How to Keep Cherry Trees Small

Small cherry trees are perfect for little backyards and patios, but how do you stop your cherry tree growing too big?

In this article I’ll show you how to select, prune and care for a cherry tree to keep it small and compact.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read the disclosure for more info.

small cherry tree

Cherry trees grow best in cool climate areas and they produce small stone fruits with a sweet, tart flavor. 

They’re fairly easy to grow and require little maintenance once they start bearing fruit.

Cherry trees can grow 16 to 20 feet (5 to 6 metres) tall, but with regular pruning you can keep them to a compact, manageable size so they won’t take over your garden.

Choosing a small cherry tree

The easiest way to keep a cherry tree small is to pick the right variety of cherry tree for your garden.

Dwarf cherry trees are grafted onto dwarfing rootstock which makes them well suited to small gardens and they’ll only grow to about half the size of a regular cherry tree, about 6.5 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 metres) tall, but the fruit is still full sized. 

Most cherry trees are not self-fertile so you’ll need two trees for pollination. 

If you only have space for one tree in your garden you can get a self-fertilizing variety or buy a tree that has two cultivars grafted onto it. 

Some popular dwarf cherry tree varieties include Dwarf Stella and Dwarf Morello.

planting small cherry tree

Advantages of keeping cherry trees small

Dwarf cherry trees can be planted in containers and you can take them indoors during the winter months to protect them from frosts and freezing temperatures.

Small cherry trees that are regularly pruned and maintained produce a higher yield and stay productive for a lot longer than large trees that aren’t pruned.

It’s easier to harvest the fruit from small trees and you’ll only need a small ladder to reach the fruit at the very top of the tree.

You can easily cover small fruit trees with bird proof netting to protect the fruit as it’s ripening.

cherry tree in container

Planting cherry trees in pots

Cherry trees planted in pots are ideal for small gardens, patios, decks and sunny balconies.

Use a large pot that is at least 24 inches (60 cm) deep with drainage holes in the bottom.

Fill the container with good quality potting soil that will allow the water to drain through easily.

Make a hole in the potting soil, gently remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole.

Fill in the hole with soil and give the tree a deep watering.

Place the container on a pot stand with wheels so you can move it around to catch the sun.

Water thoroughly during spring and summer and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks during spring and summer when the tree is actively growing and producing fruit.

When the temperature starts to cool down you can reduce the watering frequency and move the pot indoors if you live in a very cold climate.

How to prune a cherry tree

Regular pruning is essential to keep cherry trees compact.

Start pruning while the tree is still young by thinning out the branches as it grows.

Choose a strong central leader and ensure that the branches are spaced out around it. 

Prune in late winter or early spring before the buds appear, removing any dead or diseased branches and thinning out any branches that are too close together.

If you’d like to be able to pick the fruit without using a ladder you’ll need to be fairly heavy handed with the pruning to keep the height in check.

Container cherry trees grow slower than trees planted in the garden but they can also benefit from a regular yearly prune to keep them small.

Always sterilize your pruning shears before you start pruning to reduce the risk of disease.

You can use a mixture of one part bleach, methylated spirits or tea tree oil diluted with nine parts water to sterilize your pruning equipment. [1]

dwarf cherry tree


So there are my tips for growing, pruning and caring for a small cherry tree.

By following these tips your cherry tree will stay healthy and productive without taking up too much space in the garden.

Have you tried growing a dwarf cherry tree in a small garden? Let me know in the comments below.

Are you on Pinterest? I have boards dedicated to Container Gardens and Growing Fruit that you may enjoy. You can also find me on Facebook.

Kelly Martin

Hi, I'm Kelly Martin, a landscape gardener and designer with over 10 years experience. I have a passion for small space gardening and I love designing and creating beautiful outdoor spaces that maximize the potential of small urban gardens. Read more