Cherry trees are renowned for their gorgeous spring blossoms and abundant summer fruit. But with their spreading size and demanding growing requirements, you may wonder if they have a place in small garden landscapes. This article takes an in-depth look at growing cherry trees in tight spaces. We’ll cover:
- Height and width considerations for popular cherry tree types
- Challenges of raising cherry trees in restricted room
- Compact cherry tree cultivars suitable for small areas
- Care strategies tailored for small garden cherry culture
- Alternatives for small-space fruiting options
After weighing the pros and cons, you’ll have the information to decide if a cherry tree, whether sweet or tart, can work in your tiny yard.
Height and Spread Considerations When Growing Cherry Trees
To determine if a cherry tree is practical for your modest garden, you need to understand its mature size. This factor alone eliminates many standard cherry trees from tiny spaces.
Mature Cherry Tree Size
The size a cherry tree will reach at maturity depends heavily on the rootstock and cultivar chosen. Below are height and width averages:
|Average Mature Height
|Average Mature Width
|Standard sweet cherry
|Standard pie cherry
|Dwarf sweet cherry
|Dwarf pie cherry
As this chart shows, a 25-foot monster cherry tree takes up considerable real estate in a petite garden! But options like dwarf and columnar varieties require less horizontal space.
Techniques to Control Cherry Tree Size
You’re not necessarily limited to small cherry tree cultivars. These key techniques can restrict the size of a standard cherry if you have the know-how:
Pruning: Annual pruning cuts back long branches and removes excess growth, managing spread. This also boosts air circulation and sunlight to lower disease risk.
Planting: Grow cherry trees in confined planter beds or containers to limit root and canopy expansion. This restricts vegetative vigor.
Trellising: Espalier training secures branches to trellises or wires flat against a wall or fence. This directs growth vertically rather than horizontally across the garden.
Root restriction: Prevent invasive roots by installing vertical root barriers around the root zone or growing in above-ground planters.
By mastering size control methods, you expand the range of cherries suitable for your landscape constraints. But the downside is that restricting space also limits fruit production. Sweet cherries especially need ample room for robust cropping.
Challenges of Growing Cherry Trees in Small Spaces
Beyond size management, cherry trees come with unique challenges in the cramped garden. Consider these drawbacks:
Invading Root Systems
Left unchecked in the ground, cherry tree roots aggressively mine large areas for nutrients and water. They’ll happily crack water lines, destroy structures, and choke out other plants in their quest for resources. Controlling these extensive roots in a confined landscape makes growing cherries quite tricky.
Demanding Sun Requirements
All cherry varieties need a minimum 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sun daily. But buildings, walls, and other trees easily shade small backyards. Insufficient sunlight means reduced blossoms and fruit.
Most sweet and sour cherries set very little fruit without cross-pollination from a different compatible variety growing nearby. But few tiny yards offer the space for planting two trees.
Disease and Pest Susceptibility
Thick foliage in compact growing areas prevents proper air circulation. These high humidity conditions breed fungal diseases like leaf spot, powdery mildew, and rust. Aphids, mites, and borers also plague cherry trees grown in crowded conditions.
As this list shows, you can’t stick just any old cherry tree in a small garden and expect success. The confined space and proximity to structures creates definite production obstacles. Let’s look at suitable options for overcoming these challenges.
Sweet Cherry Tree Options for Small Spaces
Standard sweet cherry trees exceed 20 feet at maturity – far too massive for tiny yards. Instead, consider these modestly-sized varieties suitable for small gardens:
Compact Sweet Cherry Cultivars
These naturally petite sweet cherry tree varieties thrive in restricted space:
- Lapins: A semi-dwarf reaching 15 feet tall and wide. Dark red sweet fruit in mid to late season. Partially self-fruitful but produces better with a pollinator.
- Sweetheart: Grows up to 8 feet tall and wide. Extremely hardy for cold climates. Mid season dark red heart-shaped fruits. Good pollinator for other cherries.
- Honey Babe: Miniature variety only reaches 6 feet high and wide. Abundant, very sweet yellow fruit in early summer. Self-pollinating.
These dwarfing rootstocks significantly reduce the mature height of sweet cherry varieties grafted on to them:
- Gisela 5: Sweet cherry trees on Gisela 5 roots reach 8-10 feet tall at maturity. The roots generate few suckers and are anchorage for large fruit loads.
- Krymsk 6: Very size limiting rootstock keeps mature height under 7 feet. Extremely hardy in cold climates. Produces abundant flowers and fruit while staying compact.
