Cherry trees are beautiful in the home landscape, with late-winter to early-spring blooming and bountiful fruit harvests. Traditional cherries can grow to 40 feet tall, though, and overwhelm small yards. Gardeners who want smaller trees, or plan to grow their cherry tree in a pot in the house, should opt for a dwarf variety, which will grow to only 6 to 10 feet in height. Dwarf cherries require standard cherry tree care in both outdoor growing situations and in pots.
Plant dwarf cherry trees in spring to give them the benefit of a warm growing season. Plant the tree outdoors in United States Department of Agriculture growing zones 4 to 9 and in pots in warmer or colder zones so you can control the growing environment.
Find an outdoor site where the tree will get full sun all day and quick drainage. Elevated sites are good for cherries, as they encourage good air circulation. For potted dwarf cherry trees, use 20- to 30-gallon pots with drainage holes.
Amend soil in outdoor sites before you plant the cherry. Dig into the top 1 to 1 1/2 feet of soil and mix quick-draining soil in to loosen and aerate the soil. Mix until you have a mix of half natural soil and half soil amendment. If you're potting your dwarf cherry, fill the pot 3/4 full of quick-draining potting soil.
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the dwarf cherry tree's root ball. Cut off any damaged or bent roots, then spread the cherry tree's roots in the hole. Fill the hole 2/3 full of amended soil and water the tree with 1/2 gallon of water. This watering helps the soil to fill in around the roots and eliminates air pockets, which will damage the tree's establishment. Fill the hole the rest of the way, and pack the soil down firmly.
Water the dwarf cherry tree with at least 1 inch of water every week to prevent the soil from drying out. If you've potted your cherry tree, check the soil daily for drying, and water the tree when required.
Feed the dwarf cherry tree with nitrogen, 10-10-10, 5-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertiliser a month before the bloom each spring. Mix granular fertiliser into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil in a band 6 to 8 inches from the base of the tree. Don't get fertiliser against the base of the tree, as it will burn the wood. Always water the tree immediately after you feed it.
Things you need
- 20- to 30-gallon pot
- Quick-draining garden soil
- Pruning shears
- Purdue University Department of Horticulture: Growing Cherries in Indiana, Peter M. Hirst and Richard A. Hayden
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Growing Cherries in Virginia, Richard P. Marini
- About Cherry Trees: Semi-Dwarf Cherry Trees
- Binghamton University: Urban Forestry: Edible Horticulture: Fruit Trees