In this article, I’ll be giving you some useful information on pruning a cherry tree, so keep reading!
Over the years, the beauty and natural shape of the weeping cherry tree have made them a popular choice among gardeners. Besides regular watering and pest management, trimming them is another means by which they can remain healthy and productive.
Just like every other fruiting tree, cherry trees also need pruning. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sweet, sour, or weeping cherry tree. It is important to prune your cherry tree the right way. This will help them look better, but more importantly, it will help with maximizing fruit production.
You may ask yourself, why is cherry tree pruning important? Won’t the cherries grow whether the tree is pruned or not?
Let’s proceed to answer that question!
Why It Is Important To Prune Your Cherry Tree
The importance of pruning your cherry tree cannot be overstated!
First of all, pruning your cherry tree ensures that spaces are created for the much-needed sunlight to reach the center. Without this, you will not get the best out of your cherries.
Pruning also permits better aeration, better healthier fruits, and an easy harvest!
When cherry trees are properly pruned, their chances of being infected with diseases will be greatly reduced.
Also, proper pruning will help them develop a better form and the quality of the fruits they produce will improve.
What Will Happen If I Don’t Prune My Blossoming Cherry Tree?
Plants are known to respond well to pruning. Dead or diseased limbs that remain unpruned can weaken the tree and hinder fruit production.
When Is The Best Time To Prune A Cherry Tree?
Generally, fruit trees are pruned around the winter. This is because they are pretty much dormant at this time. However, the same rule doesn’t necessarily apply to sweet cherry trees.
Sweet cherry trees are very prone to bacterial and fungal infections, so it’s advisable to prune them during late summer.
There is a downside to pruning in the summer though, it reduces the tree’s energy for fruit production and growth. For this reason, thinning cuts are recommended.
For those who don’t know what thinning cuts are – They are cuts that remove a full root or branch, up to the point of its origin. This does a good job of opening up the canopy of the cherry tree.
As for pruning a cherry tree when it’s dormant, the energy reserves remain intact, even when large portions of the tree are trimmed off.
To avoid injuring the tree, pruning during the dormant period should be done as late into the winter as possible. At this time, it is safe to prune weeping cherry trees and sour fruit trees, since the risk of winter frost is reduced.
Early spring is also an ideal time to prune cherry trees. You can begin pruning as you notice the buds springing up, but only when the risk of frost has been reduced. If not, the tree will suffer from cold injuries.
When Should A Cherry Blossom Tree Be Pruned?
The best time to prune your blossoming cherry tree is right after flowering. This will promote new growth, as well as stop it from growing weak.
Can You Prune A Weeping Cherry Tree In The Summer?
No, pruning a weeping cherry tree in the summer season is a big mistake. The right time to prune a weeping cherry tree is during the early spring season or late in the fall. At this time the tree will be dormant and be able to take the stress of pruning.
Make sure that none of its flowers or leaves are open when you start trimming.
Pruning A Cherry Tree: What You Need To Know
You should start trimming by removing any branch that makes contact with the ground. Do this by cutting off several inches of the branch length.
When you are done with this, take a quick look at the tree and spot any rubbing or crossing branches. Be sure to cut such branches off, as they may damage the bark and expose the tree to pests and diseases.
Any upward growing branches must also be cut off, as they defeat the natural purpose of a weeping cherry tree.
To maintain the best looks, keep taking moments to observe the shape of the tree as you prune. Along the line, you should trim closer to your desired shape and size.
Similar to pruning other trees, pruning a cherry tree also requires the use of certain trimming tools and techniques.
Below is a list of what you’ll be needing –
- Pruning shears
- Paper towel
There are different types of cherry trees and each of these cherry species can be pruned the same way.
To get the best results, it is best if your young cherry trees are pruned to an open center, or into a vase shape. This will make room for adequate sunlight to penetrate.
This type of pruning is effective because it removes the central leader, thereby leaving 3 or 4 branches that grow out of the trunk annually until the tree reaches the desired size.
The primary branches are known as the Scaffold Whorl, and they are well spaced out. This spacing allows the much-needed sunlight to reach the center of the tree, and it promotes better fruit production.
Each branch develops smaller branches that also bear fruit. Pruning a cherry tree from a young age is a great way to ensure it grows into a big, healthy, cherry-producing tree.
Follow these steps –
- Sharpen Your Shears
If you prune your cherry tree with a blunt-edged shear, then you’ll just be breaking the wood instead of giving it a nice clean cut.
