How to Sprout a Cherry Seed
Patience pays off when it comes to planting cherry seeds. Several cherry species exist, but only two are commonly grown for their fruit: the sweet cherry (Prunus avium, USDA plant hardiness zones 5-7) and the pie or sour cherry (Prunus cerasus, USDA plant hardiness zones 4-6). Both varieties grow well from seeds, although the seeds need to be chilled before they will sprout, and the resulting seedlings may not produce fruit that is of the same quality as the parent tree. However, seed-grown cherry trees will still reward your effort with beautiful foliage and a show of fragrant pink blossoms each spring.
Planting Cherry Seeds
It is rare to find cherry seeds for sale, but fortunately, it’s easy to gather cherry seeds from ripe fruit. Simply save the pits from fruit you’ve eaten or cut open a ripe cherry and pick out the stone. There are two ways to fulfill the chill requirement of cherry seeds: plant them in pots and leave the pots outdoors over the winter or place the seeds in the refrigerator for four to five months. If you are chilling the seeds in the refrigerator, place them in a plastic food storage container filled with moistened sphagnum moss. Remoisten the moss as needed.
In spring, plant cherry seeds into 1-gallon nursery pots filled with moist seed-starting compost. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recommends a planting depth of 1/2 inch for cherry seeds. Place the pots in a sheltered location outdoors or indoors near a very bright window. The University of Florida Department of Environmental Horticulture recommends keeping daytime temperatures around 86 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures around 68 degrees to encourage germination. Watch for seedlings in one month.
Growing cherry trees in pots for at least one year will help create a more robust sapling for transplanting into the garden. Keep them in a sunny location with some midday shade and provide water whenever the soil feels dry in the top inch. Move them to a sheltered location during freezing weather.
Choosing a Planting Site
A good growing location means the difference between a tree that thrives and one that barely survives, particularly when it comes to planting stone fruit trees such as cherries. The first thing to consider when growing cherries is the local climate. Sweet cherries grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 7, while pie cherries grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 6, according to Stark Bro’s. At the colder end of both ranges, try to position cherry trees in a gently sloping location where excess soil moisture and cold air will flow away from the trees in winter.
Sunlight impacts fruit production in trees. Look for a site the provides full sun for three-quarters of the day, as recommended by Utah State University Extension. Also, make sure the growing site provides enough space to accommodate your cherry tree. Sweet cherries need 180 square feet of space, whereas tart cherries need just 140 square feet, so bear that in mind when choosing a planting site.
Planting Cherry Saplings
Timing matters when it comes to planting fruiting trees such as cherries. Plant cherry seedlings in spring after all frost danger has passed, and the soil has warmed. Make the planting hole deep enough to hold the entire root ball below the soil surface and wide enough to hold the roots without bending them. Hold the seedling upright and fill in the hole with unamended soil, tamping it lightly to increase contact between the roots and soil. Water the seedling or sapling immediately to settle the soil and hydrate the roots.
During their first year in the ground, cherry trees should receive roughly 3 to 5 gallons of water twice a week to keep them hydrated, which is especially important in warmer climates where summer rain is scarce. Once established, they need regular watering only during the hot summer months up until the first rain falls in autumn. A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch can also help cherry trees become established in warmer climates. Just be sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the base of the trunk.
How to Sprout a Cherry Seed. If you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, you can try your hand at planting a cherry tree (Prunus spp.) from seed. Before planting a cherry seed or pit, though, you must chill it for a specified amount of time. This process — called stratification — …
How to Prepare Cherry Pits for Planting & Germination
Whether you dream of your own cherry tree orchard in the backyard or are looking for a fun and educational project to do with a child, saving and planting cherry pits after you enjoy the fruit can be a rewarding process. You won’t have much luck just planting the seeds right away — they need to go through a vital chilling period, called stratification, before they are ready to germinate. Give the seeds what they need to break out of dormancy, and you are on your way to growing your own tree. When growing a cherry tree from a pit, there’s no way to tell what sort of tree you’ll get; it’s bound to be some sort of hybrid. Sweet cherry varieties are hardy throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, depending on type.
Preparing Seeds for Storage
Remove the cherry pits from ripe cherries. Wash all fruit off of the pits and let them air dry. Choose only pits that are not wrinkled or damaged. Full, round pits are best.
Seal the dry pits in an airtight container when they are completely dry. Store them in a cool place. Plan to store them until January, but the pits can be stored for up to a year if you do not want to germinate them right away.
Stratifying the Cherry Seeds
Fill seed-starting flats with starter soil. Sow the pits at a depth of twice their diameter. Keep the seed flats in a refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two to four months. Time this so you are removing the seed flats by early March.
Germinating and Planting the Seeds
Remove the seed flats from the refrigerator; moisten the soil, and then place the seed flats in filtered sunlight. Gradually move the seed flats to brighter, warmer places as the seedlings emerge. Keep the soil moist.
Transplant the seedlings when they have at least two sets of leaves. Choose a site with well-drained soil that will get at least six hours of full sun a day during the growing season. Add topsoil if you do not have 1 foot of well-drained soil at the planting site; 3 feet is optimal.
- The Garden of Eadon: How to Grow a Cherry Tree From a Seed
- PennState Extension: Hobbyist Gardening – Growing Fruit Tree Plants From Seed
Veronica Smith-Jennings is a former teacher who started freelance writing in 2003 and has been published in regional parenting magazines as well as on various websites. Her writing interests include home renovation and gardening, politics, education, sports and early childhood development. She has a Master of Arts in English education and a Bachelor of Arts in English.
How to Prepare Cherry Pits for Planting & Germination. Whether you dream of your own cherry tree orchard in the backyard or are looking for a fun and educational project to do with a child, saving and planting cherry pits after you enjoy the fruit can be a rewarding process. You won’t have much luck just …