Can Cherry Trees Grow in the Shade?

I’m interested in the idea of growing a potted cherry tree on our balcony, but the only problem is, it gets very little sun this time of year. If you’re like us and have a balcony, or if you’d like to grow cherry trees on a section of your land, there’s a chance that there could be more shade than sun. Since sunlight is essential for at least some growth and fruit development, it’s important to know how much cherry trees need. So, can cherry trees successfully grow in the shade?

Cherry trees can grow in the shade, but they’ll produce fewer flowers and fruit. Shaded cherry trees will likely shift their focus from producing fruit to producing more roots and foliage in an attempt to spread out and capture more sunlight. Providing them with proper sunlight is also important to help ripen fruit.

So, while cherry trees can still grow decently without much sun, just how much sun are we talking about? And can cherry trees grow in partial shade?

How Much Sunlight Does a Cherry Tree Need?

0-3 Hours of Sunlight4-6 Hours of Sunlight6+ Hours of Sunlight
Little to no blossom or fruit productionModerate fruit productionGreat fruit production*
*Assuming the other needs of the tree are met

Cherry trees prefer full sun, which is about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. However, they can benefit from being shaded in the afternoon, when the sun is the hottest. This short period of shade can help prevent sun scalding and the tree’s soil from drying too quickly, especially in warmer climates.

If you live in a hotter area, you might run into an issue with the sunlight drying out the soil too fast. If this happens, consider applying a thick layer of mulch to retain water and installing drip irrigation. A lot of water is lost to evaporation, and these methods can help keep it in the ground.

Can Cherry Trees Grow in Partial Shade?

Cherry trees can grow in partial shade, however at the expense of flower and fruit production. While at least six hours of sunlight is most ideal for cherry trees, they can grow decently in partial shade or about four hours of sunlight

A younger cherry tree can benefit the most from partial shade because it’s more vulnerable to the elements, including heat and sun scolding. After a few seasons of growing, the cherry tree should have a good size canopy to help it regulate more extreme temperatures and should start fruiting soon. At this point consider moving it to a location with at least six hours of sunlight and starting a pruning practice.

For best results, plant cherry trees away from extremely shaded areas and maintain a spacing of 20 to 30 feet between trees. This will help them capture enough sunlight, not compete with each other, and remain close enough to cross-pollinate when the fruiting season comes around. Keep in mind that while some cherry trees need cross-pollination, others can self-pollinate.

What Other Conditions Do Cherry Trees Like?

So now that we have a better understanding of their sunlight requirements, what other conditions are good to know to grow cherry trees?

Pruning

After the cherry tree is about 3 years old, it should be close to or start producing fruit. This is also the time to start pruning.

Pruning is important to train the growth of the tree and allow sunlight to pierce through the canopy. The sunlight that makes it through the canopy will help provide nutrients to the rest of the tree and ripen fruit.

Pruning can also help signal to the tree to focus on fruit production and not the foliage. When pruning, your goal should be to remove the older and dead wood and lightly thin the canopy.

Watering

Watering your cherry tree can be tricky. The amount of water to provide depends on the climate, the dryness of the soil, and the needs of the tree. Overwatering your cherry tree can also lead to leaves yellowing and dropping.

Compost, mulching, and drip irrigation are great ways to water less often and retain soil moisture.

When the cherry tree’s soil can keep consistent moisture, it doesn’t have to spend energy growing its roots to search for more water. This means its energy can be spent growing more fruit for you!

Soil pH

Cherry trees prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5, which is slightly acidic. If you have soil that contains more clay, you may want to consider adding sand or compost to balance out the pH.

Final Thoughts

While cherry trees can grow in little to no shade, you’ll probably end up with trees that are leggy and lack a good supply of fruit. Aim for 6-8 hours of sunlight, although 4 hours can work if needed. Keep your cherry trees well-pruned for maximum fruit production and consider treating the soil with mulch or compost to help it retain water. Happy growing!

Tyler Ziton

After years of fatigue and declining health, Tyler found that good, fresh food was his answer. He learned more about healthy food by completing a certification in health coaching, and from there decided to grow his own food and become more self-sufficient. Tyler also runs a consulting company to help gardeners and website owners solve problems. Read more.

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