Pruning cherry tree productively - tutorial with all instructions

Pruning cherry tree productively - tutorial with all instructions

Types of cuts and dates

The sweet cherry occupies a special position among all fruit trees . Flowers appear on short, annual and biennial shoots. Furthermore, older shoots also bear valuable fruit wood, richly garnished with numerous flower buds, which is referred to in technical jargon as bouquet shoots. Cherry trees raised with a well-exposed round crown are covered with fruit wood along their main branches deep into the crown interior. This unique growth behavior is accompanied by a pronounced sensitivity to cutting. Apart from the upbringing phase, a cherry tree should be pruned at intervals of 3 or 4 years. The following overview summarizes all types of cuts with the best dates:

also read

  • How to cut a plum tree correctly - tutorial with all instructions
  • Pruning an old cherry tree - how to do it right
  • Why the cherry tree remains without cherries
Cut typeGoal / occasionbest date
UpbringingStructure of a light-flooded round crownFebruary / March in the 1st to 6th or 8th year
Conservation cutThinning out dead wood, promoting fruit woodevery 3-4 years in the summer after harvest
Taper cutRevitalize neglected cherry treein late winter

Parenting cuts a profitable crown

In the first years of standing, pruning on the cherry tree aims to raise a perfectly shaped crown. The crown structure on majestic sweet cherries extends over six to eight years. A space-saving spindle tree benefits from a careful crown structure in the first three to four years. This is how the upbringing of a sweet cherry is exemplary:

  • The best time is in early spring, before budding begins
  • Build up the crown framework with a dominant central drive and 3 guide branches at an ideal angle of 90 to 120 °
  • Remove steeply upward-facing competitors to the central drive or spread them into the inclined position
  • Tie up branches that are too flat at an ideal angle of 45 ° to 60 °
  • Keep side scaffold shoots in the juice balance at the same height by cutting back on top buds

Before you cut away a side shoot that is pointing steeply upwards, check its suitability for the fruit wood . A green shoot is still flexible. If it is in a favorable position on the crown framework, tie the young branch in the advantageous incline. Spread at an angle of around 60 °, the sap pressure is reduced, growth calms down and the first flower buds flourish. To spread it apart, you can fix the shoot with a cord to its guide branch. On the spindle tree, you can easily direct growth into the ideal position with clothespins. In addition, the specialist trade has special struts available.

Raising cherry tree


Time of pruning influences growth strength

An old farmer's saying is still valid today: “If you want to see a cherry tree being carried, cut it in summer. If you want to see your cherry tree grow, cut it in winter. " Those who have not yet been able to convince themselves of the evidential value in practice will receive confirmation from a botanical-scientific point of view. In early spring, the tree releases the majority of its reserve substances, which are transported towards the top buds at high pressure. This results in a strong growth spurt. The further the season progresses, the more the sap pressure decreases and the growth is reduced to a minimum. From this it follows that whoever wants to stimulate growth will cut when the sap pressure is strongest. To calm growth and increase fertility, summer is the best time to cut.

Cut at 4-year intervals - instructions for maintenance cut

At the beginning of the harvest phase, the pruning of the cherry tree flows from education to maintenance. Sweet cherries already bloom and bear fruit on unbranched, annual shoots that are shorter than 10 centimeters. As illustrated in the figure below, there are flower buds at the base of the shoot. Biennial, slightly branched shoots are richly garnished with flower buds over their entire length. Three-year-old and older branches also boast numerous flower buds in spring. In combination with a pronounced pruning sensitivity, a maintenance pruning for a cherry tree is on the maintenance program every three to four years. How to correctly complete the conservation pruning on sweet cherries:

  • The best time is after the harvest in summer
  • Remove dead branches that are growing, crossing and dead into the interior of the crown
  • More than 5 cm thick, drooping shoots lead to a side shoot further inside
  • Old, aging branches thin out to 10 to 20 cm short cones
  • Cut back unbranched long shoots from previous years to 10 to 15 cm
  • Start the cut just above an outward-pointing, pointed leaf bud or a leaf

Short, whorled shoots with numerous flower buds are spared from the cut. The so-called bouquet shoots are extremely fertile and will bring you a rich fruity hang next year. After a professional maintenance cut, the crown of your cherry tree looks empty. This is not an indication of wrong practice. As early as next summer, the crown structure will be loose, flooded with light and bear a large number of juicy, sweet cherries.

