Pruning Cherry Trees – How, When and What We Have To Consider When Pruning

Young cherry trees need pruning to develop the correct shape and should be done in the very early spring, just before growth has begun.

Usually, a one-year cherry tree has some early (premature) side-shoots. If the early shoots have grown to more than 16 inches (40 cm) and are strong enough, use them to form the main scaffold branches. Select the early side-shoots that are distributed on different sides of the tree for good balance. Leave the leader and do not cut it before May.

If the early shoots are weak, cut them back to one to two buds. Cut the leader at about 23 to 28 inches (60-70 cm) above the highest early shoot and remove a bud just under the highest bud. Cover all pruning cuts with a pruning sealer. When the shoots have reached a length of about 4 inches (10cm), remove all others. This is necessary to ensure a proper space between the main scaffold branches. No branches should be directly below or opposite another. (See Figure 1)

Next year, tie selected main scaffold branches at an angle of 45 degrees. Cut the leader at 23-28 inches (60-70 cm) above the last shoot, but leave the tops of the main branches. It is very common that non-pruned shoots of the cherry tree develop a leading branch, and below this leading branch, three to five shoots – almost from the same place. The lower part of the shoot remains without strong side-shoots. See Figure 2/a.

In the coming years, those parts of the branches develop structures as shown on Figure 2/b. The entire branch will become more overgrown, if you remove all the buds (usually 3-5, which take the form of rosettes) just below the top bud, or, if you remove all the shoots that grow from these buds and have reached a length of about 4 inches (10 cm). This way the cherry tree will be able to encourage the growth of shoots from the lower buds.

Pruning Cherry Trees Photos - Shoots Development Photo #2Cherry tree - Shoots development on the leading branch

Shoots development on the leading branch

After establishing the main structure, cherry trees do not need to be pruned as frequently as apples or pears. You should make a corrective pruning. Remove suckers, water sprouts, cut inward-growing branches and those that cross the scaffold and rub together. You can see some selected examples on photos placed below. Cherry trees on the following photos are about 15 years old.

A sucker is an unusual, odd branch that has started growing from the base or the roots of the tree.


Water sprouts are shoots that arise and grow vertically from hidden buds from the trunk or from several years old branches.


You have to go around your tree and observe it from different angles, so you can easily determine the branches that are  growing inside the crown, and the branches that cross and rub each other.


Cherry trees in full productivity should be pruned moderately to let in light in and to thin out branches. This way you improve the air circulation and help prevent disease.

Some specific and important points that need to be considered when pruning cherry trees

Cherries fruit on 1-year-old shoots and on long-lived lateral spurs, so you can prune off new material as you see fit. Mature cherry trees require less pruning than other stone fruit trees. While other stone trees are pruned in winter, when the tree is dormant, cherries are usually pruned in summer, to reduce disease attack. To protect against disease, called Silver Leaf, it is highly recommended to cover all pruning cuts with a pruning sealer. Read also the page Pruning Sealer. If you don’t have it, here are the links where you can get it.

Also to reduce the risk of disease, make sure you remove and destroy any fallen wood, leaves and old fruit. Prune off damaged, dead or diseased wood. Cuts should be made above a bud and should be made on an angle. This is important to allow water to drain off.  See Figure 4 on the page Pruning Tools and read the text next to it.

Bellow is the first video that we recommend you to watch:

We hope you are closer to the goal now. You will find out more on the Page ”Pruning Tools”. The link is on menu bar on your right side.

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