Can You Grow a Tree by Planting a Cherry Pit?

Do you love eating cherries? Every fresh cherry you eat contains a pit with the potential to grow into a new cherry tree! In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares some tips for turning the next cherry you eat into a tree.

A vibrant cherry tree branch with lush green leaves and plump red fruits, creating a lively display of nature's bounty. The cherries dangle delicately amidst the verdant foliage, casting subtle shadows in the dimly lit surroundings.

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Cherry trees are a large and diverse group of trees and shrubs of the species Prunus. They are widespread and found throughout the world, including North and South America, Asia, and Africa. The genus Prunus includes not only many diverse varieties of cherries but also plums, apricots, and almonds!

Commercial cherries, however, the sweet red cherries that you buy from the grocery store, are one of many cultivars developed for producing an abundance of deliciously sweet fruits. In the United States, most cherry production occurs in Michigan, Washington, and Oregon, but you don’t have to live in one of these states to grow a cherry tree in your yard.

Each mature tree can be immensely productive. A healthy Bing cherry tree, for example, can produce as much as one hundred pounds of fruits per year! Even a mature dwarf cherry tree grown in a container can produce over 20 pounds of fruit per year. However, not all types produce sweet or edible fruits.

Many varieties of cherry, such as the weeping cherry and the Kwanzan cherry, are grown specifically for their spectacular blossoms and don’t even produce edible fruits. All cherry varieties, however, are ornamental trees that produce an abundance of pink or white flowers each spring. The flowers, in turn, attract vast numbers of pollinators.

Read on to learn more about cherry trees and how you can grow one from a humble cherry pit.

The Short Answer

You can definitely grow a cherry tree from the pit of a cherry. It’s a process that takes ideal growing conditions and a lot of patience, but it can be done. If you want to have the most successful growing experience possible, you’ll be better off buying a healthy young tree from a reputable nursery, but if you want to truly grow your own tree from seed, keep reading to find out how.

The Long Answer

An intricately arranged heart shape crafted from rich brown cherry seeds, showcasing their unique textures and hues. The dried seeds rest artfully on a rustic wooden surface, forming a warm and inviting composition that evokes a sense of natural charm.
Commercially grown cherries are usually grafted to ensure the development of robust and healthy trees.

You can grow a cherry tree from a seed, but you won’t necessarily grow a mature tree with the same excellent fruits from which your seed came. Why is this? Commercially grown varieties are grafted to produce the healthiest and sturdiest trees possible. Sweet cherry fruits are also the result of cross-pollinated flowers, and as a result, the seeds may not be genetically identical to the parent plant. 

So, what will you get if you plant a cherry pit? You will, without a doubt, get a cherry tree. You just won’t know exactly how well it will perform until it reaches maturity. If you really want to grow a tree for the purpose of eating cherries, your best bet is to buy a nursery-grown tree of known origins. It will also take a bit of luck and a lot of patience to nurture a seed into a fully mature fruit-producing tree.

Types of Cherries

 A close-up of cherry tree branches, adorned with vibrant red cherries. The succulent fruits glisten in the sunlight, creating a visually striking contrast against the lush green leaves and branches. In the background, a carpet of vibrant green grasses adds a serene touch.
Each cherry variant contains a pit or seed that has the potential to sprout into a new tree.

The three most common commercially available sweet cherries at your local grocery store are the Bing cherry, Lambert cherry, and Rainier cherry. These varieties all produce large, sweet, and durable fruits, making them good for commercial growing, shipping, and retail.

You may also occasionally encounter other cherry varieties, such as the sour cherry, at farmer’s markets or specialty markets. Each of these cherries will have a pit, or seed, that can potentially be sprouted to start a new tree

Growing Conditions

Sunlight Full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Water Water regularly to maintain consistent soil moisture.
Soil Organically rich, moist, well-drained. Soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic.
Climate USDA Plant Hardiness Zones – Most sweet cherry varieties will grow in USDA zones 5 through 9. Sour cherries prefer a slightly cooler climate in zones 4 – 8.
Pollination Most cherries will require cross-pollination to successfully produce fruits. This means you will need at least two cherry trees in close proximity, and ideally two different varieties.
Fertilizer These trees are light feeders but will need regular fertilization. Apply your fertilizer each spring and carefully follow the directions on the product you use.

From Seed to Fruit Production

You just ate a handful of delicious cherries, and now you have a pile of hard little pits. What will happen if you plant a pit? Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect during the entire process, from seed to mature tree.