- Sterilize Your Shears
Before you start pruning, make sure you sterilize your shears. You can whip up a simple water and bleach solution and dip your shears in. You can wipe the shears dry with a clean paper towel after you are done sterilizing.
This is important because a dirty pair of shears can infect the tree through its open wounds.
- Begin Trimming
Follow these tips to prune your cherry tree.
- Head the tree at 24 to 30 inches after planting in the late winter or early periods of spring (do this before the buds are fully grown, also cut at a 45-degree angle)
- Select about 4 scaffold or primary branches during the next winter’s dormant period after planting. Your best option is to go for limbs growing at a 45-60° angle to the trunk. Choose branches spaced out at about 9 inches apart and evenly arranged around the main trunk, and the lowest limb at 18 inches above the ground
- Cut scaffold branches back to 24 inches, this is to promote lateral & primary branching during growth in the tough summer period
- Make the cuts 1/4 inches above an outward-facing bud, but be sure to cut at an angle that slopes away from the bud (this is because cherry trees grow uprightly, so choosing outward-pointing buds help keep the center open
- Allow about 4 new primary branches to remain each year, spaced about 24 inches below the previous scaffold whorl and spaced so the branches don’t sit below any older primaries
- Head the new primary branches back to 30 inches, this will help the buds grow faster
- Select 2 strong secondary branches on each primary branch, then thin the other secondary branches by removing them from the base
- Head the remaining secondary branches to about 2 feet from where they are attached to the primaries so they can develop tertiary branches
- Remove dead or damaged upright shoots after the 3rdseason so the tree can develop and bear fruit
Here’s a quick tip – For young cherry tree branches, use pruning shears. On the other hand, if you’re working on branches thicker than 3/4 in diameter, use lopping shears.
Keep in mind that young cherry trees have very few branches with which to protect their trunks from sunburn. However, you can protect the trunk by painting it with a mix of half plain white interior latex paint.
Grafted And Non-Grafted Weeping Cherry Trees
Before you begin trimming, you need to find out of your weeping cherry tree has been grafted or if it is natural.
If it’s been grafted, then you will notice a graft knot on the tree’s trunk. The knot is usually below the crown, or about one foot down away from the crown.
The techniques required for pruning a grafted weeping cherry tree are different from that of a non-grafted one.
Below, I will be giving you tips on how to trim both grafted and natural weeping cherry trees.
Pruning A Weeping Cherry Tree That Is Grafted
A grafted weeping cherry tree usually grows a snarl of branches at its center. This would make them more susceptible to winter damage or during harsh storms. For this reason, it is important to trim out the snarl.
Begin trimming the grafted weeping cherry tree by cutting back the tips of all branches that are in contact with the ground. They should be at least 6 feet above ground level.
The next step is to take out any branches that grow in an upward direction. These branches will not weep on grafted cherry trees, therefore they must be pruned out to maintain the “weeping” nature of the tree.
When this is done, you should remove any decayed, infected, or dead branches you may find on the trunk. Also, take out any branches that are crossed or the ones that rub against each other.
The snarl at the top would have several branches that rub, so this will help thin them away. Afterward, take a detailed look at the tree and trim it to a shape that is uniform and pleasant to the eyes.
Grafted Tree Considerations
If you’re planning to prune a grafted weeping cherry tree, make sure you first lookout for any signs of any new growth around the grafted area. Also, check around other branches.
Any new growth that takes place around the grafted areas leads to the occurrence of upward growing branches. If they are not attended to, these branches will encroach into the crown of your tree, hence affecting the tree’s natural weeping look.
Use a pair of pruning shears to cut off any branches that grow from the graft point. Cut as close to the point of graft as you can, but be sure not to cut the joint itself.
Remove any branches growing from the graft point using pruning shears or a handsaw, cutting close to the graft joint without cutting into the joint itself.
Pruning A Non-Grafted Weeping Cherry
To prune an ungrafted weeping cherry tree, the first thing you need to do is cut back any branches that drag along the ground. You should trim them to a point where they are at least 6 feet away from ground level.
When the branches touch the ground, they look hideous. Cutting them back will give them a more appealing look.
Follow up by cutting off any branches that are non-productive, dead, or infected. You must also trim away branches that cross over others, or are rubbing against others.
