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How to Plant Cherry Seeds

There are few things so decorative and quintessential to summer as a bowl of juicy, bright red cherries on the dining table in a pretty porcelain bowl. A healthy, portable, and tasty snack, or the perfect addition to any dessert, cherries are in high demand this season.

Pile of cherry pits or seeds. Knowing how to plant cherry seeds means you'll be enjoying your own hand-picked fruit.

Learning to grow your own is a rewarding process, so read on to learn how to plant cherry seeds in your very own garden!

Basic Steps

Selecting the Seed

The first step when learning how to plant cherry seeds is, of course, to select the correct seeds. There are different varieties of cherry, including sour cherries and sweet, red cherries and black cherries, as well as cross-pollinating and self-pollinating cherries. Note that varieties differ in their preferred growing zones.

Seed Preparation Stratification, and Storage

This is the most fun part of the process of learning how to plant cherry seeds: eat as many cherries as you can to ensure you have enough seeds to plant! Or, if you prefer, you can buy cherry seeds from a local nursery or online. This is the safest way to ensure they will reproduce the fruit you desire.

Woman pitting cherries.
Planting cherry seeds starts with pitting cherries!

Either in the spring or fall, though ideally in the fall, you should gather the seeds and let them soak in a bowl of warm water for several minutes to loosen any remaining pulp. You can gently clean them to ensure it all comes off.

Let the seeds dry by spreading them out on a paper towel and leaving them on a sunny windowsill for about five days. Then, gather the dry seeds, which are also referred to as pits, and place them in an airtight container, which should be refrigerated for ten weeks. This part is the stratification: the cold and dark mimic the winter, helping the seeds to germinate.

Where to Grow

If planting in your garden, make sure you are in the correct USDA zone for cherries, which vary by variety. Sour cherries will grow in USDA zones 4 through 6, so these are best for colder climates. Sweet cherries grow up to 35 feet or taller in USDA zones 5 through 7, or in USDA zones 8 and 9 in the Pacific Northwest.


How to Plant Cherry Seeds Outdoors

Set the seeds two inches deep and one foot apart and mark the planting sites. The soil should be fertile, sandy, and have neutral or slightly acidic pH. For cherries planted outdoors in the fall, cover with one to two inches of sand to prevent a frozen cover that can block sprouting shoots. If you planted in the spring, just fill the holes with soil, no sand is necessary. Water only when the soil is dry after the last frost.

A small cherry tree seedling.

Cherry plants need six to eight hours of sunlight.

In half a year, the pits will begin to sprout. Once the seedlings have reached about a foot in height, transplant them to their permanent spot in the garden about twenty feet apart from each other. In their permanent spot, lay mulch over the soil to help retain water and prevent weeds.


How to Plant Cherry Seeds Indoors

If you plan to use a container for planting cherry seeds, make sure you have good drainage and plant at least 2 inches deep, and never in clay soil. The soil should be one part sand, one part peat, and one part perlite, which is pretty standard potting soil.

Position your indoor cherry blossom tree near a sunny, south-facing window. If possible, move the potted tree outside in full sun for a few hours each day. There are dwarf cherry trees that will be easier to keep in your home due to their smaller size.

Once outdoor conditions reach between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, transition the plant to full-time outdoor living. Read about how to grow your cherry seedlings in our guide, How to Grow a Cherry Tree.

Be sure to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Note that potted cherry trees dry out faster than they would in your garden, so you will have to water them more regularly. Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen, which stimulates leaf growth at the expense of fruit production. A standard fertilizer will do, but you can also try out a seaweed fertilizer. It is especially important to fertilize in the month before the plant blooms.


What You’ll Need

When deciding on how to plant cherry seeds, you will need to gather a few essential items. First, you should buy high-quality cherries, which can be found at any local supermarket or farmer’s market, and you will need a refrigerator for the stratification process.

Cherry pits next to a bowl of cherries.

If you are planting cherry seeds outdoors in the fall, you’ll want sand to cover the new seeds from the cold. You can find sand available at Home Depot. If you are planting indoors, you will need a pot, either plastic or metal — here’s a great one to buy from Home Depot. You’ll also want quality soil. This Dr. Earth Home Grown Potting Soil from Nature Hills, one of our favorite online plant retailers, is good for cherry plants.


Frequently Asked Questions on How to Plant Cherry Seeds

How do I protect my cherry seeds from rodents?

Cover the area with a wire screen or hardware cloth, bend the edges, and sink them several inches into the ground to form a barrier. Be sure to remove this barrier once the first sprouts appear!

Are cherries and cherry seeds safe for pets?

No! They are dangerous for pets and can get lodged in their digestive tracts. Do not feed your cat or dog cherries, especially in large quantities.

When can I pick my cherries?

After all the work of figuring out how to plant cherry seeds, you are probably eager to start eating your own home-grown cherries in the summer. However, you’ll have to wait a while if you’re planting from seed. For sour cherries, trees start producing fruit after three to five years, while for sweet cherry trees it may take four to seven years. Read our guide on when to pick cherries to learn more.

What do I need to know about the different kinds of cherries and their seeds?

It’s important to learn how to plant cherry seeds based on their type. Cherries are separated into two groups: sweet cherries, which are meant to be eaten fresh, and sour cherries, which are also called tart or pie cherries and are ideal for baking.

A wedge of cherry pie.

There are also both self-pollinating and self-sterile cherry plants. The majority are self-sterile, which means you would need a second plant with compatibility to pollinate your cherry tree later on.

When looking for seeds or supermarket cherries to get you started, depending on your preference, consider the following: examples of self-pollinating sweet cherry varieties include ‘Stella,’ ‘Benton,’ ‘Black Gold,’ ‘Lapins,’ ‘Starkrimson,’ ‘Craig’s Crimson,’ ‘Glacier,’ ‘Kansas,’ ‘Royal Crimson,’ ‘Sweetheart,’ ‘Tehranivee,’ ‘Vandalay’ and ‘White Gold.’

Self-pollinating pie cherries include ‘Balaton,’ ‘North Star,’ ‘Montmorency,’ ‘Stark Surecrop,’ ‘Surefire,’ ‘English Morello,’ ‘Danube,’ ‘Carmine Jewel,’ ‘Evans’ and ‘Almaden Duke.’


Plant Cherry Seeds This Summer in Your Garden!

Closeup of dark red cherries on a tree.

Now that you have learned how to plant cherry seeds both indoors and outdoors, visit our Cherry Trees page for ideas and inspiration on what to do with your cherries. You’ll learn how to grow, care for, and use all the different cherry varieties!