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. In this article, I’ll be giving you some useful information on pruning a cherry tree, so keep reading!

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, for 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.

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 infection, 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 the 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.

Pruning A Cherry Tree: What You Need To Know

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
  • Water
  • Bleach
  • 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 its young age is a great way to ensure it grows into a big, healthy, cherry producing tree.

Steps To Take When Pruning A Cherry Tree

Follow these steps –

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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 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 has 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 the 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 in 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.

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.

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.


I hope the information provided in this article has been of great help. Pruning a cherry tree isn’t hard work, you just need to know what to do, and when to do it.

Good luck!