Cherry fruit wood

Deriving is better than shortening

It is characteristic of sweet cherries that they react to the loss of their shoot tips with unfavorable whorls at a young age. Thick tufts sprout out of sleeping eyes, shading valuable fruit wood and flower buds. You can prevent the undesired reaction by preferring the derivation cut to a simple pruning on young trees . Here a leading branch is diverted to a subordinate side shoot in order to obtain a light-flooded crown. How to make the perfect derivative cut in the cherry tree:

  • Do not simply cut back the excessively long cherry tree branch
  • Instead, choose a young, outward-facing side shoot further in
  • Cut at the fork of the old and young branch
  • Set the scissors a few millimeters into the old wood
  • Result: young side shoots replace the removed fruit branches without whorl formation

You also proceed against Zwiesel with a derivative . This is how V-shaped forks are referred to in gardeners ' language, which make the cherry tree unstable in the long run. Look out for the double shoots on young sweet cherries in order to remove one of the two in good time using the derivation on the better positioned shoot. If a Zwiesel thrives as a vertical competitor to the central shoot, it should be removed completely.


If a cherry tree bears morello cherries and similar juicy-sour fruits, different cutting rules apply. This is where the most productive fruit wood is on long, previous year's shoots, so that annual, strong pruning makes sense. For this reason, a separate tutorial is dedicated to cutting sour cherries.

Rejuvenate the old cherry tree in stages - this is how it works

Have you prescribed a makeover to an old cherry tree that has been uncut for many years? Then please proceed in stages. Instead of thinning out the aged crown in one go, spread the measure over two to three years. The sensitivity to cuts makes it necessary that you do not saw off thick, dead shoots on Astring. It is more gentle with a cut on tenons. The following procedure has proven itself in gardening practice to revitalize an old sweet cherry:

  • The best time is over a period of 2 to 3 years, always in late winter
  • In the second and third year, also prune in summer
  • Important: Avoid cuts with a diameter of more than 10 centimeters
  • At the beginning, cut out dead wood, inward, vertical or cross-growing branches
  • Overhanging leading branches narrow to a young side shoot close to the trunk

The transition from the tapering to the conservation cut is fluid. If your cherry tree responds well to the first stage, carry out a first conservation measure in the rejuvenated crown area in the summer after the harvest. If all regions of the crown are rejuvenated after three years at the latest, the pruning is reduced to a summer maintenance pruning every three to four years, as this tutorial explains.

Rejuvenate cherry tree

Saw thick branches on cones in stages

If you find yourself forced to remove a branch more than four inches thick from the crown, do the following:

  • Saw the branch from the bottom up to the middle at a distance of 30 cm from the trunk
  • Move the saw 10 cm to the right or left
  • Stabilize the branch with one hand and saw from above until it breaks off
  • Saw off the blunt on a tenon with a length of 10 cm

You can remove the remaining cone after one to two years. As a rule, vertical and flat young shoots sprout from a cone. Let one or two of the most promising, level candidates stand. There is a good chance that valuable fruit wood will develop from it. All other young shoots and the remains of the dried cones are removed.


Perform rejuvenation pruning in winter

The best time for the rejuvenation pruning on the cherry tree is controversially discussed among experts. Numerous sources recommend an appointment in summer because the radical cut is more tolerable for a sweet cherry. Responsible orchardists ignore the recommendation and cut in late winter out of respect for nature and the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Birds nest in the thick canopy of mighty cherry trees in summer. Inhabited nests could fall victim to a rejuvenation cut. Paragraph 39 in the Federal Nature Conservation Act emphasizes the concerns and prohibits cutting measures between March 1 and September 30 that go beyond a maintenance cut.

Tips on tools and accessories

The key to cherry pruning success is a combination of the right approach and appropriate equipment. The following basic equipment is mandatory in order to cut a sweet cherry safely and professionally:

  • One-hand secateurs for branches up to 2 cm in diameter, optionally as bypass or anvil shears
  • Two-hand pruning shears with telescopic handle for branches 3 to 5 cm thick
  • Folding saw (€ 17.70 at Amazon *) with Japanese teeth or hacksaw for thick shoots from 4 to 5 cm in diameter
  • Knife for smoothing cuts
  • Stable ladder with two legs
  • Gloves, safety glasses

Modern pruning shears with telescopic handles allow a cut up to a dizzying 4 meters in height, which makes daring climbing in the mighty cherry tree unnecessary. With an innovative cutting giraffe you cut branches up to 6 meters high precisely and safely. When buying cutting tools and accessories, look for high-quality branded products. This makes cutting work easier, leaves smooth cuts and optimizes safety for gardeners and cherry trees alike.

frequently asked Questions

For reasons of cost I decided to buy two cherry trees as bare-root goods. Should I plant pruning the young trees?

