How to Grow Cherry Trees in Containers – Backyard Food Growing


Cherry trees can definitely be grown in containers too, use a toy tub or a larger container in depth and diameter. Dwarf cherry trees are quite tolerant to the restricted environment of a container as long as they get the right care. When you purchase your young tree, choose varieties that are suitable to your region and bred to withstand the climate of your area.

My favourites are Bing, Stella, Van, Sunburst, and Rainier. Some cherry trees are self pollinating and some are not. If you choose a self-pollinating variety, it’s fine to have only one tree. If you choose one that is not, then you need to have more than one tree in close proximity to produce fruit.

The Bing cherry

The Bing cherry has to be my number one favourite so far. It’s easy to grow and produces big beautiful sweet, dark red almost black cherries. It’s not self-pollinating so it will need a second tree from the list below (or another pollinator) in order to produce fruit. I haven’t found a problem yet with having to buy more than one cherry tree!

Purchase a 1-2 foot tall live tree here.

The Rainier Cherry 

This type of cherry has to be a close second for taste and quality of fruit. The Rainier produces quite large yellowish-reddish fruit with a distinct flavour. It ripens around mid-season and needs a pollinator. It’s easiest to buy a well cared for tree that already has a good head start with root growth, rather than buying tree seeds. Tree seeds take a lot of care and patience to see them through to where they’ll produce fruit.

I recommend buying a young live tree like this 5 gallon Rainier cherry tree.

The Beauty of Stella 

Stella is a perfect “self-pollinating pollinator”. You only need one of these trees to produce fruit in addition to it being able to pollinate other non-self pollinating varieties. Then there is the added bonus of the Stella cherry being so delicious.

Self-pollinating varieties include:

  • Stella
  • Morello
  • Nabella
  • Sunburst
  • North Star
  • Duke
  • Lapins

Recommended Container

Use a large toy tub or large nursery container as previously described. The toy tub will need several holes drilled 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.

Add a drainage substance to the bottom of the tub, such as an inch of pea gravel.

If you are using a commercial nursery container 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.

Rocks are an easy drainage material but are of course very heavy. This is mostly ok because you won’t be moving your tree around very much once you have chosen it’s spot. Choose the sunniest and warmest location in your yard. They need the bright direct sun for the fruit to sweeten up in the summer.

The tree will need a lot of water in the growing season and must be consistently well watered in order to get plump juicy fruit. 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 lot of time. Learn more about drip systems here.

cherries-2013-wm-300x225-3590876Tree Care

Treat your container cherry trees just like an in-ground tree for the most part. Fertilize them with a good quality (preferably organic) food and other nutrients as the season moves along.

This fertilizer product from TreeHelp is perfect, it’s specifically designed for cherry trees. Dr. Earth makes very good fertilizers for many plants too, this one is for cherry trees. I use organic fertilizers, iron supplement, finely ground egg shells, tea leaves and glacial rock dust.  There are also easy to use, convenient fertilizer sticks.

In the fall and early spring it’s important to help your tree fight the constant barrage of bugs that want to use it as a home. This is done with Dormant Oil and sulphur spray in the winter and Tanglefoot in the early spring and early fall.

Two applications per year of Dormant Oil spray, one in midwinter and one around mid to late winter before any sign of buds open. It’s imperative that there are no signs of any greens bud opening. The sulphur will burn and kill anything green. Be wary of over-spray too, the plants behind the one you are intending to spray need to be protected from excess sulphur spray as well.pear-slugs-2011-wm-300x225-1414939

The sulphur will kill insects and the dormant oil smothers 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.

The image to the right is that of two pear slugs. Although it looks more like one pear slug floating and its’ shadow, it’s really not. The pear slug on the left is of translucent density but it is sitting on the same leaf as the darker one.

Read about Tanglefoot and how to use it.

Cherry Tree Pests

Pear slugs love your cherry tree too. These are not your regular ground dwelling, yucky, slimy slugs that hide in the shadows and damp areas of your yard.

They are Pear Slugs aka Sawfly Larvae. They will, despite their name happily eat cherry tree leaves too. They are barely 1/4″ long but capable of doing serious damage to your tree.

The only good thing about having 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. Then saturate your tree ensuring that all leaves get covered completely on both sides. Use a backpack sprayer or hose end sprayer if you have a large tree.

When the soap solution touches the slugs they will dry up and eventually fall off. The detergent in the dish soap cuts through their protective outer coating and they dry up when exposed to air.

More information on pear slugs here.