Pruning Dwarf Cherry Trees
Pruning a dwarf cherry tree will require significantly less effort to accomplish than pruning a full-sized tree.
It is important to start pruning your cherry trees at the dwarf stage, as it will help prevent diseases, improve access to sunlight, and improve fruit production.
When To Prune Dwarf Cherry Trees
It is best to prune dwarf cherry trees during the end of the winter or the beginning of spring. Usually, after the coldest parts of the winter have passed.
Remember, you should prune when the tree is still dormant so some cold is still required. Avoid pruning in freezing temperatures.
How To Select Branches To Prune
It is advisable to remove branches that grow less than 18 inches from the ground. The reason for this is that they will most likely produce fruit of poor quality.
Also, be sure to cut off any branches that grow to more than half the diameter of the trunk.
What You Shouldn’t Do With Dwarf Cherry Trees
Excessive pruning of a dwarf cherry tree is a bad idea. When young trees that haven’t started bearing fruit are over-pruned, it causes a delay in fruit production.
Also, when you want to remove a limb from the tree, make sure you take off all of it. If you only take a portion of it, then it will grow back and delay fruit production.
How Often Should You Prune Cherry Trees?
Cherry trees are meant to be pruned once a year. The recommended season for pruning is at the end of the winter season or the beginning of the spring.
The reason for this is that the tree will be dormant in the cold season, and won’t lose its reserved energy during the pruning process.
During this time, it is advised that you wait until the winter has passed its freezing points before you prune, as the frost can damage the tree through the wounds.
How To Trim A Weeping Cheery Tree To Grow More Branches
For a weeping cherry tree to be at its best, scheduled pruning is one of the things you must do.
Pruning a weeping cherry tree will ensure that the dead, useless branches will be removed. Such branches attract pests that can spread to the other parts of the healthy tree.
You need to first assess the tree and mark out all the branches that need to be pruned out. Your major target should be branches that have started touching the floor. Another target should be rotten, non-producing branches that can act as a haven for pests.
If you want your weeping cherry tree to grow more branches, then there are certain steps you need to take.
Below are the necessary steps you need to take to promote branch growth
Step 1: Use the Right Cutting Tool
Without the right cutting tool, you will never achieve the best results when hoping for improved branch growth. The blade of your cutting tool needs to be sterilized and sharpened so it can make clean smooth cuts.
Using kitchen scissors may seem like the easy way out for indoor trees, but this will mean slow branch growth, as the rough edges from the scissor cuts will take a longer time to heal.
Step 2: Remove Dead Parts
Now that you have the right tools, you need to remove the dead or decayed branches from the tree. The reason you are doing this is for the tree to channel its nutrients towards the healthy branches that will be left after pruning.
If you leave unproductive branches on the tree, they will share resources with the healthy branch, therefore slowing down their growth. Less dead branches will lead to more healthy ones.
Step 3: Remove water spouts
Branches need adequate nutrients to grow, and water spouts or suckers take up too much of these nutrients.
Spouts are non-producing parts of the tree, so keeping them there will mean depriving both old and potential growth of required nutrients.
Be sure to remove the suckers to the ground, as well as the spouts next to any healthy horizontal branch.
The tree will keep providing the branches with much-needed growth nutrients, and without the suckers and spouts, the branches will have more to feed on, hence more growth.
Common Pruning Mistakes To Avoid
As there is a correct way to prune weeping cherry trees, there is also a wrong way of doing the job. These pruning mistakes are made mostly by first-timers or those who choose to remain ignorant.
To get the best out of your weeping cherry tree, there are some pruning mistakes you should avoid.
One of the most common mistakes is cutting large branches at the point where they connect to the trunk. It may seem like this technique will get rid of unwanted limbs, but it causes the branches to grow back in a vertical direction.
This will make it harder for the gardener to restore the tree to its weeping nature.
Another pruning mistake is making too many small cuts instead of a few large cuts. It is better to limit the cuts to larger branches which take away energy from the main dominant branches that bear fruit.
By making fewer large cuts, you can maintain the natural shape of your weeping cherry tree. The results of too many small cuts can take many years of growth to repair.
The simple, less vigorous pruning is always better for a weeping cherry tree.
Weeping cherry trees have a very attractive shape, but they will look better when they are pruned properly and at the right season.
With that being said, I hope this article has provided the necessary information on how to trim a weeping cherry tree. Pruning a cherry tree isn’t hard work, you just need to know what to do, and when to do it.