On bare-root trees, pruning guarantees a good start and paves the way for the best possible upbringing. For the crown structure, choose the strongest shoot as a trunk extension. Three to four guide branches should be evenly distributed around the central branch, which are at an ideal angle of 45 ° to 60 ° to the central branch. Branches that are too steep are splayed. Tied up too flat shoots. Cut back the leading branches by a third. After the cut, the tip buds of the leading branches should be at the same height, in the so-called juice balance. The central drive towers above the main drives so that an imaginary triangle forms with an angular position of 90 to 120 °.

I would like to plant a cherry tree under whose crown I can still maneuver the lawnmower. How do the trunk heights differ that I can acquire in tree nurseries?

In the case of young cherry trees, nurseries differentiate between bush trees and quarter stems with 40 to 60 cm. Half trunks reach a height of 120 cm. High trunks have a height of 200 cm. This trunk height usually does not change. An exception applies in the event that the gardener cuts the crown and pries open the trunk. Bush trees just allow you to mow the tree disc with the hand mower. Cutting the lawn with the ride-on mower is worth a try under half a trunk. There are no difficulties in terms of freedom of movement under a high trunk.

Our cherry tree was planted 2 years ago. When would be the best time to cut the tree?

The sweet cherry fruit on biennial or perennial wood. An adult cherry tree should mainly be pruned in summer, immediately after harvest. This time of cutting promotes the formation of fruit buds. In the case of a young tree that is only two years old, on the other hand, we recommend cutting in spring, parallel to the start of budding. The first short shoots with flowers appear in the third year at the earliest. From this point on, subject the cherry tree to a summer pruning, if necessary, to calm the growth and encourage fruit wood.

A year ago we planted a sweet cherry as a bush tree, which this year had a sparse 7 blossoms. What can I do to increase the number of flowers?

The number of flowers is completely normal and can even be rated positively. In the first years of standing, young cherry trees concentrate on root formation and growth. Please be patient a little longer. Over the next few years, more and more flowers will flourish, parallel to the larger growth. A supplementary supply of nutrients is advantageous from the second year of standing in the form of compost and horn shavings (€ 6.39 at Amazon *) or an organic fruit tree fertilizer.

I would like to plant two to three cherry trees in the garden. From what year can I expect the first harvest?

A cherry tree with a medium to weak base bears the first fruits on average after 3 to 6 years. A sunny location and a competent upbringing with a light-flooded crown and horizontal fruit wood have a decisive influence on the beginning of the harvest phase.

There are three cherry trees in my garden that my predecessor planted far too closely four years ago. The trunk height is 100 to 120 centimeters. Is it possible to transplant such large sweet cherries? If so, what should you watch out for?

It is still possible to transplant cherry trees within the first five years. The best time is in autumn after the leaves have fallen. Cut off the root disc with a sharp spade in the largest possible radius. The more roots move with the tree to the new location, the more promising the procedure will be. As a large proportion of the root mass is lost as a result of clearing, the cherry trees should be cut back accordingly. A sufficient supply of water and nutrients is important so that transplanted trees can take root quickly and firmly.

The 3 most common mistakes

If a cherry tree is characterized by a dense network of sterile steep shoots, massive growth of dense whorls and large, non-healing cuts, the gardener has made typical cutting errors. The following overview draws attention to the three most common mistakes in the pruning of sweet cherries and gives tips for skillful prevention:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
Steep drives not thinned out or correctedCrown with numerous, sterile branchesCut off steep shoots on tenons, spread or tie up
Extra long branches cut off somewheremassive growth of dense whorls at the tipsDeriving shoots that are too long instead of simply shortening them
thick branches not cut on conesnon-healing cuts, spread of wood rotSaw off thick branches in stages and on cones


When a cherry tree bears no fruit, the crux is usually the lack of fertilizer. With a few exceptions, sweet cherries are dependent on a second variety in close proximity. Since not all cherry varieties pollinate each other, please ask exactly which combinations are suitable when purchasing them from your trusted nursery.