How to severely prune a cherry tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Cherry trees are a common garden and orchard plant, due to their smaller size, ease of growth and the fruit they produce. There are several types of cherry trees, from dwarf versions to weeping cherry trees. Severely pruning a cherry tree throughout its life helps to keep the tree strong and healthy and ensures a successful growing season each year. Severe pruning removes branches that can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to disease.

Choose one branch to be the primary leader branch of the tree. Many cherry trees will produce several leader branches of equal size, which can unbalance the tree and sap its resources.

Pick a leader branch that is near the centre of the tree to help the cherry tree remain upright. Use pruning shears to cut off all other leader branches. Make angled cuts to reduce the damage produced by the cut.

Begin training the cherry tree with a chosen leader branch early in life and do not change the leader branch, as this can weaken the tree.

Dispose of branches once they have been cut to prevent them from rotting on the ground and housing fungi or harmful insects that can damage the cherry tree or the remainder of the garden.

Cut off any weak or dead branches, as these can weaken the cherry tree and create a place for fungus to grow. Dispose of these branches immediately to prevent them from rotting and spreading disease.

Prune the top portion of the cherry tree more heavily, as the upper branches can get in the way of light and stop it from reaching the lower branches. Cut off the top several inches of the branches to promote new growth. Make angled cuts to limit the amount of damage the tree sustains.

Cut off any branches that rub against one another or impede the shape of the cherry tree.

Shorten the tree if necessary. Trees that are too tall may exhibit drooping and heavy branches that slow the continued growth of the cherry tree. Cut off whole branches from the top of the tree. Make cuts flush with the leader branch or adjoining branches.

Thin out areas of the tree where growth is too thick, to allow light to reach the branches evenly. Cut the ends of branches and remove whole branches at the nearest adjoining branch or at the leader branch of the cherry tree.

Train the cherry tree by shaping its branches and cutting the tree so that it conforms to a tiered, even shape. There should be about 1 foot of space between each tier of branches along the leader branch.


Severe pruning should not be done each year, as this can weaken the tree. Light pruning to remove dead or damaged branches, however, should be performed each year. Prune the cherry tree in late spring, after the last frost but before the tree has begun producing blooms.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Bailey Shoemaker Richards is a writer from Ohio. She has contributed to numerous online and print publications, including "The North Central Review." Shoemaker Richards also edits for several independent literary journals and the Pink Fish Press publishing company. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Ohio University.