How to Plant Cherry Seeds
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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Commercial cherries are grown from grafts so the growers know exactly what they’re getting. This is because planting cherries from seeds may produce bitter fruit. Planting cherry pits is a project for home growers who want to take on a challenge and who are looking for an ornamental plant. To plant cherry seeds, plant the dried pit of a cherry in well-draining, neutral soil outdoors during the early fall, choosing a spot with plenty of sun and pressing the pit 1 inch (2.5 cm) beneath the soil. You may also wish to start the cherry seed indoors, and plant them outdoors in the spring. Keep in mind that cherry trees often grow to 25 ft (7.6 m) or taller, and you can’t always guarantee a bountiful harvest of fruit, so make sure you want that centerpiece in your yard!
- If you want better odds, plant a young tree instead. A local nursery can recommend a grafted plant suited to your climate and soil.
- Almost all fresh cherries for sale are sweet cherries. These are the best for eating, but most are only hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5–7.
- Sour cherries tend to be easier to grow, and can survive in zones 3-8 depending on variety. The fresh kind can be hard to track down, so ask around at your farmer’s market.
- If it’s still early or mid-summer, let the seeds dry on a paper towel for a couple days, then store in an airtight container in a cool spot.  X Trustworthy Source Penn State Extension Educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities Go to source Retrieve them in late summer and continue to the next step.
- Sweet cherries do best with a couple weeks of warm weather before the cold. Planting in late summer or the very start of fall can accomplish this. However, a “warm snap” after the cold weather has started can send some cherries back into dormancy.  X Research source Refer to an almanac or other long-term weather prediction to avoid this.
- Buy fresh, sterile milled sphagnum moss. This material fights off mold, which is the biggest risk at this stage. Handle moss with clean gloves to avoid introducing spores.
- Put the moss in a plastic bag or container and add room temperature water (68ºF / 20ºC).  X Research source Let it absorb the water for 8–10 hours, then squeeze out the extra moisture.
- Pop a few air holes in the lid. If using a plastic bag, leave it slightly open at the top.
- Add the cherry seeds and leave them there for two weeks at the same temperature. Check after the first day or two to pour out standing water, then weekly to throw out moldy seeds (if any).
- You can use sphagnum moss again, but peat moss or a 50/50 mix of peat moss and sand may work best.  X Research source Vermiculite will work as well.  X Research source
- Add enough water to moisten the material without getting it soggy, then add seeds.
- Place in the refrigerator or other area between 33º and 41ºF (0.5 to 5ºC) (ideally at the top of this range).  X Trustworthy Source Penn State Extension Educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities Go to source
- Check more often toward the end of this period. If the hard seed coats have begun to crack, plant right away or reduce the temperature to 32ºF (0ºC) until you’re ready.  X Research source
- If you want to get started early, you can plant the cherries in a large indoor pot.
- The young tree needs room for a taproot. If planting in a container, it should be at least 8 inch (20 cm) deep.
- Cherries are very hard to grow in clay soil. If you want to make a serious attempt, build a raised bed 1 foot (0.3 meters) high.
- You can plant the cherries closer together, but you’ll need to thin them once the shoots reach 2 inches (5 cm) high.  X Research source
Cover depending on the season. If you went with the fall planting method, cover with 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of sand. This prevents a frozen crust from blocking the shoots once they come up. If you’re planting the seeds in spring, just fill the hole you created up to soil level.  X Trustworthy Source Penn State Extension Educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities Go to source
Protect seeds from rodents. If planted directly in the ground instead of pots, the seeds will be a major target for digging and burrowing animals. Cover the area with a wire screen or hardware cloth, bend the edges, and sink them several inches into the ground to form a barrier.  X Trustworthy Source Penn State Extension Educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities Go to source Remove this barrier once the first sprouts appear.
Water occasionally after the last frost. Water the seeds lightly after the last spring frost date for your area. Water only once the soil is almost dry. Young cherries cannot stand waterlogged soil, but can’t stay dry for too long either.
Wait for germination. Cherries are slow to germinate. If you followed both the warm and cold stratification steps, you can expect to see some sprouts within the next few months. Even then, some seeds might take an entire year to germinate, breaking ground the following spring.
Keep the soil slightly moist. You’ll want to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Once the cherry develops a taproot, test the soil to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm) and water whenever this feels dry. Water in a slow trickle until the soil is wet to the depth of the root.  X Research source This won’t take long at first, but remember to adapt as the cherry grows to a proper tree.
- Keep in mind that cherries can grow 25–50 ft (7.6–15.2 m) tall, depending on variety. With pruning, you can keep this to 15 ft (4.6 m) or less.  X Research source
- Fertilizer is best avoided with young trees, since it’s easy to burn them. The compost should give plenty of nutrients.
- Surround young trees with a cylinder of wire fencing to protect against deer. Do this as soon as the trees start to come up.
- Once a month, look for holes in the trunk leaking ooze or sawdust-like frass. Poke a needle into these holes to kill insects.
- In spring, wrap trunks with mosquito netting to stop boring insects from laying eggs.
- In late fall, sink a hardware cloth barrier 2 inches (5cm) down into the soil on all sides to protect against rodents. This barrier should be high enough to protect against a rodent standing on expected snowfall.
- Whitewash the north side instead if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
Prune the cherry tree as it grows. Cherry trees aren’t too difficult to prune, but a little will go a long way toward fruit production and aesthetics. Generally speaking, sour cherries just need a little pruning to keep the branches symmetric. For sweet cherries, prune back the central leader to promote lateral growth instead.
