Cherry Trees

 Pruning Cherry Trees

Cherry, Prunus species -

WHY Cherry flowers are borne on spurs; thus Cherries belong to class II B.

WHEN Pruning of the Cherries is confined to the early life of the trees; if well done, later yearly pruning is limited merely to removing poor wood and thinning.

HOW Since the fruit is not as heavy as that of apples or peaches, the pyramidal type of tree is not essential; in fact, many advise the open vase type of tree.  Pruning, however, starts with the whip, the one year old planting, which has no secondary laterals, particularly in the Sweet Cherry group.  The whip is clipped or topped back at planting time to about 24 to 36 inches from the ground, at least to the height of a low trunk, which is desirable.  As laterals develop during the summer, select about 3 of these near the top and at least 6 to 8 inches apart if possible.  Pinch out all the rest of the laterals.  During the next dormant season top the framework or lateral branches that were permitted to grow to about 1/3 to 1/2 of their summer growth; during the following summer again select 2 shoots of each lateral that are well spaced on each of the 3 main laterals, and pinch out all the others that have developed.  This is continued until the tree is 4 to 5 years old.  By this method the erect habit of growth with poor, narrow crotch formation, characteristic of the Sweet Cherry, will be prevented and the tree will have the basis of an excellent framework.  After this form is established, merely apply pruning principles for a healthy tree, removing interfering branches, injuries and excess growth. The Sour Cherry is not erect in habit.  Thus, after 3 years of pruning, as suggested for the Sweet Cherry, it will need only thinning out the top or fruiting wood, to prevent its tendency to tangle up with small branch growth.

Some trees grow twiggy naturally, and certain apple varieties such as Jonathan, as well as many varieties of cherries, plums, peaches and apricots, need additional thinning of their bearing wood to let in sunshine to ripen the fruit.

Trees bear their fruit either on the limbs or on short, stubby spurs between the branches.  Pears, plums and cherries grow mostly on spurs, peaches grow on one-year-old limb growth, and most varieties of apples are produced both on spurs and on limbs.

Because spur-type fruit trees make less limb growth, they need less pruning.  Since this means considerably less labor for the orchardist, scientists have worked on breeding trees that produce mostly on spurs, and there are now many varieties of this type of fruit tree available.

When too many fruit spurs develop along a branch, cut out some of them to encourage bigger and better fruits on the rest.  After a few years of experience, you'll be able to judge about how many spurs are right for the tree.  Each spur will usually produce for several years, but then you should cut it off to allow a replacement to grow.  You'll be able to spot the older spurs by their aging appearance.

Cherry trees need less pruning than other fruit trees.  Start pruning to a central leader when your tree is young to encourage a strong tree, especially if it is one of the larger-growing types.  Because of the tree's natural habit of growth, you probably will have to change to a modified leader or open center as the tree gets older.

You'll need to do some pruning to let in the sun to color the fruit, and to thin the bearing wood, but beware of overpruning, a cause of winter injury and premature aging.


Cherry, Sour, Prunus cerasus - pruning

WHY Because of weak wood and forms crotches that break easily under a load of fruit.

WHEN Head nursery trees at 18 to 24 inches and select three or four shoots with wide crotch angles.

HOW Train to a multiple leader.  Because sour cherries branch freely, heading is not required after the first dormant heading of scaffold limbs.

Pruning bearing trees - Contain height and spread by thinning as needed.  Sour cherries also tolerate hedging if not allowed to become too dense.


Cherry, Sweet, Prunus avium - pruning

WHY Trees quickly become tall with few branches close to the ground.

WHEN Head all shoots annually in dormant season.

HOW Sweet-cherry trees ordinarily branch only at the start of a season's growth.  Sometimes, sweet cherries won't branch at all.

Head trees about 18 to 24 inches above ground at planting.  Head all shoots to 24 to 36 inches after the first and second year's growth.  Remove terminal buds of shorter shoots to promote branching.  In the third and fourth years, head only the vigorous shoots.  When fruiting begins, gradually remove a few scaffolds until seven or eight remain.  Head all shoots annually in dormant season.  Heading develops low, spreading trees that are easy to pick.

Pruning mature trees - Sweet cherries fruit on spurs that live up to 10 years.  Thin tops as necessary to let in more light and keep upper limbs in reach.  Prune old, devitalized trees harder, using both heading and thinning cuts to increase vigor.


Possible Problems Of Cherries

Symptoms       Probable Cause

Leaves curled and discolored; honeydew evident on undersides of leaves, sometimes sooty mold forms - Aphids

Black sooty mold on honeydew made by ants herding aphids. - Ants Herding Aphids

Many holes in trunk and branches; small limbs girdled sawdust at holes

 - Borers

Skeletonized leaves - Cankerworms

Ends of twigs die and fall off – Cicada-

Fruit falls, crescent –shaped cuts in skin of fruit - Curculios

Leaves and twigs webbed together - Fall Webworms

Small misshapen fruits - Fruit Flies

Trees defoliated, brown egg cases appear on trunk - Caterpillar Of Gypsy Moths

Holes in leaves and flowers - Japanese Beetles

Holes in flowers; leaves rolled up - Leafrollers

Plant stunted, leaves yellowed, lesions on roots - Nematodes

Weakened plant, stunting growth, fewer blooms and fruit.  - Sawflies

Leaves yellow, drop; bumps on leaves and stems; sometimes sticky material on leaves - Scale

Leaves stippled, yellow, dirty; webbing on interior stems of plant - Spider Mites

Webbed nest in tree branches filled with caterpillars - Tent Caterpillars

Much foliage is eaten starting from top of tree down - Caterpillar Of Tussock Moth

White spots on leaves; eventually entire leaf is covered with powder - Powdery Mildew, A Fungal Disease

Yellowing of foliage and gradual defoliation; plants may become stunted - Verticillium Wilt, A Fungal Disease

Skin of fruit pierced or partially eaten - Birds

Foliage and fruit disappears below ten feet - Deer



see all questions...

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Nancy