How To Grow Cherry Trees From Seed – Grow Your Own Orchard From Seed

Learning how to grow cherry trees from seed can be difficult, but with this step-by-step guide you can grow your very own home orchard.

Cherry seed ready for propagation in a bowl of cherries
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If you’re a cherry lover, you’ve probably spit your share of cherry pits...or maybe that's just me. At any rate, if you've ever wondered how to grow cherry trees from seed then you've come to the right place. Planting pits from store-bought cherries is possible, but it's not quite as easy as you may hope.

Thankfully we have 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 growing a cherry tree from seed.

Can You Grow a Cherry Tree from a 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.

How to Grow a Cherry Tree From Seed

If you want to plant your own cherries from seed, here's how:

1. Choose 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.

Woman removing seeds from cherries

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2. Stratify Seeds

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.

3. Germinate

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.

4. Thin Seedlings

When the cherry seedlings are 2 inches (5 cm) tall, thin them, removing the weakest plants and leaving the sturdiest seedling in the pot.

5. Transplant

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.

Cherry seedling growing outdoors

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Outdoor Transplanting

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.

Indoor Transplanting

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.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.

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