Tall, unruly cherry tree #737570 - Ask Extension


Tall, unruly cherry tree #737570

Asked January 30, 2021, 1:36 PM EST

We have a cherry tree in the back yard of our recently purchased home in Ashland. it appears that the tree was never pruned or shaped when it was young. It’s now about 20+ feet tall. I’d like to prune and shape this tree. How much of the top of the tree is it safe to remove? And when during the year is it best to do the pruning?

Jackson County Oregon

Expert Response

Prune the top portion of the tree more heavily than the lower portion.

Sweet cherry trees may be pruned in August when there’s less danger of bacterial infection. In a mature tree, thin out more of the shoots that grow toward the end of a well-pruned branch. This increases fruit size and quality on the remaining shoots.To reduce the height of a tree that’s too tall, cut limbs at the top of the tree to a lateral branch that is the height you desire. Leave the branch collar but don’t leave stubs. Stubs won’t heal and could be a starting point for wood rot fungi.

Train sweet cherry trees to the open center system with three to five scaffold branches. Sweet cherry trees often grow vertical limbs 6 to 8 feet without branching. You must head them to induce lateral branch formation. To promote branching on trees not pruned in summer, head every shoot in winter to about 2 feet.

Bacterial canker, a common disease of cherry trees, frequently causes gumming and dead areas or “cankers” on limbs. If it infects the crown or trunk, it can kill the tree. If a gummy, dead area encircles most of a limb, you must cut off the limb.

Bacterial infection can enter through pruning wounds. To avoid this, prune in August. You usually can avoid death from bacterial canker by budding or grafting a variety about a foot out on the rootstock limbs.

Mature trees require little pruning except as needed to reduce tree height. If birds are eating a lot of the fruit, you may want to net the tree.

Here is a publication that you will enjoy:


Hope this helps!


chris Rusch Replied January 30, 2021, 8:25 PM EST
Thanks! I will wait until August to prune and shorten the tree. 
The Question Asker Replied January 31, 2021, 7:25 AM EST
Thanks for contacting Ask an Expert!
chris Rusch Replied January 31, 2021, 9:36 PM EST

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