We all know how wise Mother Nature is – practically everything on earth is designed in such a way that creates symbiosis and allows each individual organism to survive. Certainly, this includes plants.
Have you ever wondered what purpose the pit in the middle of a cherry serves? It must have a purpose, otherwise, it wouldn’t be there, but why is it?
In this article, we’ll answer the question of whether you can grow a cherry tree from a cherry pit (in other words, are the pits actually seeds?), as well as look at some interesting facts about cherries and growing cherry trees.
What Is a Cherry Tree?
Cherry trees belong to a category of plants known as deciduous trees. The most common characteristic of deciduous trees is that their leaves, fruit, or blossoms regularly fall off; this typically happens seasonally.
That gives cherry trees a lot in common with some of the other types of trees with which most people in the United States are familiar. Usually, deciduous trees do this kind of “shedding” to conserve water and other resources during winter, although they can do it at other times of the year, depending on where they’re planted.
Cherry trees tend to be rather large and upright; they commonly grow as tall as 36 feet. They’re characterized by their fleshy fruit, called a drupe, which is edible for humans and which we call cherries.
Cherry trees are also well known for their beautiful blossoms, which usually bloom in the springtime, but only for a short window of time. Locals and visitors alike make pilgrimages to see these gorgeous spring blossoms in Tokyo, Japan; Washington, DC, USA; and Paris, France.
What Purpose Do Cherries Serve?
Cherries are usually heart-shaped fruit. Depending on the tree itself, they can range in color from very light (almost yellow) to very dark (almost black), and they also range in flavor from quite sour to very sweet.
Like all fruit that grows on trees, cherries serve one important function for the life cycle of the trees: they house and protect the seeds. Typically in nature, when the pollen and pistil (male and female parts) come together, a seed is formed inside the fruit.
Next, the fruit ripens once the seed is ready and falls to the ground. It either decomposes or is eaten by an animal, which allows the pit and the seed to release and a new tree to grow.
We know that the cherry pits contain the seeds for the tree; therefore, they play an integral role in the survival of the species of the cherry trees.
But that doesn’t necessarily tell us whether the pits that are in the cherries that we buy in the store can be used to grow a tree. Let’s take a look at that next.
Can You Plant a Cherry Tree Using Cherry Pits?
Yes, you can! This is typically the answer for any cherry pit.
So, if you were wondering whether the cherries (with the pits still in them) that you buy in the store have seeds in them, they do! What is more, you can sometimes use them to grow a cherry tree.
Notice that we said sometimes. Let’s take a look at why planting a tree from a cherry pit may or may not work for you.
The Cherry Should Be Locally Grown
One of the most important determining factors in whether or not you can grow a cherry tree from the pit is if the cherry was grown locally to begin with.
We all know that the produce that we buy at our local supermarkets is not necessarily grown anywhere nearby. In fact, a great deal of the fruit, vegetables, herbs, and other plant matter that we buy at the grocery store is grown very far from us, indeed.
All plant species and subspecies have evolved over millennia to grow in their particular regions. This includes cherry trees.
That means that all trees have particular conditions that determine whether they can grow or not, including the composition of the soil, the amount of rainfall and moisture, the climate and seasons, and more. For that reason, you can’t simply put your pits in the ground and expect to see a tree within a few years.
We’ll turn our attention next to where and how to grow cherry trees from pits.
Where Do Cherry Trees Thrive?
There are at least 12 species of cherry trees that grow widely in North America. In the United States, the bulk of the cherry trees are in California (particularly northern California), Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Cherry trees do well in USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) hardiness zones 5, 6, and 7. This means that cherry trees should grow well in most of the northeast, mid-Atlantic, southeast, midwest (although not the more northern midwest), and northwest regions of the United States (helpful hint: visit the USDA to enter your zip code and find out which zone you live in).
What If You Don’t Live in One of Those Places?
If you don’t live in zones 5, 6, or 7, you may have less luck, or need to do more work, to grow a cherry tree, if it is possible at all.
The zones aren’t randomly assigned numbers, though, so if you live in zone 4 or 8, you will have better luck, especially if you’re relatively close to a 5, 6, or 7 zone.
There are also ways that you can work with your environment to grow a cherry tree. These may include protecting the tree from very cold or very hot conditions, treating the soil, or planting somewhere that gets more or less sunlight than is typical.
If you don’t live in ideal growing conditions, we recommend seeking help from a local gardening expert who knows a great deal about your region and how to fix the issues you’re likely to face.
How to Tell If Your Cherries Are Local
Sometimes it isn’t easy to know if the food that you buy is local. Law requires the country of origin to be included in packaging and marketing, but since the United States is pretty big, that doesn’t help much.
Some supermarkets will advertise locally-grown produce; just be sure to check that it is from nearby since some stores are loose with what they consider to be local.
The best method for making sure your cherries are local is to buy them directly from a farmer. Visit your farmer’s market during the cherry season (usually May through August) or look online for a cherry farm near you.
How to Plant a Cherry Tree From the Pit of a Cherry
It’s a little bit more complicated than simply digging a hole and throwing the cherries into it. For one thing, you’ll need several cherry pits: at least a good handful.
Prepare the pits
To get the seeds ready, you must first remove all of the fruit from the outside of the pits. Soaking them in warm water may help if the fruit is really stuck on.
Next, leave the pits to dry completely on paper towels for about a week. Then place them in an airtight container and leave them in the refrigerator for 10 weeks.
Start the plants
Fill several pots with nutrient-rich soil that closely resembles the soil near where you live. Plant two to three pits in each pot.
Keep the pots indoors and water frequently enough that the soil is consistently moist.
You should transfer the trees outside, wherever you want them to grow, as soon as the tiny seedlings grow to one to two inches in height above the soil level, and when the weather conditions are favorable (don’t plant in the fall). You don’t need to plant them all, but you need at least three to four trees for them to pollinate properly.
Choose a spot where the seedlings will get plenty of sun and water, and plant them. Be sure to protect them from harsh elements and predators.
Watch them grow from year to year
It can take 7 to 10 years for a cherry tree to mature to the point of producing fruit, so don’t expect to be eating homegrown cherries anytime soon.
Another Way to Plant a Cherry Tree
There is an easier way to plant a cherry tree, which is to buy a young tree from a garden center or farm that is already well on its way to maturity. The main benefit of this method is that you don’t have to worry about seeing the seedling through its most vulnerable phase.
One of the biggest downsides, though, is the cost; they usually cost up to about $100.
Another downside is that you don’t get the joy of watching something that you planted grow to maturity. The sense of accomplishment just isn’t the same when someone else does the hard work!
Now that you know how to do it, though, give yourself the rugged, outdoorsy satisfaction of growing your own cherry trees from cherry pits. We promise that – eventually – the fruit will taste much sweeter if you do.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.