Can you grow cherry trees in containers? I say, “Yes”. I’ve tried many types of trees in containers, and found that cherry trees are the most tolerant to the often less than ideal restricted environment of a container. Choose varieties that are suitable to your region and tolerant to your particular climate. Some cherry trees are self pollinating and some are not. If you choose a self-pollinating variety, it’s ok to have only one but if you choose one that is not, then you need to have more than one tree to produce fruit.
My favorites are Bing, Stella, Van, Sunburst, and Rainier. The dark red fruit that is so sweet and irresistible picked right from the tree.
Self-pollinating varieties include: Stella, Morello, Nabella, Sunburst, Duke and Lapins. You need only one tree to get a harvest from these varieties. Stella is a great pollinator for the other varieties that do not produce on their own.
Find a large tub* or nursery container, and add a drainage substance to the bottom of the tub. Rocks are easy but heavy. Styrofoam is a good alternative to increase drainage and not add unnecessary weight. Another method is to use small recycled 4″ plastic pots turned upside down in the bottom, this creates air space, drainage and doesn’t add extra weight. Another choice is to smash up an old clay pot and use the chunks like rocks in the bottom of the pot.
Place them in a location that is quite sunny and warm. They need the direct sun for the fruit to sweeten up in the summer. The tree will be very thirsty in the growing season and must be watered frequently and consistently. A mini drip system is a good way to cut down on the time consuming task of watering. If you set it up properly with a timer then you can likely save yourself a few hours a day eliminating that task alone.
Treat your container cherry trees just like an in-ground tree orchard tree. Fertilize them with a good quality (preferably organic) food, and other nutrients as the season moves along. I use Gaia Green fertilizers of all types, iron supplement, egg shells, tea leaves, and glacial rock dust. In the fall and early spring it’s important to help your tree fight the constant barrage of bugs using it as a home. This is done with Dormant Oil spray in the winter and Tanglefoot in the spring and fall.
Two applications in midwinter and late winter of Dormant Oil** spray before any sign of buds open, it’s imperative that there are no signs of bud opening. It will kill and smother out many of the bugs and larvae present that have been overwintering in the bark. In addition to that I recommend applying “Tanglefoot” to catch the critters walking up and down the trunk of your tree. What Tanglefoot is and how to use it is explained here.
Pear slugs love your cherry tree too. These are not your regular ground dwelling, yukky, slimy, fat slugs that hide in the shadows and damp corners of your yard. Pear slugs aka. Sawfly Larvae will, despite their name happily eat cherry tree leaves too. Two of them can be seen in this picture below, barely 1/4″ long but capable of doing serious damage to your tree. The best thing about pear slugs is how easy they are to get rid of. All you need is a spray bottle with a mild solution of dish soap and water. Saturate your tree making sure that all leaves get covered, if the soap solution touches the slugs they will die. They will dry up, shrivel and fall off. More information on pear slugs here.
*Drill several holes in the bottom of the tub and low down on the sides with a drill bit the size of a standard pencil, any bigger than that and the soil will leak out. If you are using a nursery tub and the holes are
already quite large, then line the bottom of it with landscape fabric to cover the holes, then add your rocks or drainage substance. You’ll still get the drainage and not lose any soil.
**Dormant Oil spray is a combination of Lime Sulphur and Horticultural Oil.