of the trees are removed, energy reserves remain the same

Sour and weeping cherry trees should be pruned in late winter when the risk of temperatures below freezing point has passed. Timing is critical to avoid injuries and frost damage.

If you have a young tree, you can prune it during the early spring months during the first years of its life. Then, by trimming them when their first buds begin to appear, you can train and shape the plant. But, be sure to do so before they blossom or bear any fruit, as this could hinder the growth process. More mature ones can also be trimmed once they bear fruit.

When to prune sweet cherries 

On the other hand, these are more likely to develop fungus and diseases when fresh cuts are left exposed to cold temperatures. Therefore, late summer during the growing season is the best time to prune your sweet cherry trees

This is the time when your tree is beginning to prepare for fall. By summer pruning and thinning out the canopy of your tree, you can encourage more fruit production when the next growth season arrives. 

What other cases require trimming

The easiest way to prevent plant disease and fungus from spreading is by removing the affected parts. Neglected and overgrown trees also require immediate pruning.

In these situations, you can prune at any time of the year, regardless of what time of year it is. Trimming will immediately rejuvenate and restore the shrubs. 

How to prune the right way?

Before beginning, you need to have the right tools to help you successfully prune your trees. You will require a pair of lopping shears, ideally long-handled, so that you can reach taller branches easily.

Farmer pruning cherry trees and branches of young tree

A pruning saw is also required; however, ensure it is not dull so you can get closer, sharp cuts. Sterilise and clean all your tools before pruning, as dirty tools can cause plant disease through the spread of unseen bacteria. Use a diluted bleach solution or alcohol to wipe down all your tools beforehand.

The process of pruning: step-by-step

To successfully cover the basics of pruning, follow these steps: 

  1. Suckers are strange branches that appear at the base or around the roots of your tree. Begin by removing these using your shears
  2. Next, remove any unruly new shoots that grow towards the trunk. 
  3. Cut away any diseased branches that are dead, dying or broken using a pruner. Thoroughly remove all damaged branches to prevent the spread of bacterial and fungal diseases.
  4. Before shaping your tree, draw up a plan of which direction you need to cut the branches in to get the desired shape you need. 
  5. Inspect your tree for any crossing lateral branches. If these rubs together, they could lead to an infection. Use your pruning tools to remove up to a quarter of such weaker branches. 
  6. Select the main branches from the sides and spiralling scaffold branches of your tree that uphold its structure. Refer to your plan. Trim off any side branches which do not grow from the centre outward. 
  7. Trim lower branches that could touch the ground.

If you are pruning during summer, be sure to do so sparingly. Only remove new growth to preserve the tree’s energy reserve. Angle horizontal cuts and ensure not to leave any stubs behind so that water does not collect. This could cause fungal infections.

Extra tips for cherry tree caring

Cherries can only be enjoyed for one or two months each year. With proper care, you can easily grow your own to enjoy their spring blossoms and fresh fruit.

Cherry trees

Here are a few tips that can help ensure the experience is both easy and fun:

  1. While cherry trees can survive without water for weeks, soil can dry up faster if the weather is dry or hot. Regularly water your tree when you feel conditions are uncertain. You can also use a soaker hose and much to maintain moisture. 
  2. Mites, fruit flies, worms and tree borers are some pests common to fruit trees. Organic, less toxic insecticides targeted for these pests can keep them away. Regularly check your tree to prevent infestations.
  3. To protect your cherry harvest from birds, you can place netting around the tree. This is an uncommon problem; however, scaring devices are also effective.
  4. Balance your tree’s growth by pruning. Take your time to remove shrubs and branches. This helps maintain its shape and encourages faster, more abundant growth. 
  5. Fertiliser and compost provide your fruit tree with minerals and vitamins it doesn’t get from the soil. Spread a thin layer over the soil around your tree to help it reach optimal fruit production and health. 
  6. Fungal infections, including silver leaf disease, result in rotting and/or leaf curls. Copper sulfate or Bordeaux mixture are effective solutions that you can spray on the trunk and branches of the tree during the winter months.
  7. Stop the spread of disease and bacteria to healthy areas by immediately removing damaged fruit and branchesCherries on a tree

If you follow proper care guidelines and look after your cherry trees, you can produce up to 47 kilograms of fruit every year. Cool, right? Our guide covers everything you need to know to cultivate for yourself. Follow the steps and happy gardening!

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