Hardiness Zone: 7b
When to prune you cherry tree depends on its age. Young sweet cherry trees should be pruned annually in the late winter or early spring while they're being trained. This is done to maintain size, shape, air circulation and light, as well as to maintain balanced growth. Training using a central leader shape (similar to pruning apple trees) is widely accepted as the best method. At planting time, don't worry about shortening the main stem or any of the side branches, just thin out crowded branches.
During the first growing season, pick 3-4 main branches that are 12 to 15 inches apart along the main stem on each side of the tree and prune the rest back. These branches should be about 12 to 18 inches in length.
During the first winter, the side branches should not be shortened by more than one third of their length. If a branch has obviously outgrown the other branches or the main stem, cut it back so it's the same length as the others. Once your cherry tree becomes established, it will require less pruning. When the tree starts to bear fruit, prune it just after harvest. This will allow light into the canopy and encourage the growth of next year's fruit buds. Thin the center of the tree as necessary to promote good air circulation.
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If this is the first season for your tree, don't trim it. If this is the second (or longer) trim it back to 6-8 ft. before it breaks growth in early spring. Cherries do best when they have a central leader, so cut out any competing branches. It is also advisable to cut out any branches that are crossing one another and any growing towards the center of the tree. A light trimming of all other branches will encourage growth. (09/16/2006)
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