It’s perfectly normal to wonder whether your favorite tree is receiving what it needs to grow healthy and strong. For those new to growing cherry trees, the issue of correct watering can be a little confusing, but it is nonetheless important for healthy growth.
How much water does a cherry tree need? Established cherry trees typically receive adequate water from natural rainfall. In periods of drought, water the area under the canopy for about 20 minutes every few days. For newly planted trees, after the initial deep watering at planting, water for 5 minutes daily for the first two weeks.
Established cherry trees in the ground need around 40 gallons of water a week by natural rainfall. In areas affected by drought, this water needs to be replaced by manual watering.
Figuring out water-related problems of cherry trees can be a learning curve, so we have set out a simple how-to guide below.
Watering is a critical aspect of cherry tree care, but it is just one piece of the puzzle. To eliminate the guesswork, be sure to read my complete, detailed guide, Ornamental Cherry Tree Care and Maintenance.
Water Requirements of Cherry Trees
In most cases, watering trees is unnecessary as natural rainfall will provide all the water a cherry tree needs. In areas suffering drought, supplementing water about every week or 10 days will keep your tree happy.
The easiest way to determine if a cherry tree is ready for more water is by checking to see if the soil is dry at about 5 inches deep around the trunk and under the canopy. If there’s still plenty of moisture, the tree is in no danger of drying out.
If it’s dry, you know to apply a generous amount of water, about 40 gallons or 20 minutes of watering. Overwatering is also easy to determine, simply follow the same test, and if the soil is muddy or water is pooling in the small hole, then stop watering until the soil is just moist.
Water Needs of Newly Planted Cherry Trees
Newly planted cherry trees require immediate watering. This is done so that soil can settle around the roots.
After this, water daily for 5 minutes for a period of around two weeks — this is to ensure that any potential stress from planting is reduced by providing a constant supply of necessary water.
After the initial two-week period, watering can be reduced to every second or third day for around two months. After this stage, saplings can be treated the same as established trees.
When & How To Water Established Cherry Trees
Watering should usually be done in mornings or evenings when temperatures are low. This is to avoid excessive evaporation, which causes humidity and creates an ideal environment for disease and fungus.
With a watering can and sprinkler (rose) nozzle or a garden hose attachment, thoroughly soak the area around the trunk and the entire area directly beneath the canopy.
It is unnecessary to water the leaves, although a quick rinse-off may be beneficial once or twice a week, especially if any dust has settled on the leaves.
How Much Water Do Potted Cherry Trees Need?
Potted cherry trees require much less water and should be given enough water so that water just trickles from the base of the pot. Water should never sit around the stem and should drain out within about 10 seconds.
Fertilizing should be given regularly as nutrients will wash out during regular watering.
Is Drip Irrigation Sufficient for Cherry Trees?
Yes! Drip irrigation can be a very useful and successful method for watering cherry trees.
The advantage of drip irrigation is autonomous watering, meaning a timer can be set up so that you never have to worry about doing any other work than the initial setup and occasional maintenance of lines.
There is far less evaporation than from regular sprinklers, and roots are consistently kept moist but not excessively wet.
The cons of drip irrigation are setting-up costs, lines that can clog from dirt, and human traffic or disturbance from farm animals. Irrigation lines also mean more unnecessary clutter in the garden.
Signs of Overwatering & Underwatering in Cherry Trees
Overwatering in cherry trees can be seen on trees as yellowing or curled leaves. Soil around overwatered trees may also look and feel continuously wet, which points to heavy clay soils or an excess of water.
Underwatering for trees can be quite similar as too much water usually shows as browning and withered leaves. This can seriously stunt trees if prolonged.
Watering a Cherry Tree During Winter
Watering a cherry tree during the winter is almost never required unless the soil becomes extremely dry. Water before the first frosts, then mulch heavily with straw, grass clippings, or wood chips to ensure that the roots are protected.
How To Aid Cherry Trees During Drought Periods
Times of drought are when drip irrigation setups come into their own, and using these kinds of watering systems may reduce water usage up to 50% and even increase yields. This means you’re not only saving valuable water and irrigation costs but also increasing your harvest.
If not using this type of irrigation, watering for 25 minutes every 7-10 days is adequate for most drought scenarios.
Mulching is also a highly effective way to ensure moisture retention in the garden and should be undertaken even in environments with good rainfall.
How To Revive a Water-Stressed Cherry Tree
It is easy to diagnose dehydrated trees, as twigs and branches will snap rather than bend under little pressure. To revive a thirsty tree, soak the entire area under the canopy for around 25 minutes. Repeat this process once the soil is dry 5 inches down.
On the other end of the scale, water-stressed trees that have been overwatered will need some time to let the water escape, so simply turn off irrigation and stop watering for a few weeks.
Do Cherry Trees Prefer Wet or Dry Soil?
Cherry trees definitely prefer well-drained soil, which actually means neither wet nor dry but a medium between the two so that there is always moisture in the ground but water is not sitting there for days or weeks.
Perfect soils for this are compost-rich, sandy, loam soils. Heavy clay soils are to be avoided, but they can also be transformed before planting into excellent soil by adding compost and sand.
Asking local nursery staff with knowledge of the area is always a great start for getting specific and expert advice on soil amendments.
Why Has My Cherry Tree Stopped Growing?
In most cases, a cherry tree that has stopped growing is the result of incorrect watering, lack of sun, or lack of nutrients.
Just like you and I, trees need to feed in order to continue functioning and growing. In the wild, this happens because of a whole range of bacteria in the ground, sunlight, and natural composting.
In home gardens or pots, however, cherries may not have access to these factors, and a balanced natural organic fertilizer will be key to getting your tree back on track.
Making sure the cherry receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight will also give it the energy needed to grow.
What Can Kill a Cherry Tree?
Crown rot is incredibly dangerous to a tree and is directly linked with overwatering or poorly draining soil. This fungus attacks the base of the tree, and a decaying process will occur, which is usually not found until the tree begins to die off.
Prevention by choosing healthy young trees, a suitable planting site with well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine, and keeping watering to the required minimum will almost always keep your tree healthy.
In regards to pests, any of the borer species found in the US, invasive or native, can be lethal for trees. These pests will dig into the tree, encircling it with burrows, thereby cutting off the supply of water and nutrients.
As with learning any new skill, gardening and caring for trees takes some practice to get just right, but if you follow our guide, you can be sure that your cherry tree will be well looked after, and with experience, you can always dial in your watering needs to your specific environment.
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