Starting a cherry tree from seed can be a fun, rewarding way to add this gorgeous flowering fruit tree to your yard. With some patience and proper care, you’ll be harvesting sweet cherries within just a few years.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of the process, from choosing and preparing seeds, germinating them, transplanting seedlings, caring for young saplings, and more. You’ll pick up pro tips for success along the way.
Choosing High-Quality Cherry Seeds
The first step is procuring cherry seeds that will germinate readily. Here’s how to source and prepare seeds for the best odds of sprouting:
Sourcing Cherry Tree Seeds
- Collect seeds from store-bought cherries. Choose ripe, sweet varieties like Bing, Rainier, Brooks, or Van.
- Harvest seeds from local cherry trees. Ask neighbors for their permission first.
- Buy seeds from garden centers or online dealers. Opt for named cultivars over generic seeds.
- Favor seeds from cherries with traits you desire like sweetness, size, color, harvest time.
Assessing Seed Viability
Examine seeds carefully and select plump, fully developed ones for planting. Shrivelled, small seeds likely won’t germinate.
Preparing and Storing Cherry Seeds
- Rinse flesh residue from around seeds. Allow to ferment 1-3 days until pulp easily separates.
- Spread seeds in single layer on paper towels. Allow 2-3 weeks drying time.
- Place dried seeds in an airtight container in refrigerate 2-3 months.
Stored properly, cherry seeds remain viable for planting up to 1 year.
Preparing for Cherry Seed Germination
To promote strong germination rates, cherry seeds require a period of moist cold stratification before planting. Here’s how to get them ready:
Stratifying Cherry Seeds
Place dried seeds in damp peat moss or paper towel then seal in a plastic bag. Keep seeds chilled at 40-45° F for 90-120 days. This cold period tricks seeds into acting like they’ve experienced winter.
Choosing Planting Medium
Use a sterile, soilless seed starting mix which resists fungus and helps fragile seeds sprout. Or try a loamy potting soil amended with compost or worm castings for nutrients.
Good options include cell packs, small nursery pots (3-4 inches), or protected outdoor nursery beds amended with compost. Allow 1-6 seeds per individual container or scattered across beds.
Germinating Cherry Tree Seeds
Once prepped, it’s time to plant! Follow these key steps for successfully sprouting cherry pits:
Sow prepped seeds 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch deep in your prepped containers filled with moist soil. If seed starting mix, cover pots with plastic domes to retain moisture.
Place containers in bright, indirect light where temperatures stay consistently 70-80° F. Bottom heat mats also boost germination.
Expect to see the first sprouts in 1-2 months after stratifying and planting seeds properly.
Even with ideal conditions, only about 1⁄3 of cherry pits result in seedlings. Cull extras if more than one sprout per cell or pot.
Caring for New Cherry Tree Seedlings
Once those little sprouts emerge, they need attentive care to establish successfully:
Seedlings require 12-16 hours of direct bright sunlight daily. Supplement natural light with grow lights as needed.
Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Seedling roots are prone to rotting. Allow pots to partially dry out between waterings.
Gradually acclimate seedlings to 65-70° F temps. Avoid cold drafts which shock tender growth.
Clip off all but the strongest seedling in each container with small scissors. Space 2-4 inches apart in beds.
Transplanting Cherry Tree Saplings
In early spring after the last frost date, it’s time to transplant sprouted seedlings into the garden:
A week before transplanting, set seedlings outside in partial shade for a few hours, bringing back indoors overnight. Slowly increase outdoor time over a week.
Plant seedlings outdoors only after all danger of frost has passed. Cherry trees break dormancy early.
Pick a sheltered spot with:
- Full sun – minimum 6 hours direct sun
- Well-draining soil – loamy with good drainage
- Adequate space – cherry trees reach 15-25 feet at maturity
- Dig a hole wider than root ball but same depth
- Loosen bound roots carefully with hands
- Set at same level it’s growing in pot, don’t bury too deeply
- Backfill soil firmly around roots and water deeply
Insert tall sturdy stake next to sapling. loosely secure central leader to prevent damage from wind. Remove in 2-3 years once established.
Growing Young Cherry Trees
Attentive care in early years leads to healthy, robust trees down the road:
Apply 3-4 inches of organic mulch around base out to dripline. Keep area clear of grass and weeds which compete for nutrients.
Prioritize consistent water for young trees, especially in drought spells. Soak the entire root zone once top few inches become dry.
In late winter, remove any dead or damaged branches. Prune for shape, retaining central leader and evenly spaced lateral branches for best structure.
Monitor for common cherry pests like aphids and cherry fruit flies. Use organic neem sprays or insecticidal soap as needed – avoid broad spectrum pesticides.
Apply balanced organic fertilizer or compost in early spring if young leaves look pale or yellow, indicating nutrient deficiency.
Most varieties need a second compatible cherry tree flowering at same time for pollination and fruit set. Or plant close to wild cherries.
Cherry Tree Early Growth Stages and Timeline
Here’s what to expect in terms of height and yield as your cherry tree establishes over the first critical years:
|Expected Growth Stage
|Focus on root development <br> Grow 12-24 inches in height <br> No blossoms or fruit expected
|Form main branches <br> Reach 2-4 feet tall <br> Possible a few blossoms, no harvest
|Fill out canopy <br> Hit 5-8 foot height <br> Modest blooms and small fruit set if supported pollination
|Consistent flowering and harvests <br> Average growth 1-2 feet annually <br> Yields increasing over years
Now you’re equipped with a complete, step-by-step guide to successfully grow a cherry tree from seeds straight through to fruiting stage and beyond.
With the right seed selection, preparation methods, attentive seedling care, and properly supporting young trees, you can enjoy the sweet reward of home-grown cherries within just a few seasons.
It does require diligent care and patience in those early fragile years, but the payoff of gorgeous spring blossoms and fresh summer cherries makes it well worth the effort.
Start your cherry seed stratification now so they are prepped and ready to sprout come ideal spring planting time. Enjoy the journey of nurturing your garden gems from seed to fruiting tree!