How To Prune A Cherry Tree In Australia

March 15, 2021

All fruiting trees will need to be pruned throughout their life and cherry trees are no exception to this rule. Whether they are sweet or sour, knowing exactly how and when to prune a cherry tree, and the correct method that should be used are incredibly valuable tools to have. For example, if you want to have a cherry tree that will provide the maximum fruit production, one that is easy to harvest, care for, and is aesthetically stunning, then you will need to prune your tree properly. When left to its own devices, fruiting and harvest might not be optimum. The question is though, what are the proper methods for pruning a cherry tree? What do you need to do to get the best possible results with yours?  When is the best time to prune cherry trees in Australia? Let’s find out!  

How Do You Prune A Cherry Tree? 

First things first, you’ll need the correct tools to trim your cherry tree. It’s all very well knowing how, if you don’t have the tools to carry out the correct methods. First, you’ll need a hand pruner, a long-handled lopping shears, and a pruning saw.  

The primary task in cherry tree pruning care is sterilizing your pruning tools. This is the best way of preventing the spread of disease from one plant to another. The last thing you want is a cherry tree that is struggling with an unknown ailment because you failed to sterilize your tools! The process is simple: wipe the blades down with alcohol and a rag or mix a solution of 9/1 bleach & water, then rinse and clean with water and dry.  

Young cherry trees will need to be pruned in an open vase-like shape, allowing plenty of light and air penetration, thus increasing the number of blooms and an abundance of fruit.  

  • First of all, you’ll want to cut the suckers off the trunk. 
  • Remove any shoots from limbs that point towards the trunk. 
  • Cutaway any weak branches (these shoots and branches are rather pointless and are quite simply a sap on energy).  
  • Cutting these away increases air circulation.  
  • Cut the suckers outside of the branch collar (the raised area where the stem meets the trunk of the tree). 
  • Cutaway anyway obviously dead, dying, or diseased/broken branches. 
  • Only ‘head’ the cherry tree in fall or winter (heading cut is removing a part of a shoot, limb, or branch, up to one third / ½ of its length). – Heading in the spring will mean that you are lopping off developed buds with potential fruit, so avoid if possible.  
  • Heading within the first year or two of the cherry tree’s life allows you to better control the tree’s shape.  
  • Ensure that the cherry tree sapling is well over 30 inches tall before you head it.  
  • When heading the tree, make a 45-degree angle cut to the leader, leaving the tree at around 24-36 inches in height.  
  • In the following year, you want to create a ‘scaffold whorl’, which is basically a set of 4 lateral branches that extend out from the tree, providing a solid stricter (choose four healthy and sturdy branches to keep and prune out the others).  
  • For these 4 limbs, you want them to be at a 45-60-degree angle from the leader and at least 8 inches apart vertically, from the lowest branch.  
  • Next, you want to cut those four scaffold branches back to at least 24 inches, using ¼ inch angled cuts above the buds.  
  • Continue with this process, and then create an additional scaffold in the following year, some 2 feet above the first. Repeat the above process to create the second scaffold.  

Understandably, there is a lot of information here that makes the process feel a little overwhelming. If you feel as though you cannot be bothered with it, or you are worried that you might mess it up, remember that you can find a reliable tree pruning specialist to take care of it on your behalf instead.   

What Is The Best Time To Prune Cherry Trees In Australia? 

The best time to prune a cherry tree in Australia is during the winter when the tree is dormant. That said, cutting sweet cherries is an exception to this rule of thumb. This is because sweet cherry trees tend to be more prone to fungal and bacterial diseases, especially when their limbs have recently been cut back. Thus, it is best to prune a sweet cherry tree in the late summer.  

Bear in mind that summer pruning will reduce the tree’s energy for fruit production, including its growth, so pruning should be minimal, using only thinning cuts (a thinning cut removes an entire limb, shoot, or branch, up to the point of its origin, thus opening up the canopy).  

Dormant pruning on the other hand is more aggressive. When a larger portion of the tree is removed during this dormant season, the tree’s energy reserves will remain unchanged. The timing is critical. You should begin pruning as later into winter as possible to avoid causing unnecessary damage to the tree. Sour and weeping cherry trees can be pruned at this time, once the risk of winter frost has subsided.  

Early spring is also an ideal time to prune young cherry trees. You want to begin pruning as young buds emerge. However, you should wait until the extreme cold temperatures have passed, as younger trees are much more susceptible to injury during these times.  

How To Trim A Cherry Tree 

How to trim a cherry tree? Trimming cherry trees is similar to pruning, it really depends on your reason for doing so. If you simply wish to reduce its size, then you can follow similar steps to pruning, however, be certain not to overdo it as you can cause unnecessary trauma. If you wish to keep the tree happy and healthy that is. Otherwise, you can trim away as much as you’d like, but the tree will not last very long if you trim back more than is recommended.  


Pruning Mature Flowering Cherry Trees In Australia 

Once a tree is at least three years old it is considered a mature tree. This is the time to promote outward growth by pruning out new vertical limbs. Here are some important tips to remember when pruning old cherry trees:   

  • You will want loppers or proper pruning saws, as opposed to shears.  
  • Again, don’t forget to sterilize the tools before use!  
  • Also, get rid of any diseased or dead limbs.  
  • Cut back suckers to the base of the tree.  
  • Remove crossed branches. 
  • Cover all cuts with sealant thus fending off disease.  
  • Always remember that cherry tree pruning is about creating balance.  


Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information here? Would you prefer a tree pruning expert to take care of this instead? In that case, find a reputable tree pruning specialist like AB Trees and you can relax.  

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