- Giessenheimer: A semi-dwarfing rootstock that controls sweet cherries to 12-15 foot heights. Provides good anchorage and productivity.
Dwarfed Bing – The Top Sweet Cherry
No cherry list is complete without the beloved Bing cherry. Its large, crisp summer fruits boast exquisite sweet-tart flavor. By grafting Bing onto size-limiting Gisela or Krymsk roots, you can grow this top variety in small gardens. Expect 8-10 feet heights. Provide another pollinator like Rainier, Van, or Black Tartarian for optimal fruit set.
Sour Cherry Tree Options for Tight Spaces
If pie-making is your game, check out these sour or tart cherry trees feasible for tiny landscapes:
Compact Sour Cherry Cultivars
Naturally petite sour cherry tree varieties are perfect for confined gardens:
- North Star: Extremely hardy, self-fruitful variety reaches 8 feet tall and wide. Mid to late season fruits make tangy pies.
- Meteor: Consistently productive compact sour cherry ripening early summer. Self-pollinates and grows to a mere 6 feet.
- Montmorency: The ubiquitous pie cherry is a naturally smaller tree, hitting 10-15 feet at maturity. Provides gorgeous blossoms and mid summer fruit for cooking.
Cherry Tree Care Strategies for Small Gardens
Once you’ve selected genetically compact trees, specialized care strategies maximize growth and fruiting in restricted space:
Watering – Cherry trees in containers or confined beds need frequent watering as roots access a limited soil reservoir. Target 1-2 inches of water per week.
Fertilizing – Fertilize annually in early spring and after harvest to replenish nutrients. Use formulations with more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen to avoid rampant vegetative growth.
Pruning – Prune annually to remove inward-facing branches and dense interior growth for improved sunlight and air exposure. This also checks unwanted vigorous growth.
Training – Support slender dwarf trees with a sturdy stake and train branches horizontally for earlier fruiting and easier harvesting in cramped conditions.
Bird Control – Drape bird netting over small cherry trees to allow every precious fruit to fully ripen after all your hard work optimizing growth.
With some effort and cultivar savvy, it is possible to succeed with cherry trees in small gardens!
Alternatives for Small Space Fruiting
If cherry culture ultimately proves too troublesome in your compact garden, consider these fruiting alternatives:
Bush cherries like the Carmine Jewel and Romeo produce small-scale cherry crops on a compact shrub form. These max out at 5 feet tall and wide. Yields are lower than full trees, but take up a fraction of the space!
Espalier Fruit Trees
Espalier trains any tree flat against a supportive trellis or wire frame. Fan designs direct growth vertically, allowing fruit trees to thrive in narrow planted beds against walls. Sweet or pie cherries can be espaliered to save horizontal space while producing abundant fruit.
Ornamental Cherry Shrubs
Some decorative flowering cherry shrubs like Yoshino produce edible (yet small and soft) fruits as a secondary benefit. Their primary purpose is adding aesthetic value with profuse spring blooms on a compact form.
Conclusion: Are Cherry Trees a Good for Small Garden?
Cherry trees are undeniably exquisite with their spring blossoms and summer fruits. But they require ample horizontal space to serve up their iconic offerings. Still, compact cherry tree options properly supported with careful husbandry methods can prove productive and rewarding, even in garden beds under 200 square feet.
Genetically dwarf cherry tree varieties grafted onto size-controlling rootstock offer manageable heights under 10 feet. Smart training techniques like espaliers can direct growth vertically rather than outward. Planter boxes provide ultimate control over root spread. With proper placement, soil enrichment, and pest management, cherries can bear generous early summer fruits without overwhelming tiny yard landscapes.
However, gardeners must scale expectations to reality. Dwarf cherry trees produce fewer fruits than full-sized counterparts. And extremely confined trees require much more water, fertilizer, and pruning to sustain satisfactory harvests. These sweet fruits ask much of little gardens in return.
If the delicate dance of propping up finicky cherries still doesn’t suit your landscape or schedule, compact cherry-like shrubs merit consideration. With their beauty, blossoms and smaller fruits, these alternatives confer gorgeous spring displays and sweet summer snacking. They take up little space while avoiding the tall production demands of true cherry trees.
In the end, only you can decide if a compact cherry tree is worth its hassle and trade-offs in your petite slice of paradise. With mindful cultivar selection and care tailored to small spaces, cherry magic might just manifest, even in the most constrained garden conditions.