When planning to plant a cherry tree, choose a spot that is 25ft in diameter that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid low lying areas that stay wet during heavy rain, and avoid planting too close to the south side of structures.
For small spaces, self pollinating sour cherry trees are best, since they don’t need another cherry tree in order to cross-pollinate and produce cherries.
Most sweet cherry varieties are not self-pollinating, which means you’ll need 2 different cherry trees of the same variety, (or different variety if their bloom times align with each other) in order to produce fruit. See our cross pollination chart to determine what cultivars are compatible to be planted next to each other.
For even tighter spaces, consider bush cherries – smaller cherry tree varieties. Bush cherries make excellent wind-breaks and hedging, and can be planted 6-8 feet apart. Nankin Bush Cherry is a great variety that will start producing fruit within the first year.
How Much Sun do Cherry Trees Require?
Cherry trees need full sun of at least 6-8 hours during the day and well-draining soil to thrive.
Sunlight is critical for fruit production, as well as keeping fungal issues at bay. Too much shade with higher humidity will lead to wet leaves, which can cause fungal diseases.
A planting area that has less than 6 hours of direct sunlight will not produce a good harvest and will be susceptible to lower quality cherries, less quantity of cherries, and the cherries you do harvest will be poor tasting, less sweet, and possibly slightly bitter, and dry tasting.
While young cherry trees should be planted in full sun, their trunk and major limbs need protection from the sun to prevent sun scorch during its first few years.
Avoid Cherry Tree Sun Scorch
As the tree grows, the canopy will help protect the trunk and limbs from sun scorch. But young cherry trees with a small and thin canopy are more susceptible to sun scorch. Sun scorch on a young cherry tree will show as brown or yellow tinge on the leaves and foliage.
Painting the trunk and main limbs with a white latex paint diluted with 50% water will help reflect the sun and help avoid sun scorch.
Can Cherry Trees Get Too Much Sun?
Although all varieties of cherry trees are sun loving, too much sun in the early spring when cherry trees usually bloom can put them at higher risk of a late frost and damage to cherry blossoms.
To prevent this, avoid planting too close to the western or southern sides of your structure, which may retain (and radiate) heat more easily in early spring. The heat radiating from southern side of structures can cause cherry trees to bloom too early in the spring and be more susceptible to late frost damage. Blossom damage will translate to less cherries to harvest.
If you are planning on planting on the south side, allow enough space between your cherry tree and your structure to avoid an early bloom. Sweet cherry cultivars also bloom earlier than sour/tart cherry tree cultivars.
Too much sun in an open field with no shade can also cause cherries to become overly ripe. On the other hand, too much shade may also produce diseases which would lead to bitter cherries.
Can cherry trees grow in shade?
Too much shade can produce a leggy cherry tree with odd shaped leaves, and be more susceptible to fungal diseases. While most cherry tree varieties are sun-loving, there are a few ornamental cultivars that are more shade tolerant if your space doesn’t receive enough sunlight.
Taiwan cherry tree varieties are the most shade and heat tolerant varieties, so if you’re looking for a cherry tree to blossom and be purely ornamental and you live in a climate with a mild winter, this variety is a good candidate.
Japanese flowering cherry varieties are best known for their pink blossoms in early spring. If you have sandy well-draining soil, the Japanese Kwanzan cultivar is a great option for an ornamental cherry tree in an area with as low as 2 hours of sunlight per day.
How far apart should cherry trees be planted?
Tart or Sour cherry trees grow 8-15 feet wide and don’t require another tree to be pollinated, (as they are self-pollinating) so they should be planted 15-20 feet apart to allow them enough space to get full grown without their canopies touching, and enough space for proper air circulation. Air circulation is important to prevent fungal diseases from forming on your cherry tree’s foliage.
Full grown sweet cherry trees, on the other hand, can grow 18-25 feet tall and wide, and should be planted a minimum of 25 feet apart, and no more than 100 feet apart since sweet cherry trees do require a pollinating tree in order to produce cherries.
Dwarf varieties can grow up to 14ft tall and wide, so they can be planted as close as 15 ft to each other.
If you have even less space to work with, go with a Cherry bush. They make great wind-breaks and can be planted along a fence line as close as 6-8 feet apart.
What type of soil do cherry trees like best?
Cherry trees require well draining soil which will lead to healthy roots – which will lead to a healthy cherry tree. Avoid wet and poor draining soil for your cherry tree planting site. If water pools after a rainstorm, avoid that area.
Heavy clay soil will retain too much moisture for cherry tree roots, so if you have heavy clay soil, amend with compost and mulch heavily around your tree after planting. Rain in early spring can be detrimental to cherry tree blossoms, and can greatly affect fruit yields that year, so avoid any low lying areas that pond during heavy rains.
On the opposite end, soil that is too sandy won’t retain enough moisture and will cause drought related stress on your cherry tree.
Cherry trees also like a slightly acidic soil, so if your soil is neutral or slightly alkaline, amend with compost or mulch with pine needles once planted.
Best Climate for Cherry Trees
Cherry trees also require a certain number of chill hours each winter in order to set fruit which usually involve between 800 and 1200 chill hours each winter where the temperatures are below 45 degrees F (or 7 degrees C), this process is called vernalization. This translates to between 28-32 consecutive days below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for sweet cherries, and up to 1200 chill hours or 48 days below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for certain tart or sour cherry cultivars.
There are some sweet cherry low-chill varieties, like Stella, Lapin, Royal Rainier, which require less than 500 chill hours, so if you live in a climate with mild winters, consider one of these varieties.
To get even more technical, there are also different ways of calculating chill hours, some calculate as hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, some as between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and some below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is my climate too warm to plant a cherry tree?
If you live in a climate with very mild winters, or not enough chill hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, your cherry tree will result in fewer, and poorer quality cherries during that following growing season.
Check out our chill hours chart in order to select the proper cultivar for your zone and climate.
Related Questions: How long will my cherry tree take to produce cherries?
Fruit production can take between 4 and 6 years, and not all varieties can pollinate each other. For faster fruit production, consider a bush cherry variety like Nanking Bush Cherry, which can produce cherries in as little as 1 year.