Cherry trees have been popular for centuries. They originated in Japan, and many people look forward to the brief but spectacular cherry bloom every spring. There are also several varieties that you can plant and harvest fruit from in your backyard.
There are several kinds of cherries that can be grown in a container. This is a preferred method for many busy gardeners.
How well each type of cherry grows depends on the variety and the growing conditions. Some of the cherries that produce the best results are Rainier cherries, Bing cherries and “self-pollinating” cherries.
There are many different kinds of self-pollinating cherries, including Duke, Lapins, Morello, Nabella, North Star, Stella and Suburst.
If your growing space is limited, you may want to look into dwarf cherry trees. There are also certain cherry trees that have cultivars grafted onto them.
This helps to aid the growing process and can be a benefit if you don’t have a lot of space for planting.
What Container is best for a Cherry Tee?
So what Container is best for a cherry tree? The quick answer is, that the container has to be at least two inches bigger than the root base is. If you are rasing the tree from seed, then you can start with a smaller pot and repot the plant when it outgrows its container.
You’ll need a larger than normal container to plant your cherry trees. Using a plastic tub or nursery container should be sufficient.
15-gallon containers have plenty of room for the tree’s roots to grow as the tree grows. You can always repot the tree if it needs more room.
Some cherry trees can grow a couple of feet or more every growing season.
The container for your cherry tree needs to be both deeper and wider than the root base so that the tree has enough room to grow.
It should also have several holes in the bottom for drainage. You can either buy containers that already have drainage holes or you can drill these holes yourself.
If you’re concerned that the holes may be too big, you can always cover them with fabric, mesh screens or rock.
You may also want to put the container on a wheeled dolly. The container is going to be rather heavy once you add the tree, soil, water, and rocks or other drainage material.
Putting the container on a dolly makes it easier to move when you need to.
Before you plant your tree, take a few moments to examine the roots. If the tree is root bound, you should prune out some of the bigger roots and loosen the root ball a bit to make planting easier.
What Soil to use for Potting a Cherry Tree?
Before planting, fill the container that you’re going to use with either potting soil or an even mixture of soil, peat, and perlite.
Perlite is a form of volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content.
The soil you use should be rather light and should not be heavy or compacted, as this can hamper the plants growth.
The Soil should have a pH of around 6.5 to 6.7. Put the tree on top of this mixture or potting soil and fill the container with an additional couple inches of a mixture or potting soil.
Pack the mixture or soil carefully around the base of the tree and add water carefully.
Make sure to mulch the topsoil in your planting container on a regular basis. This should be done because most plants grown in containers tend to dry out faster than those grown in a garden.
How to Care for the Cherry Tree?
It can often take several years before cherry trees produce fruit. Depending on the type of cherry tree, they should produce cherries in about four to seven years.
Once the tree has started producing fruit, it should be watered regularly.
Most expert gardeners giving a cherry tree grown in a container a generous soaking of water a few times a week. This allows the tree’s roots to grow and spread and prevent cherries from splitting or cracking.
Regular watering helps ensure the health and longevity of the cherry tree.
How to Fertilize the Cherry Tree?
You should also fertilize your cherry tree when possible.
Use organic fertilizing compounds or all-purpose compounds that are nitrogen-free.
Read the product ingredient and warning labels before buying.
Egg shells, tea leaves and glacial rock dust are just some of the natural products you can use for fertilizing.
Fertilizers will help improve the quality of both the fruit and foliage of your cherry tree. Experts recommend fertilizing cherry trees every spring as long as they are not currently producing fruit.
Growing Cerrys from Seeds.
In case you’re wondering, you can also grow a cherry tree pit.
Growing conditions vary by region, but it can be done no matter where you live.
All you need to start are a few cherry pits! These pits should first be soaked in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Then you can remove the pits and scrub free any bits of fruit that may be stuck to them.
Dry them out on a paper towel and leave them in a warm place for about 4 days. Place the dried cherry pits in a clear container and put the container in the refrigerator for 8-10 weeks.
The pits should be refrigerated because cherries need to go through the normal stratification period that normally occurs in winter.
You’re basically copying this natural process by refrigerating them.
Now you’re ready to put a few of the cherry pits in a small container filled with potting soil or a mixture of perlite, peat, and soil.
The container should be kept in a warm place that receives a fair amount of shade. Don’t place the container in direct sunlight all of the time. The plant should receive a good amount of air flow as well.
Once the seedlings are a couple of inches tall, you should thin them out to remove the weakest parts of the plant.
The hardiest seedlings should remain in your container and be allowed to continue to grow.
Once the danger of frost has passed or if you’re planting in spring or summer you can either move the plant to an outdoor garden or grow it in a large container.
If you’re planting your cherry trees outside, they should be spaced at least 15 to 20 feet apart so that the roots have enough room to grow.
When to Harvest the Cherries?
The cherries will be ready for picking when they are dark red or yellow.
Generally speaking, the darker they are in color, the richer their sugar content is.
You should pick ripened cherries when they are ready and don’t leave them sitting on the tree for very long. Choose some for eating and store the rest in sealed plastic bags.
The cherries you save for later should be kept in the freezer for at least a week to preserve their flavor.
Diseases and Pests and how to Deal with them
Whether you grow your cherry trees indoors or outdoors, there are several insects and diseases that can cause some serious damage. Here are a few of the most common ones:
Black Cherry aphids
These small insects are black in color and are commonly found during the warmer weather months.
