How to Prune a Cherry Tree: A Step-by-Step Guide.

To prune a cherry tree, make clean cuts first right after planting and consistently prune during winter dormancy to remove diseased, dead, or crossing branches. Pruning to open the tree’s center and keep its size in check will encourage fruit growth.

Pruning a cherry tree involves essential management to ensure long-term health, fruit production, and aesthetic appeal. Gardeners prune cherry trees to maintain their size, improve airflow, enhance sunlight penetration, maintain yield and fruit quality, and also reduce the propensity of pest infestation and disease development.

Generally, pruning should be carried out annually during the winter dormant season when the tree is not actively growing. However, it can also be done right after planting to remove dead or damaged wood, water sprouts, and low-lying branches. Pruning cherry trees involves different techniques at various stages of tree development. Ensuring the right cuts, timing, and frequency is critical for a healthy, fruitful, and aesthetically pleasing tree.

How to Prune a Cherry Tree: A Step-by-Step Guide.


Why Prune A Cherry Tree?

Reasons To Prune A Cherry Tree

Pruning a cherry tree regularly is essential to keep it healthy, looking beautiful, and producing abundant fruit.

  • Promotes air circulation: Pruning helps regulate the airflow through the tree, preventing fungal diseases and other infections that can harm it.
  • Removes dead or diseased wood: Getting rid of dead, damaged, or diseased branches is vital to prevent them from draining the tree’s resources and spreading infections.
  • Shapes the tree: Pruning helps maintain a good shape for your cherry tree by removing branches that cross each other, are too low or too high, or grow in the wrong direction.
  • Increases fruit production: A well-pruned cherry tree will focus its energy on developing and producing more significant, flavorful, and healthy fruit.

When To Prune A Cherry Tree

Pruning a cherry tree should be done during dormant periods when the tree is not actively growing. It’s best to prune it in late winter or early spring, just before budding starts.

  • Avoid pruning during the fall or early winter as it may cause the tree to produce new growth, which can be damaged by frost.
  • Pruning during the growing season may promote new growth, but it also makes the tree susceptible to pests and diseases.

How To Prune A Cherry Tree

Pruning a cherry tree can be a bit intimidating, but it’s not rocket science.

  • Inspect the tree: Walk around the tree and identify any dead, diseased, or damaged branches that need to be removed.
  • Prune the deadwood: Use sharp and clean pruning shears to cut the dead or diseased branches, making each cut close to the trunk.
  • Remove water sprouts: Water sprouts are shoots that grow vertically from the tree’s trunk or lateral branches. Prune them as soon as you see them, as they draw resources away from the tree, making it less productive.
  • Thin out branches: To improve air circulation and encourage fruit production, remove some of the branches from the center of the tree. Take out any sucker growth that appears at the tree’s base.
  • Trim the canopy: Cut back the longest branches evenly to make the tree look uniform and to prevent them from breaking under heavy fruit loads.
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Pruning a cherry tree is essential for preserving its health, shape, and fruit production. By following the simple steps above, you can keep your cherry tree thriving and looking beautiful.

When To Prune A Cherry Tree

Pruning Young Cherry Trees

Pruning is essential for the young cherry tree to grow healthy and produce an abundance of fruit.

  • Start pruning in the early spring season, avoiding late frost.
  • Remove any broken or diseased branches, which can cause further damage to the tree.
  • Keep the central leader of the tree to allow for a strong and straight trunk to grow.
  • Limit the number of scaffolding branches (side branches) to 5-6, ensuring even spacing.
  • Always trim back lateral branches that are growing too close to or into the central leader.

Pruning Mature Cherry Trees

Pruning a mature cherry tree can help maintain its health and production of fruit while keeping it in shape.

  • Prune in the late spring season after the cherry tree has finished blooming.
  • Remove older wood that is no longer producing fruit or growing healthily.
  • Trim back any branches that are rubbing against each other.
  • Cut back branches growing too close to the central leader that can cause damage or competition for nutrients.
  • Prune to allow sunlight and air to reach the inside of the tree canopy.

