Cherries prefer deep, fertile and well-drained soils with pH of 6.5-6.7. They will not thrive on shallow or badly drained sites. As cherries flower early in the year, choose a warm sheltered site, or grow against a south- or south-west facing wall or fence. When frost is forecast, protect the blossom with fleece, but uncover it during the day to allow access to pollinating insects. Cherries tend to do best in southern and central England.
Cherries on their own roots will naturally grow into large trees making them unsuitable for smaller gardens. They are therefore grafted onto rootstocks which act to limit their size and encourage earlier fruiting.
The most commonly used rootstock is the semi-vigorous ‘Colt’ that will restrict the growth to about 6-8m (20-26ft). Semi-dwarfing rootstocks ‘Gisela 5’ and ‘Tabel’ will restrict the size to about 3-4m (10-13ft) making them suitable for growing as dwarf bush trees or possibly in a container.
Many fruit trees need suitable partners to act as cross-pollinators, and will not fruit well when grown on their own. This applies to some sweet cherry cultivars. It is best to choose a self-fertile cultivar (see cultivar selection below) that does not require a cross-pollinator. If you want to grow a cultivar that is not self-fertile, be sure to seek advice from the nursery on suitable partner cultivars to achieve cross pollination.
See advice in trees and shrubs: planting for information on planting cherries.
Watering and feeding
Cherries are fairly heavy feeders and will benefit from application of a general fertiliser such as Growmore or Vitax Q4 at 100g per sq m (4oz per sq yd) in late winter to early spring. They also benefit from mulching with organic matter, such as well rotted farmyard manure, in late winter. If fruiting is poor, apply sulphate of potash at 15g per sq m (½oz per sq yd).