Consider grafting. Left alone, your cherry tree will often take five or more years to bear fruit, if it can manage it at all. Grafting is a little risky with seed-grown trees, since you don’t know the variety, but your local nursery may be able to recommend a fruiting species. You can graft this onto a two-year old tree and have fruit by the third or fourth year if the graft takes.
Pollinate the blossoms. The beautiful flowers alone are reason to grow cherry trees. If you’d like to see them replaced with fruit, though, they’ll need to be pollinated. For most sweet cherries, this means you’ll need a second variety of sweet cherry nearby, blooming at the same time. Honeybees are the most common pollinator for cherries. If you’re using pesticides, make sure they don’t affect this important species.  X Research source
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Cherries are slow to germinate. If you followed both the warm and cold stratification steps, you can expect to see some sprouts within the next few months. Even then, some seeds might take an entire year to germinate, breaking ground the following spring.
Some seeds will germinate within the next few months, but some seeds might take an entire year to germinate, breaking ground the following spring. It’s hard to say for sure!
Do I break the seed cover and plant only the inner seed of the cherry, or do I just plant the whole seed as it comes from the fruit?
As needed to keep the soil slightly moist. You’ll want to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Once the cherry develops a taproot, test the soil to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm) and water whenever this feels dry. Water in a slow trickle until the soil is wet to the depth of the root.
Almost, but you seem to be confusing two different species of tree. One grows fruit and flowers, while the other turns pink in the spring. While cherry seeds grow to be trees, cherry blossom seeds have to be bought from the store or harvested from the tree itself, and then planted in a different environment.
It’ll take a few months for the seed to germinate. The sprout will then grow into a tree. You should expect a tree within 3 – 7 years.
To get fruit, you’ll usually need two varieties of sweet cherry to fertilize each other.  X Research source Sour cherries are usually self-fertile.
Since it can take 7 to 8 years before a cherry tree bears fruit, consider planting a new batch each year. This gives you a buffer if some of your trees dies before they reach maturity.
Yellow cherry varieties are less attractive to bird, but can take 6 or more years to fruit.  X Research source
Don’t plant cherry seeds directly into the ground in the summer or spring. While the seeds will eventually over winter, the lack of immediate stratification won’t allow the seeds to germinate in the spring.
Do not get rid of birds. The are beneficial because they will help you eat the remaining cherries if you have extra cherries that you can’t eat. That prevents these extra cherries from becoming wasted.
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About This Article
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. This article has been viewed 770,618 times.
To plant cherry seeds, first remove the pits from a few cherries. Soak the pits in warm water for 5 minutes, and scrub them clean with a toothbrush to remove any residue. Let the pits air dry on a paper towel for 3 days. Then, store them in the fridge for at least 10 weeks, since cherry seeds need time in the cold to germinate. After the last frost in your area, take the pits out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Fill a few small containers with potting soil and plant each pit in its own container, 2 inches (5 cm) beneath the surface of the soil. Water each pot thoroughly, and keep the soil damp by watering the pits every day. Once the seedlings sprout in 2-3 weeks, set them in a sunny area outside and continue watering them regularly so the soil stays moist. Once they’re about 10 inches (25 cm) tall, dig holes that are the same size as the seedling pots in a well-draining area outside. Make the holes at least 20 feet (6 m) away from each another. Then, transfer each seedling into the holes and fill them in with soil. Water them every other day for the first week, then 2-3 times the second week. Afte rthat, water each seedling at least once a week for the rest of the growing season. Your cherry seedlings will grow into trees and start producing fruit in roughly 8 years. Keep reading for advice from our Gardener reviewer on how to transplant and care for the growing trees!
Tips For Planting Cherry Seeds: Can You Grow A Cherry Tree Pit
If you’re a cherry lover, you’ve probably spit your share of cherry pits, or maybe it’s just me. At any rate, have you ever wondered, “Can you grow a cherry tree pit?” If so, how do you grow cherry trees from pits? Let’s find out.
Can You Grow a Cherry Tree Pit?
Yes indeed. Growing cherry trees from seed is not only an inexpensive way to grow a cherry tree, but it’s also lots of fun and delicious!
First, can you grow a cherry tree in your region? Cherry varieties are hardy through USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, depending upon the type.
Now 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. Cherries from the grocers are stored in such a way, refrigerated, that makes starting seeds from them unreliable.
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 and let them dry for three to five days, then transfer the dry pits to a plastic container, labeled and fitted with a tight lid. Store the pits in the refrigerator for ten weeks.
Why are you doing this? Cherries 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.
How to Grow Cherry Trees from Pits
Once the ten weeks has passed, remove the pits and allow them to come to room temperature. You are now ready for planting the cherry seeds. Put two to three pits into a small container filled with planting medium and water the seeds in. Keep the soil moist.
When the cherry seedlings are 2 inches (5 cm.) tall, thin them, removing the weakest plants and leaving the sturdiest seedling in the pot. Keep the seedlings in a sunny area indoors until all danger of frost has passed for your region, and then transplant outside. Multiple trees should be planted at least 20 (6 m.) feet apart.
Seed Planting Cherry Trees
Growing cherry trees from seed can also be attempted directly in the garden. In this method, you are skipping the refrigeration and letting the seeds go through a natural stratification process through the winter.
In the fall, gather the dried cherry pits and plant them outside. Plant a few since some may not germinate. Set the seeds 2 inches (5 cm.) deep and one foot (31 cm.) apart. Mark the planting sites.
In the spring, the pits will sprout. Wait until the seedlings are 8 to 12 inches (20-31 cm.) in height and then transplant them to their permanent site in the garden. Mulch well around the transplanted seedlings to retard weeds and aid in water retention.
There you have it! Planting cherry seeds is as simple as that! The difficult part is waiting for those luscious cherries.