Wondering how fast cherry trees grow? While they’re not the quickest fruit tree, they certainly aren’t slow either.
Sweet cherry trees grow about 1 foot each year in good conditions. Young trees purchased at the garden center typically take 3-4 years to start producing fruit. These trees were typically grafted onto 1-2 year-old rootstocks in the nursery, meaning the trees are more like 5 years old when they start fruiting. Cherry trees take about 7-8 years after planting to reach maturity (for a total age of 8-10 years old).
Read on to learn all about how fast cherry trees grow!
How fast does a cherry tree grow?
Whether you’re baking cherry squares or a cherry pie or putting them on top of a sundae, these little, round fruits are delicious, especially when they’re homegrown. But before you purchase a tree, you may have questions about the growth process, such as how long they take to grow. And here are some answers!
Cherry trees grown from seed grow about a foot a year and take 5-6 years to start producing fruit. The young put all their trees into vertical growth and canopy spread while they compete for sunlight with neighboring plants.
Most cherry trees sold in garden centers and planted in orchards are grafted trees. A branch from a known type of cherry tree is cut and grafted onto a different cherry root. This rootstock is usually 1-2 years old before it is grafted. Grafted cherry trees tend to fruit earlier than own-root trees, and can fruit only 2-3 years after grafting (meaning they fruit at a total age of 3-5 years).
Cherry tree growth rates per year
Sweet cherry trees grow about 12 inches each year. They may grow only 8-10 inches in poor conditions and may grow more like 14 inches in particularly good conditions.
Sour cherry trees tend to grow a little more slowly than sweet cherries (but also don’t get as big). Sour cherries can be expected to grow more like 8-10 inches per year in average conditions.
Time for cherry trees to start fruiting
Cherry trees don’t start to blossom and produce fruit until they are about five years old. Young trees are typically grafted onto 1-2 year old rootstocks before you purchase them. Once you buy them and get them into the ground, they’ll likely take 3-4 years to start blossoming and setting fruit.
The first few harvests will be sparse. You may even wish to take off the baby fruits on very young trees so that the tree can put all its energy into root growth rather than fruiting. It will take more like 7-8 years after planting for a full mature crop.
Cherry trees planted in orchards are propagated and trained carefully for fruit production. These trees can take as little as 2-3 years in the ground to start fruiting. That said, some orchardists remove the first crop after it sets to allow the trees to put more energy into root development when young. The first cherry crop is therefore harvested from orchards in the third growing season after planting.
“Cherry nurseries are mainly propagated by budding and grafting onto 1–2 year old seedling grown from seed. In order to grow from seed, pits should be planted in the fall (after first being chilled) and seedlings will emerge in the spring. A cherry tree will take three-four years to produce its first crop of fruit and seven years to attain full maturity.”PennState University, PlantVillage
Tips for growing your cherry tree
Different varieties of cherry trees need different climates, soil, sun, and water levels to thrive. Therefore, make sure you read about the specifics of your kind to see the optimal results. Taking care of these fruit trees properly will mean you’ll see them growing and producing fruit when they should. Not to mention, your cherry tree will provide a larger harvest when you care for it correctly.
Soil for good growth
In general, a cherry tree prefers well-draining, nitrogen-rich, sandy soil. If your current soil is heavy and more clay-like, try adding compost or peat moss to make it more cherry tree friendly.
The recommended pH level, a measurement of how alkaline or acidic the soil is, depends on the type of cherries you grow. For example, sweet cherries prefer a pH level in the 6.3 to 7.2 range, whereas sour cherries thrive best in soil between 6.0 and 7.0.
Watering cherry trees
When you plant the tree, you’ll want to keep the soil moist, but not wet, at all times. Once you have an established cherry tree, it usually receives enough water when it rains. However, depending on where you live, you may need to water it once every seven to 10 days when you don’t receive adequate rainfall. Watering it for 20 minutes under the canopy should suffice.
Sunlight for cherry tree health
Cherry trees prefer full sun, meaning they get sun without obstructions for a long time. They generally desire six to eight hours of sun each day to grow.
Ensuring your cherry tree has full sunlight means your plant will establish better. It also affects fruit production and can keep funguses from severely attacking your plant.
Fertility of cherry trees
Most sweet cherry trees require pollination from a cherry tree of another variety to produce fruit. So, if you’re buying a Bing Cherry, it makes sense to also buy a Rainer Cherry at the same time. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a blooming 5-year old sweet cherry tree that won’t fruit because it’s all alone!
Check this publication Sweet Cherry Cultivars for the Fresh Market for a good overview of pollination partners. Certain varieties like Utah Giant are self-fruitful (but will fruit better with a pollination partner nearby).
While many sour cherry trees are self-fertile, meaning they transfer pollen on the same cherry blossom or from another one on that plant, they aren’t all that way. So make sure you research if your cherry tree is. Even if it’s self-fertile, you could benefit from having a second cherry tree.
Pruning cherry trees
Tree pruning consists of removing any dead or diseased branches. Part of pruning is also eliminating the branches that are taking nutrients from the rest of the plant and holding it back from growing to its full potential. In this case, the vertical-growing branches inhibit good air circulation. Ideally, you want to prune cherry trees in the growing season.
Cherry trees can start producing fruit as early as their third year, depending on the type. However, it takes proper care if you want to see your cherries producing fruit when they should.
“On their own roots, cherry trees can take 5 to 6 years or more to produce fruit. Pruning can modify tree vigor and increase branch production. However, pruning—and especially dormant heading cuts—tends to delay fruit production in young trees by stimulating vegetative growth. Other factors, such as deep, productive soils or over-fertilization, increase tree vigor and delay the onset of floral initiation.”Cherry Training Systems, Oregon State University
- Iowa State University, Growing Cherries in the Home Garden
- PennState University, PlantVillage
- Oregon State University, Sweet Cherry Cultivars for the Fresh Market
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
- Colorado State University, Plant Talk Colorado
- Ohio State University, Edible Landscapes
- Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Plants of the World Online