When is the best time to prune a cherry tree?

Cherry trees are a beautiful addition to any garden, but like any fruit tree, they require proper care and maintenance to thrive. One of the most important aspects of cherry tree care is pruning. But when is the best time to prune a cherry tree? Let’s take a closer look.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two main types of cherry trees: sweet cherries and sour cherries. Sweet cherries, also known as dessert cherries, are the type you’re most likely to find in the supermarket. Sour cherries, also known as tart cherries, are used for making pies and preserves. The timing and technique of pruning can differ slightly between these two types of cherry trees, so we’ll cover them separately.

When to prune sweet cherry trees:

Sweet cherry trees should be pruned during their dormant season, which is typically in late winter or early spring before the buds begin to swell. This is because sweet cherry trees are susceptible to a fungal disease called a silver leaf, which can infect the tree through pruning wounds. Pruning during the dormant season allows the wounds to heal before new growth starts, reducing the risk of infection.

When pruning sweet cherry trees, the focus should be on removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches. You should also remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, as these can damage the bark and create entry points for pests and diseases. Aim to create an open center shape, which allows sunlight to reach all parts of the tree and improves air circulation. Avoid pruning the central leader (the main vertical stem), as this can result in a weaker tree.

It’s also important not to remove more than 25% of the tree’s canopy in one year, as this can stress the tree out and reduce its ability to produce fruit. If the tree needs more pruning than that, spread it out over a few years.

When to prune sour cherry trees:

Sour cherry trees should be pruned in the summer after they have finished bearing fruit. This is because sour cherries are prone to a disease called bacterial canker, which can infect the tree through pruning wounds during the dormant season. Pruning in the summer allows the wounds to heal quickly before the rainy season starts, reducing the risk of infection.

When pruning sour cherry trees, the focus should be on removing any suckers (vigorous shoots that grow from the base of the tree) and water sprouts (vigorous shoots that grow from pruning wounds). These shoots don’t produce fruit and can divert the tree’s energy away from fruit production. You should also remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

It’s important not to remove more than 25% of the tree’s canopy in one year when pruning sour cherry trees as well, to avoid stressing the tree out.

In conclusion, the best time to prune a cherry tree depends on the type of cherry tree you have. Sweet cherry trees should be pruned during their dormant season, while sour cherry trees should be pruned in the summer after they have finished bearing fruit. By following these guidelines and focusing on removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches, you can help ensure that your cherry tree stays healthy and produces a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Another important factor to keep in mind when pruning cherry trees is the weather. Ideally, you want to prune on a dry day when the temperature is above freezing. This is because wet weather can increase the risk of infection, and pruning in freezing temperatures can damage the tree.

It’s also a good idea to avoid pruning cherry trees during periods of rapid growth or during periods of drought or extreme heat. Pruning during these times can stress the tree out and make it more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

If you’re new to pruning cherry trees, it can be helpful to do some research or seek advice from a professional arborist. They can help you determine the best pruning technique for your specific tree, as well as provide guidance on how much to prune and when to do it.

In addition to regular pruning, there are other things you can do to help your cherry tree thrive. For example, you can fertilize the tree with a balanced fertilizer in the spring, and make sure it’s getting enough water during periods of drought.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some cherry trees are self-pollinating, while others require cross-pollination. If your cherry tree requires cross-pollination, make sure you plant a second cherry tree nearby that blooms at the same time. This will help ensure a successful harvest.

In conclusion, pruning is an important aspect of cherry tree care, and the best time to prune depends on the type of cherry tree you have. Sweet cherry trees should be pruned during their dormant season, while sour cherry trees should be pruned in the summer after they have finished bearing fruit. By focusing on removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches, creating an open center shape, and avoiding pruning too much in one year, you can help ensure a healthy and productive cherry tree.