Collect Seeds

An intimate view of cherry pits, showcasing their rich brown hue. The pits are neatly arranged on a warm-toned brown wooden surface, forming an intriguing pattern. The subtle variations in color and texture highlight the natural beauty of these cherry remnants.
After savoring a ripe cherry, ensure you remove the pit.

Any fresh, fully ripe cherry will have a pit. Enjoy your fruits, spit out the pits, and you now have cherry seeds! Clean off any cherry residue from your seeds, and you’re ready to store them in a cold location for a while.

Cold Stratification

A close-up of brown cherry pits, showcasing their natural hue and texture. The pits are arranged neatly on a glossy brown wooden surface, emphasizing their earthy tones and inviting a tactile exploration.
This cold stratification process is crucial for triggering successful germination.

Place your cherry seeds in a sealed bag with some moist sand and place these in your refrigerator for at least ten weeks. This step is necessary to trigger the seeds to sprout properly. 

Planting

A close-up of a hand carefully places dark, rich soil into a white circular pot, illustrating the preparatory stages of planting. The soil's deep color suggests fertility and nurturance, setting the stage for potential botanical growth and flourishing greenery.
Place the seeds approximately one inch deep in the soil and cover them.

After their 10-week cold stratification, remove the cherry pits from the fridge and allow them to warm again to room temperature.

Prepare a couple of pots with fresh potting soil and plant two or three seeds in each container. Push the seeds about one inch deep into the soil and cover them again.

Water and Wait 

A close-up reveals plump Acerola cherries glistening with moisture on a tree branch. The succulent red fruits stand out against lush green leaves, and tiny water droplets enhance their freshness. In the blurred backdrop, verdant greenery provides a natural context.
Make sure to water these seeds adequately and maintain warm, moist soil.

Water your seeds well and keep the soil warm and moist. It should take your cherry seeds about two weeks to germinate. 

Seedlings 

A tender green seedling of a cherry tree emerges, its tiny leaves unfurling with youthful vigor. Against a blurred background, a tranquil garden setting unfolds, softly lit and serene. The promise of growth and life emanates from the delicate contours of the young tree.
It is essential to relocate your seedlings to a spot with ample sunlight.

After germination, continue to keep the soil moist but not wet. Move your seedlings to a location with bright sunlight. Seedlings grown in the shade will become long, leggy, and weak.

Place them in the sunniest window you have, or if the weather is already warm, you can place your pots outside. Just be diligent about keeping the soil moist.

Transplanting 

A close-up of a woman in black gardening gloves delicately planting a cherry tree in rich brown soil. The slender cherry tree stem, with its smooth texture, extends upwards promising future blossoms and sweet fruit. Surrounding the planting site, the brown soil is adorned with vibrant green grasses in the well-tended garden.
You can choose to transplant them either into a larger pot or directly into your yard.

Once your seedlings are several inches tall and have developed several true leaves, you can transplant them into a larger pot or transplant them into your yard. Don’t forget to harden them off first.

Water your newly transplanted young trees well immediately after transplanting, and continue to keep them moist.

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Maintenance 

A close-up of a sturdy stem of a cherry tree plant, its bark revealing a mature and robust structure. The immediate surroundings are mulched with pine bark, offering a protective layer for the roots. The potted tree sits in a spacious circular container filled with brown soil, creating a harmonious outdoor arrangement.
It is advisable to surround your tree with organic, biodegradable mulch.

Cherry trees are rather high-maintenance fruit trees. Mulching around your tree is a good idea. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. Use an organic, biodegradable mulch such as decomposed leaves, straw, wood chips, or compost. As the mulch breaks down, it will add vital nutrients to the soil. 

Keep your trees well-watered, especially during dry periods. Use a soaker hose or hand water, and give your trees a deep watering every time you water. This means allowing the water to penetrate deep down to the roots. There’s no need to use a sprinkler or water the leaves of your tree. This can create conditions favorable to molds, mildew, and other fungal or bacterial infections. 

Pruning your trees will help keep them healthy and well-groomed. The best time to prune your cherry trees is late winter when they are still dormant, and before they start to leaf out for the spring season. Prune to remove dead or diseased branches, crossed or broken branches, and to improve the general form and appearance of the tree.