Pruning In Cold Climates

Pruning cherry trees in cold climates can be challenging due to winter weather.

  • Prune before the winter season in mild weather. Avoid pruning during cold temperatures that can damage the tree.
  • Remove any branches that look weak or diseased before the winter season begins.
  • Wait until after the winter season to remove any broken branches.
  • Consider using wound dressing for larger cuts to prevent frost damage.
  • Use proper pruning tools that are clean and sharp.

Tools Needed For Pruning A Cherry Tree

Pruning a cherry tree is essential to keep it healthy and productive. A well-pruned cherry tree will bear large, juicy fruit and maintain its shape. However, pruning a cherry tree requires proper tools and equipment. In this section, we will discuss the different tools that you need to prune a cherry tree like a pro.

Pruning Shears

Pruning shears are a type of scissors designed for pruning small branches and stems. They are the most commonly used tool for pruning a cherry tree.

  • Use sharp and clean pruning shears to prevent damage to the tree.
  • Cut the branches at a 45-degree angle, approximately ¼ inch above a bud.
  • Prune the branches that cross or rub against each other.


Loppers are a type of pruning shears with long handles that are ideal for cutting thicker branches. When pruning a cherry tree, loppers are handy for removing larger branches that are too thick for pruning shears.

  • Use loppers for branches that are too thick for pruning shears.
  • Cut the branches at a 45-degree angle, approximately ¼ inch above a bud.
  • Use the right size loppers for the job, as bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
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A handsaw is a tool designed for cutting thicker branches. When pruning a cherry tree, a handsaw is useful for cutting larger limbs or trunks.

  • Use a sharp saw to prevent damage to the tree.
  • Make a small cut underneath the branch first, then cut from the top to prevent the bark from tearing.
  • Remove the remaining stump with loppers or pruning shears.

Safety Gear, Such As Gloves And Goggles

Pruning can be a hazardous activity, and it is essential to take adequate safety precautions since you will be working with sharp tools.

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from cuts and punctures.
  • Wear goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris.
  • Make sure your safety gear fits you well.

Tool Maintenance Kit

Maintaining your pruning tools is crucial to keep them functional and safe. A tool maintenance kit typically consists of a sharpening stone, a can of lubricating oil and a clean rag.

  • Keep your tools clean and dry to prevent rust.
  • Sharpen your tools regularly to keep them sharp and effective.
  • Lubricate your tools to prevent rust and keep them moving smoothly.

Pruning a cherry tree is essential to keep it healthy and productive. Using the right tools and equipment will help you prune the tree effectively and safely. Remember to wear adequate safety gear, maintain your tools, and always follow proper pruning techniques.

How To Prune A Cherry Tree

Types Of Pruning Cuts Including Heading, Thinning, And Pinching

To get the best yield and growth from your cherry tree, pruning is essential. There are different types of pruning cuts suitable for different situations.

  • Heading cut: This involves cutting off an entire branch or stem. This type of cut is useful when you want to shape the tree’s structure. It encourages new growth, especially at the point where the cut was made.
  • Thinning cut: This involves removing part of a limb or a branch. This type of cut is useful for promoting airflow and reducing the tree’s weight, which helps prevent branches from breaking. It’s also effective for allowing more sunlight to reach the interior parts of the tree.
  • Pinching cut: This involves removing the shoot tips by hand, typically before the growth hardens. Pinching helps to stimulate new branching and prevents the tree from becoming too lanky.

Best Practices For Pruning Specific Branches Including Scaffold Branches, Water Sprouts, And Suckers

Knowing how to prune different branches of your cherry tree is vital.

