If you’re a cherry lover, you’ve probably spit your share of cherry pits… or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, have you ever wondered, “Can you grow a cherry tree from seed?” The answer is you can, but it’s not quite as easy as you may hope.
Below we’ve got all the expert info you need to go from a cherry pit to your own cherry tree, including selection, stratification, and germination. Read on for the ins and outs of planting a cherry seed.
Can You Grow a Tree from a Cherry Pit?
Is it possible to grow a cherry tree by planting a pit? The simple answer is yes, as long as you know the basics of how to grow a cherry tree from seed. There is a significant “but”, however.
Seed Cherries Aren’t True to Type
Pits from cherries will not grow true to type. What does this mean? Seeds will produce plants that are hybrids of two plants, the “mother” tree where the fruit grew and the “father” tree that produced the pollen.
If you’re eating a cherry, chances are the tree it’s from is grafted — that is, a branch of a delicious cultivar is allowed to grow into and become part of a hardy rootstock, forming a new tree. Any seed from that tree will have different genetics and taste completely different. Unless you’re grafting, you won’t produce the same fruit.
This isn’t discouraging if you’re simply engaged in the gardening adventure of sprouting a seed. If, however, you’re hoping to produce a tree that has the same delicious fruit, you’re out of luck. Planting a pit from your favorite sweet cherry will not produce similar cherries, and they will likely not taste as delicious.
Steps for Planting Cherry Pits
If you want to plant your own cherries from seed, here’s how:
1. Choosing Cherry Seeds for Planting
First comes the hard part. Eat some cherries. That’s a tough one, huh? Use cherries from either a tree growing in the area or purchased from a farmers market. Pits from supermarket cherries are not always reliable.
Save the pits from the cherries you’ve just devoured and put them in a bowl of warm water. Let the pits soak for five minutes or so and then lightly scrub them free of any clinging fruit. Spread the clean pits out on a paper towel in a warm area out of direct sunlight and let them dry for three to five days, then transfer the dry pits to a plastic bag or glass jar, labeled and fitted with a tight lid.
Cherry pits are not ready to plant immediately. They need to go through a cold period called stratification. To do this, mix them in their container with moist peat moss or sand, and put them in the refrigerator for about 10 weeks. Make sure not to expose them to fruits that produce ethylene gas, such as apples and bananas. Different varieties of cherry may require different periods of stratification.
Why are you doing this? Cherry seeds need to go through a cold or stratification period that normally occurs naturally during the winter, prior to germination in the spring. Refrigerating the pits is artificially mimicking this process.
Okay, seed planting of cherry trees is now ready to commence.
Once stratification is complete, prepare small containers for planting. Fill them with potting soil and plant several pits per container. Place in a sunny site and keep the soil moist but not wet. They will germinate and seedlings appear.
When the cherry seedlings are 2 inches (5 cm) tall, thin them, removing the weakest plants and leaving the sturdiest seedling in the pot.
What you do next with your cherry seedling depends on your region. Most cherry varieties are hardy through USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, depending upon the type. If you live in this range and have the space for it, you can transplant your cherry tree outdoors.
Wait until all danger of frost has passed and your cherry seedlings are 8 to 12 inches (20-31 cm) in height. Then plant them outdoors and mulch them. If you’re planting multiple trees, space them at least 20 feet (6 m) apart.
If you don’t want to grow your cherry tree outside, don’t despair! Cherry trees can be grown in pots as well — dwarf varieties do best. Just pot your seedling up into a larger container and place it in a sunny location.
There you have it! Planting cherry seeds is as simple as that! The difficult part is waiting to harvest those luscious cherries.