Keep a close eye on potential pests and diseases. These trees are prone to many problems, including insect pests and several fungal diseases. Promptly address any problems you see before they have a chance to kill your tree or decimate your crop. 

Maturation 

A close-up reveals cherry tree branches adorned with ripe, red, and juicy berries. The vibrant leaves showcase a rich green hue, providing a striking contrast to the luscious, crimson fruits, creating a visual symphony of nature's bounty.
A cherry tree grown from seed may require up to 10 years before bearing fruit.

If started from seed, a cherry tree can take up to 10 years to start producing its first fruits. If you start with a young nursery-grown tree, it typically takes between three and five years to produce the first fruits.

Harvesting 

A close-up of a delicate female hand gently cradles a small brown basket filled with plump, red cherries. The lush branches adorned with green leaves and red fruits tell a story of harvest, capturing the essence of nature's sweet abundance.
Enjoy the delightful sweetness and health benefits of freshly picked cherries.

This is probably the most exciting stage of growing your own fruit trees. A mature tree will bloom in the spring and have fresh fruits ready to harvest by early to mid-summer, depending on the variety of cherry and where you live.

Wait until your fruits are fully ripe. They should be large, firm, and sweet (taste one before picking them all, just to make sure!). Freshly picked cherries are a delightfully sweet and healthy treat!

Landscape Considerations 

A close-up of a dwarf cherry tree, showcasing its sturdy stem, delicate leaves, and clusters of small cherries. Planted in rich soil amid a sea of green grasses and other plants, it basks in the warm embrace of direct sunlight.
Growing different varieties close to each other can enhance your cherry crop significantly.

That tiny pit you planted has the potential to grow into a full-sized tree 35 or more feet tall. Give your young plant plenty of space to grow. You probably won’t want to plant too close to buildings, sidewalks, or driveways because when the trees start producing fruits, this can become quite messy. 

If you are hoping to produce your own cherry fruits, grow at least two cherry trees for cross-pollination purposes. Most are not self-fertile and will not produce cherries unless they are cross-pollinated with another cherry tree. Growing two (or more) different varieties or cultivars in close proximity is an excellent way to increase and improve your cherry crop.

Birds and pollinators love cherry trees! If you are looking for an excellent plant for your pollinator garden, any variety, whether or not it is fruit-bearing, will bloom in the springtime and attract a myriad of pollinators. Any fruits that form will be of great interest to the resident birds and other small wildlife, so you may have some serious competition when it comes time to harvest your fruits!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grow a cherry tree in a container?

You can grow a cherry tree in a container, with limitations. A mature tree can grow 35 feet tall, so you can grow your tree in a container for the first couple of years to get it started, but you’ll eventually want to transplant it into a permanent location. If you truly want to grow in a container, you’ll need to buy a dwarf cultivar, and you won’t find that in a grocery store fruit.

Can I grow a cherry tree indoors?

It’s not ideal. They require long hours of full sun and phases of cold weather to set fruits. You can start your seeds indoors, but ultimately you’ll want to grow cherry trees outdoors to ensure that they get enough light and seasonal temperature variation. If you want to try growing a potted fruit tree indoors, try a lemon tree!

Is there a cherry tree native to North America?

There is a native cherry called the black cherry (Prunus serotina). It grows throughout much of the central and eastern United States and Canada. A similar species, Alabama cherry (Prunus alabamensis) is native to the far southeastern United States. The American plum (Prunus americana) is a native plum tree. These species all can make excellent landscaping trees and produce edible fruits. You won’t find them at your local grocery store, however.

I planted some cherry seeds, but none of them sprouted. Why not?

Despite your best intentions and efforts, it’s possible that your seeds won’t germinate. If you bought cherries from the grocery store, they may have been stored in conditions that affect the seed viability, and you don’t know their origins or where they would best grow. Not every seed is viable or will germinate, so it’s best to try several seeds and hope that you get at least one successful germination. In case of no luck one year, you can always try again the next year. It’s a great excuse to buy and eat more cherries!

Final Thoughts

It can be extremely rewarding to grow your own cherry tree. When growing from a seed, you won’t know exactly the properties of the tree you are growing, but that can be part of the adventure. The best success will occur in areas with a cool to moderate climate, plenty of direct sunlight, and rich, moist, well-drained soil.

It will take a lot of patience, but once you coax a seed to germinate, you will be well on your way to growing a beautiful tree. If you’re lucky, that tree will someday produce its own crop of edible, delicious, sweet fruits!

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