Black Cherry aphids eat cherry tree leaves. This causes holes in the leaves, which may become curled or twisted. These aphids also release honeydew from their bodies, which can cause a black fungus to form.
It’s best to attack this fungus right away because prolonged exposure can reduce the quality and quantity of a cherry tree’s harvest. It can even kill cherry trees in extreme cases.
This is a troublesome fungus that can affect cherry tree blooms, branches, and fruit.
They look like small brownish-gray patches on affected areas. Fruit blight and rot and cankers on the tree are signs that it’s been affected by brown rot.
Applying a non-toxic fungicide can effectively treat brown rot.
Cherry leaf spot
This is another kind of fungus, one that primarily affects the leaves of a cherry tree.
It’s identified by white spots on leaves during wet weather, dark spots on cherry tree leaves and by leaves that are either yellowing or dropping prematurely.
This is primarily found on cherry trees that are grown in more humid areas of the country. Spots tend to occur within the first two weeks after being infected.
Fungicides can help but are of no use once the leaf is fully formed. It’s best to apply fungicide the following year before leaves sprout and carefully remove the infected leaves for now
This is a fungus that attacks cherry tree branches and leaves. Common signs are white splotches on tree branches and leaves falling prematurely.
A witches’ broom is a cluster of branches that form into a shape that looks like a witches’ broom. There are many reasons why this can form.
They can be caused by fungal infections, bacteria or viruses or simply by trauma or damage to the branches.
Witches’ brooms are not considered harmful to the tree or its fruit. They are remedied by pruning or cutting off the affected areas.
Cherry root rot
This is a soil borne fungal infection that can be spread through root contact, infected roots, transplanting cherry trees or through water.
It’s caused by the organism known as phymatotrichum omnivorum. Trees affected will start developing foliage that gradually browns or yellows as the fungus spreads. Any fruit currently growing on the tree will start to drop prematurely. This fungus can kill a tree in a matter of days.
By the time most symptoms are visible, it’s often too late to save the tree. Rotating the tree every few years or adding materials such as compost or garden gypsum can help even out soil imbalances where this fungus tends to thrive.
Also known as vein clearing, this is an abnormality that can occur on cherry trees that are in any condition.
You may see leaf patterns that are narrower than usual. Tree buds may be oddly shaped. There may also be more blossoms than normal, or fruit that is ridged on one side and flat on the other. This condition is not fatal, but it can seriously affect a cherry tree’s fruit production.
Boron applications have been helpful for some, but this is no guarantee that things will improve. Breeding with cherry trees that have shown no signs of this mutation is the best way to prevent cherry crinkle from happening.
Black knot. This is a fungal infection spread by spores that travel through the air via rain or wind. It’s usually noticed in spring or summer as large knots or bulges start to form on tree branches.
The longer the season progresses, the more these knots spread. By the time most gardeners notice them, it may be too late to save the tree. That’s why it’s important to prune proactively. If you notice any unusual growths, trim those branches immediately.
You may also want to add organic fungicides as a stop-gap measure.
Pear slugs like cherry trees almost as much as they like pear trees. These slugs munch on growing leaves and can cause significant damage to the tree.
Using a spray bottle filled with water and some mild dish soap can prevent this problem from happening. Spraying the leaves with this mixture will deter slugs from chewing on your cherry tree’s leaves.
If they try to do so, they will dry up once they touch the soap and fall off of the leaf. They can easily be picked up and removed from there.
You can prevent the risk of fungal and insect infections by spraying them with Tanglefoot in the spring and fall and applying sulphur spray and dormant oil spray in the winter.
This application will kill any bugs or larva that have been lying in the tree dormant. Just be careful not to apply these chemicals to any green leaves or buds, as the sulphur can kill anything on the tree that’s green.
Final Words and Considerations
Each type of cherry tree fares well in different types of weather and climate conditions.
Doing some research on the types of cherries that you want to grow and learning in what areas and conditions they flourish can help you select the type that’s best for where you live.
Getting some advice from other gardeners or a master gardener can help you choose the type of cherry tree that will flourish in your area and best meet your needs.
It can also take some trial and error. Certain types of cherry trees create more cherry blossoms than fruit.
Others may not end up producing any fruit at all. You can try cross-breeding different types to see if you get better results.
Just keep in mind that this is no guarantee that your tree will bear fruit. Trees that are neglected, under-watered or placed in primarily dry or humid condiitons may take a longer time for fruit to grow.
They should also be watered and fertilized properly throughout the growing process.
Another important consideration is to make sure that you’re not over-wintering your cherry tree.
If you’re growing your cherry tree indoors in a container, keep in mind the fact that they need a period of dormancy over the winter just like trees grown from cherry pits do.
It’s okay to leave these plants in a garage or other unheated building. Just make sure that these plants are not exposed to temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below for long periods of time.
Growing cherry trees in containers is definitely not for impatient gardeners.
It takes a lot of time, especially when you consider that you probably won’t see fruit on your trees for at least a few years.
The temperatures and growing conditions have to be perfect for some trees to produce a good harvest. You may need to buy a few trees in order to grow a fair amount of cherries for personal use or sale.
All of the time, money and effort spent into growing cherry trees in containers is very worthwhile.
You’ll have fresh cherries that you can harvest that are perfect for spring and summer dishes, or just as a tasty snack on a hot day. Pay attention to the tree daily and don’t forget to water and fertilize it regularly.
Keep your eye out for aphids, slugs, and signs of fungal infections. The tree should last for many years, so constant dedication to its care is crucial.
It’s the only way to ensure a healthy crop for many years to come.