In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gave Washington D.C. 3,000 cherry trees as a celebration of spring time and friendship between the two countries. The beautiful blooms of these trees inspired the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which attracts over a million visitors every year. Not only are cherry trees beautiful, but the right varieties can provide delicious fruit.
Cherry trees are eligible for a $100 Tree Rebate as long as they’re not dwarf varieties or saplings.
More detail: Yoshino cherry’s Tree of the Month.
Prunes avium – sweet cherry, Prunus cerasus – sour cherry
The deciduous leaves of cherry trees are pale to dark green, 2 to 6 inches long, ovate, and finely serrated on the edges.
Cherry tree blossoms are famous for their beauty. The flowers are typically small, white to pink, containing five petals, a yellow center, and bloom in early spring. Sour cherries are self-fertile and sweet cherries are not, but both species can benefit from cross pollination.
The fruit of the cherry trees are small, round, with a depression at the apex. The skin of the fruit is smooth with different levels of red. Cherries are either sweet or sour, depending on the variety.
Cherry branches tend to grow at bad crotch angles, causing breakage. When the cherry tree is young, prune any bad angles, crossing branches, and space the limbs out every 6 inches evenly throughout the tree.
The cherry tree has a distinct reddish bark, with vertical markings called lenticels. When the tree matures the bark becomes dark, blackish-brown and fissured.
Depending on the variety, young cherry trees typically grow in a symmetrical conical form, while older trees become more rounded and irregular.
Depending on the variety cherry trees can grow from 8- 30 ft.
Cherry trees are native to Asia, but can also grow throughout most of Europe, Northern Africa, and North America. Cherry trees thrive in the hardiness zones of 4 through 8.
In fall the cherry tree leaves turn orange, pink or red before falling.
Most cherry trees prefer moist soil with good drainage and moderately acidic pH levels.
Cherry trees prefer full sunlight.
Some of the best cultivars are North Star (sour cherry) and Stella (sweet cherry).
Cherry trees have a very short growing season and tend to be harvested, depending on the cultivar, in mid-summer. They are mature when they turn their dark ripe color. Cherry trees are considered easier to grow than most fruit because it only takes about 60 days of care after the bloom. Sweet cherries will fruit earlier in the summer than sour cherries. Sweet cherries can be eaten raw, but sour cherries are too tart to eat fresh and are instead used for cooking.
Management PracticesCherry trees are susceptible to birds stealing the fruit. This can be prevented by constructing a netting structure around the tree, draping a net around the tree, or hanging shiny objects, like CDs, from the tree to distract and scare the birds away. Also, plant cherry trees away from trees where squirrels play. They don’t like running across the ground and will usually only jump from tree to tree. Cherry trees should be planted on elevated areas to protect them from “frost pockets.”
Cherry trees require some pruning to open up the canopy and reduce the risk of diseases. It’s recommended that cherry trees be pruned in the summer, instead of winter, to reduce the threat of silver leaf. Apply proper sanitation methods to protect the tree from diseases. Prune dead, damaged or diseased wood and clear the canopy floor of debris. In hot, humid areas, cherry trees can be susceptible to cankers, a bacterial disease that can cripple or kill the tree. Visible signs of cankers are dark round circles with cracking and sap oozing. To prevent, employ sanitation methods and keep the cherry tree healthy. Stressed trees are more susceptible to cankers. Once the infection is seen, immediately prune the infected limb at its base and properly remove the branch. Cherry trees are also susceptible to brown rot and should be planted in areas with air movement and pruned regularly to open up the canopy.