  • Scaffold branches: These are the primary branches that extend from the trunk of the tree. Never cut them unless necessary. Prune the scaffold branches that grow too close to each other. When pruning, cut as close to the trunk as possible.
  • Water sprouts: These are branches that sprout from the tree’s trunk. They grow vigorously and can compete with healthier branches. Always prune water sprouts at the base. Never prune water sprouts at the midway point.
  • Suckers: These are small branches growing from the roots. They weaken the cherry tree’s root system and should be removed. Cut them from the base of the tree.

Techniques For Pruning Different Cherry Tree Varieties Such As Sweet Cherries, Sour Cherries, And Dwarf Cherry Trees

Different cherry tree varieties require different pruning techniques.

  • Sweet cherries: Prune sweet cherries during the summer season. They produce fruit on the previous year’s growth. Prune the fruiting wood to encourage improved fruiting the following year. Cut back long shoots to shorter side shoots.
  • Sour cherries: Prune sour cherries similar to sweet cherries. But, prune the tree periodically to maintain its structure and reduce its height.
  • Dwarf cherry trees: Prune dwarf cherry trees once a year in the springtime. The first year requires only a small amount of pruning. In the subsequent years, prune to maintain the shape of the tree carefully. Focus on thinning out the branch as this variety bears fruit on the wood from the previous years.
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Remember to sterilize your pruning tools before cutting to prevent transferring diseases to the tree. Also, avoid over-pruning as it can be harmful to the tree. By following the pruning tips, you can keep your cherry tree healthy and ensure an excellent harvest each year.

Maintaining Your Pruned Cherry Tree

Pruning a cherry tree is an essential step towards ensuring its health and productivity. After pruning, keeping the tree healthy becomes your prime responsibility.

Nutrient And Water Needs Of Your Cherry Tree

• cherry trees require regular watering during the growing season, especially during periods of drought.

• you should water the tree generously after planting it. The best way to ensure that the tree is getting enough water is to make sure the soil is moist, and depending on the weather conditions, water it regularly.

• you should also make sure that the tree is getting enough nutrients from the soil. Fertilizer can be applied during the early spring, and again during the summer months.

• be careful not to over-fertilize or over-water, as this may lead to disease and pests.

Common Diseases And Pests To Look Out For And How To Manage Them

• brown rot, black knot, and powdery mildew are some common diseases that affect cherry trees.

• to prevent these diseases, ensure that the soil is well-drained and free of debris, and prune your tree regularly to maintain good air circulation.

• if despite all precautions, your cherry tree falls victim to a disease or pest, prune the infected parts, and dispose of them away from the tree. Use an appropriate fungicide or insecticide to treat the tree.

• you should also keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, mites, and scale insects. These pests can be treated with insecticides, or by introducing natural predators such as ladybugs.

Tips For Keeping Your Cherry Tree Healthy And Productive

• regular pruning helps to remove dead and diseased wood, maintain good air circulation, and promote fruit production.

• training your tree to grow in a particular shape can also help to improve fruit production and make it easier to harvest.

• removing suckers – shoots that grow up from the roots of the tree – is another important step towards maintaining the health of your cherry tree.

• mulching around the base of the tree can help to regulate soil temperature and conserve moisture which in turn can help to keep the tree healthy.

• finally, proper harvesting is essential for maintaining the health of your cherry tree. Pick the fruit when it is ripe and carefull to not injure the tree.


Pruning cherry trees is a crucial aspect of cherry tree maintenance. Proper pruning not only enhances the tree’s appearance but also encourages healthy growth, higher fruit yields, and even prolongs its lifespan. It is essential to understand the best time to prune cherry trees and the appropriate techniques to use.

When pruning, focus on removing dead, damaged, or diseased limbs and create an open center by removing the vertical branches in the tree’s center. Remember to use sterilized tools to prevent spreading diseases and disinfect after each cut. Lastly, be patient and don’t over-prune the tree, avoid cutting more than a quarter of the tree in one season.

Following these guidelines will result in a healthy and productive cherry tree for years to come.