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Cherries - What am I doing wrong?

Hi all,

I have had my Sylvia cherry tree for 2 years now and it has yet to produce any edible fruit.

When I bought it it was about 2 foot high and did not produce a blossom, though I'm sure I bought it late summer which would obviously be too late for me to see a blossom.

After 1 year I fed it with Miraclegro general fertiliser pellets, which produced lots of wood growth and foliage. There were some flowers in Spring, but all but one dropped off. There did appear to be one cherry growing into the summer, which reached the size of a small olive, but this dropped before it ripened.

This year I repotted the tree into a much bigger tub (50cm diameter) and planted with John Innes 3, as advised by the wonderful people of this forum. I also fed with fish blood and bone early Spring and mulched with well-rotted horse manure. However, I seemed to get less flowers than last year, and they have all dropped off, meaning another year without fruit.

Supposedly Sylvia cherries are self fertile, so it should produce fruit, so I can't work out what I am doing wrong. It is in the best position in my yard, getting the most sun of all my plants, and it is reasonably sheltered from high winds.

It is also in the midst of another growth spurt, but is already as tall as I would like it to be. How should I deal with this? Let it grow then prune it back at the end of summer, or just prune the new growth now?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,901
    Trees and pots aren’t really a wedding made in heaven. Trees need space. If you imagine that a tree’s roots would naturally be a mirror image of its canopy you get the idea.

    However, in a pot it is. So I think the major issue is with providing it with enough moisture. I suspect it has dried out at some point, even ever so slightly, and it’s thought, s*d this, I’m too stressed to have kids, and it has dumped the cherries in favour of self preservation.

    That’s my opinion.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,836
    Did the flowers get to pollinate stage and drop or in the bud. Next year I would try hand pollination and see if it makes a difference. 
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    you say it reached the height you want it to reach yet it is still growing. That already makes me suspicious it is not grafted onto a gisella 5 rootstock.

    Gisella rootstocks limit the tree to 3-5 foot, 6-7 under optimal conditions.

    If it is grafted on to a colt rootstock or not grafted at all then it will not produce cherries in a pot as it will get rootbound and stressed.

    A colt rootstock needs at least 6 foot by 6 foot space from my experience. A gisella can produce fruit in a 50-80l pot. Kind of just slightly bigger than what most garden centers sell.

    I use 60l buckets at the moment.
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    however I should add a sidenote that the most cherries I always seem to be able to produce on a gisella 5 rootstock is around 50 cherries whereas I would estimate a colt grafted variety like sylvia would proably produce around 300 cherries per year. But that takes up the space of a garage. They are certainly not the easiest fruit.
  • The flower buds did open and eventually the petals dropped, leaving the yet unformed cherry on the tree, before this also dropped in the days/weeks after. 

    The tree certainly looks to have been grafted, but there is no mention of which rootstock on the information that came with it, just that it's a columnar tree, but i guess that's just how it has been pruned. 

    I'll admit that I bought this tree when i knew far less than I know now, not that I am a fountain of knowledge now, not by a long shot! Anyway, I've just had a look at the information that came with the tree and it suggests it will grow to a height of 2.5m and needs a horizontal spread of 1.5m, which is hardly conducive to making a happy tree by restricting it to a pot. However, I only have a small concrete yard, so have no option to plant in the ground. I guess I've just answered my own question!

    I'll just add that I transplanted the tree late Spring when the buds were bursting which was also less than ideal.

    Thanks for everybody's help! 
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    you might have a gisella so if you get the biggest pot you are happy to get, then it should set some fruit next year.
  • simonwimblessimonwimbles Posts: 15
    edited June 2019
    Ok, I shall let it do what it wants and grow. Thanks for the help.

    Do you have any advice on when would be the best time to repot? Also, should I be doing any pruning to encourage fruiting?
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    yes pruning is needed every year. With most fruit you do it in winter but it seems for cherries summer time is best.
    If you don't prune eventually your tree will get more diseased and produce less fruit.

    I was part of the no pruning believers (or believing it wasn't really needed) but I have changed my mind. Cutting away old wood really does produce twice as much fresh growth the following year but I would encourage anyone to do a sidecomparrison of pruning vs not pruning to see the difference, once you do you will prune religiously every year :)

    this is the best video I have found for cherries:

  • batwood14batwood14 Posts: 193
    flower and fruit formation requires potassium as a nutrient so in spring feed with a fertiliser high in potassium and look for K which is it's chemical symbol. 

    Your tree is still on the young side so it will be hit and miss as to the formation of flowers and any subsequent fruit and as pointed out above - any stress the tree is under then it will drop its fruit. The weather can also affect the blossom, particularly cold and dry springs are bad news for fruit trees. Any plant grown in pots need more maintenance than those grown in the garden.

    You can also trim the roots but do this in winter when the tree is dormant.
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