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7 Reasons Why Cherry Trees Don’t Grow (And How To Fix It)

Cherry trees stand out for their abundant fruit yield, making their tasty cherries a fantastic feature in any garden. These trees take a winter rest, becoming fully dormant, then spectacularly awaken in spring.

If a cherry tree isn’t thriving, it might be due to insufficient watering, soil that drains poorly, unsuitable soil pH, lack of sunlight, unsuitable climate, or pest issues. To rejuvenate it, ensure it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, the soil is well-draining with a pH around 6, and address any pest problems promptly.

1. Overwatering

cherry tree not growing

Cherry tree not growing due to root rot.

Excessive rain or overwatering your cherry tree can lead to root rot, especially in heavy, clay-rich soils that don’t drain well. This can cause water to accumulate around the roots, harming the tree. If you notice yellowing leaves or limited growth in spring, these could be signs of too much water.

Solution:

  1. Consider creating a shallow trench to guide excess water away from the tree’s roots. Start the trench at least 5 feet away from the tree’s trunk to avoid damaging the roots.
  2. When watering, wait until the top 2 inches of soil are dry and then provide the tree with 1 gallon (about 4.5 liters) of water.

2. Not Enough Light

Cherry trees have distinct needs compared to other plants, thriving best under full sunlight. If a cherry tree is in a shaded area or its light is blocked by other trees, buildings, or walls, it may not gather enough energy for growth. This energy is crucial, as it’s stored inside the tree during winter and utilized for leaf production in spring. A clear sign of insufficient sunlight is limited growth.

Solution:

  1. Prune any branches from nearby trees that overshadow the cherry tree.
  2. For young, smaller trees, consider relocating them to a spot where they can enjoy at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  3. Try to remove any physical obstructions that might block sunlight from reaching the tree.

3. Pests

Aphid colonies can become a problem for cherry trees, feeding on the leaves and causing them to curl while leaving a black, sticky residue. When ants are present, the situation can worsen, as they form a symbiotic relationship with aphids, protecting them and enabling their populations to grow rapidly. This can lead to significant damage and potentially kill the cherry tree.

Preventing ants from reaching your cherry tree is key to controlling aphid numbers to a manageable level that won’t harm the tree.

Solution:

  1. Use tree grease around the trunk to prevent ants from climbing up the tree.
  2. Eliminate any paths or bridges that allow ants direct access to your cherry tree.
  3. For aphids, a spray of horticultural oil can be effective.

4. Soil Issues

cherry tree not growing

Cherry trees thrive in soil that allows water to drain freely, ensuring their roots can efficiently absorb nutrients. In contrast, clay-rich soil retains moisture and impedes drainage, leading to insufficient water reaching the roots during irrigation. Overwatering in an attempt to compensate can result in prolonged soil wetness, risking root rot.

Solution:

  1. Apply a generous layer of mulch, around 6 inches (15 cm) thick, such as compost, at the tree’s base. This helps improve soil structure and drainage.
  2. Provide the tree with balanced fertilizer in early spring to support its nutritional needs.
  3. Utilize a soil testing kit to assess and adjust the soil’s pH, aiming for a pH of 6 by adding the necessary nutrients or amendments.

5. Underwatering

cherry tree not growing

Underwatering

Even after a cherry tree has become well-established, it still requires regular watering, especially during its younger stages when it needs more frequent hydration. Indications that your cherry tree isn’t receiving enough water include leaves turning yellow, slowed growth, and the wilting of leaves and stems on new growth.

Solution:

  1. Water a newly planted cherry tree with 1 gallon (about 4.5 liters) of water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry.
  2. During particularly hot periods or extended dry spells, increase the amount of water to help it cope with the increased demand.

6. Wrong climate

Cherry trees are adaptable, capable of enduring sub-zero temperatures as well as flourishing in tropical climates. However, their fruit production hinges on experiencing a sufficient amount of cold. Without enough cold exposure, cherry trees won’t produce fruit. Similarly, if temperatures remain too low for too long, without warming sufficiently in summer, the trees may not exit dormancy.

A practical method to determine if a cherry tree’s growth issues stem from climate conditions is to refer to the USDA hardiness zones. Additionally, cherry trees need a specific number of chill hours to successfully bear fruit.

Solution:

  1. Plant it in a location within USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.
  2. Make sure the area receives an average of 6 hours of sunlight daily during spring and summer.

7. Transplant shock

cherry tree not growing

Transplant shock

Transplant shock is another significant factor that might hinder the growth of cherry trees. When trees are moved to a new location, they can experience stress for various reasons, leading to a halt in growth for a year or even two. In some cases, a transplanted tree might not survive. Alternatively, it could grow normally during the first year but then enter a state of dormancy in the following year. While there’s limited action to take against this, improving the growing conditions can help ease the transition.

Solution:

  1. Provide shade for the tree during the first few months following transplantation, or possibly throughout the entire first growing season, to protect it from stress.
  2. Water the tree whenever the soil doesn’t feel dry at a depth of 2 inches, being mindful to avoid overwatering since the tree is more vulnerable to root rot during transplant shock.
  3. Refrain from pruning or fertilizing the cherry tree during its first year after planting to avoid additional stress.