How to Plant Cherry Seeds and Grow a Tree of Your Very Own

After enjoying some cherry fruit, you may have wondered if you can grow a cherry tree from the pit or from seed. Although it’s more common to purchase and plant cherry trees as grafted seedlings, you can also grow cherries from seed. Cherries, known as “stone fruit” like their plum, peaches, and apricot cousins, are relatively easy to grow in a home garden. In good years, a single mature cherry tree can produce buckets of delicious fruit after its spring blooms. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of cherry trees, how to grow them from seed, and how to care for your seedlings.

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Types of cherry trees

Popular for their sweet, tart and tangy flavor, cherries are a natural addition to baked goods or simply eaten fresh. There are two different types of edible cherry trees: sweet cherries and sour cherries. Each has its own use in the kitchen and offers very different flavor profiles.

sweet cherries (Prunus avium), also known as wild cherries, are native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. They also grow in much of North America and parts of Australia. Sweet cherries are hardy in USDA zones 5-7 and grow to about 40 feet tall when ripe. They are typically grown for fresh consumption, with ‘Bing’ being one of the most popular varieties.

Most sweet cherries, apart from the usual ‘Mazzard’ rootstock variety, require a second, compatible variety for pollination to take place. This also means that most sweet cherry seeds are not grown to type (i.e. the resulting tree will not be a copy of the parent). Unlike many other fruit varieties that require cross-pollination, the offspring of such crosses tend to be just as tasty as their parents, although the resulting trees will likely have a different habit, shape, and flavor profile.

sour cherries (Prunus Cerasus), also called dwarf cherry or sour cherry, are actually a cross between sweet cherry and European dwarf cherry (Prunus fruticosa), which has become a distinct species. They are hardy in zones 4-6, making tart cherries a bit more hardy than sweet cherries. Because of their European dwarf cherry heritage, sour cherries tend to be smaller than sweet cherries when planted on their own rootstock. You can expect them to grow to about 20 feet tall. More often than not, tart cherries are used in cooking and baking rather than being eaten fresh. This type of cherry tree is self-pollinating and is generally grown from seed.

Can cherries be grown from seed?

Cherries are relatively easy to grow from seed, especially in colder regions of the United States. If you follow the steps below, you can be harvesting your own cherries in about 10 years. Just remember that not all cherries come from seed. In other words, the cherry seed you plant may not bear fruit that tastes the same as the fruit it came from. If you want to grow cherries from seed, use tart cherry pits for best results.

How to start cherry seeds indoors

  1. Start with fresh cherries, remove the “pits” (pits) and discard as much of the fruit as possible.
  2. After cleaning, let the seeds dry in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight for a few days.
  3. Wrap dried seeds in a slightly damp paper towel or peat moss, then place in a plastic bag or glass jar.
  4. Place prepared seeds in a refrigerator or cold basement for about three months. Check the seeds regularly for new growth and remove any that have started to grow.
  5. After three months, remove the seeds and plant them in a seed tray or nursery pot filled with moist, sand-based potting soil. Give each seed a few inches of space to avoid overcrowding.
  6. Place planted seeds in a south-facing window or greenhouse. Keep them warm and don’t let the soil dry out.
  7. Seedlings should begin to emerge from the soil surface within about two weeks. After the seedlings have grown their second pair of leaves, they can be transplanted into individual pots.
  8. Springtime seedlings “harden” off by moving them outside and placing them in morning sun or a shady spot for about a week. After they have become accustomed to being outside, the seedlings should be placed in full sun.

How to grow cherry seeds outdoors

As an alternative to sowing indoors, sow cherry seeds outdoors in fall in areas where they are hardy. Place cleaned and dried seeds in a sand-based mix and protect from squirrels and other burrowing animals. Leave planted seeds outdoors in a full sun location and fully expose them to the elements as they would in nature. Fallen leaves and snow cover help keep seeds moist during dry periods. In the spring, as the temperatures warm up, the seedlings will begin to sprout. They can be transplanted after a second set of leaves has emerged.

How to care for a cherry tree

Growing fruit trees can be a fun activity for both kids and adults. Cherry trees are relatively fast growing trees and require very little maintenance compared to other fruit trees like apples. Plant your cherry seeds where they can grow in full sun. Protect seedlings and immature trees from wildlife by wrapping the trunk and lower branches in burlap or tree wraps during winter. Avoid pruning trees during hibernation and instead wait until spring, just before new buds open.

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