This is a long process—up to seven years to fruit—but it can be done, and it’s much cheaper than buying bare-root or potted plants. The fun is in tending your pretty new tree while you wait for it to fruit!
Start by buying some cherries fresh from a local source, not from the supermarket. Those cherries have been refrigerated and probably won’t germinate. And if you get them from a local farm, you’ll know the trees will be suitable for your climate.
After you eat the cherries, save some seeds and put them in a bowl of warm water, allowing them to soak for a few minutes. Then gently clean them to remove remaining bits of fruit pulp.
Spread the seeds out on a paper towel and let them dry for five days. They should be kept in a warm area, like a sunny windowsill. Then put them in a glass jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and stash them in the refrigerator for 10 weeks. This mimics the winter cold they would go through in nature.
Planting Cherry Seeds
After 10 weeks, take the cherry pits out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature, about three hours. You can then plant them in a small container with potting soil, planting two or three pits in each container. Put them in a sunny spot and keep them moist, but not wet.
Once you have seedlings about 2 inches tall, thin them so only the tallest remains. Keep them in a sunny spot until spring has arrived and the last danger of frost has passed. Then plant them 20 feet apart, and keep the site protected from trampling by marking it with poles or sticks.
You can also skip the refrigerator process and plant the seeds directly outside in the fall, but you’ll need to plant a few more than you want, because you won’t get as many seeds to sprout. You can plant them wherever they’ll be safe from wind or foot traffic because you’ll transplant them later to a permanent spot (when they’re 10 to 12 inches tall). Put a light layer of mulch around them.
Fertilize your trees each spring until the tree starts to bear fruit, then fertilize only after harvesting each season. Water your cherry trees often. Protect from wildlife that might want to eat the plants by wrapping loosely in burlap in mid- to late autumn, then removing the burlap in early April. Keep doing this for the first two to three years to protect the young bark, which is tasty to many critters.
Have you ever grown cherry trees from pits? How long did it take to get fruit? Please share your tips for growing trees from seed in the comments.