6 Reasons Why Cherry Trees Grow Best In Full Sun

Cherry tree full sun

Cherry trees have amazing blooms and delicious fruit, making them an excellent choice to plant in the yard. When choosing a place to plant a cherry tree in your yard, it’s important to take into consideration how much sunlight the area gets, as cherry trees do best in full sun conditions.

Cherry trees grow best in full sun because it increases their growth rate, flower production, and fruit production. Sunny locations help dry the branches and leaves after rainfall. Full sunlight is necessary for the temperature to be warm enough for your cherry tree to break dormancy in the spring.

Read on to learn all about why cherry trees grow best in full sun. We’ll also go over how to give your indoor cherry tree enough light and what happens if your cherry tree gets too much or too little sun.

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Why Cherry Trees Grow Best In Full Sunlight

When it comes to cherry trees, you have plenty of options to choose from. There are sweet cherry, sour cherry, and flowering cherry trees.

Each of these trees has unique characteristics that make them appealing. For our purposes, we’re going to lump them all together and simply refer to them as “cherry trees.

However, if there are any significant differences, we’ll note them!

Sunlight is essential to all life, including people, animals, plants, and trees! Most trees benefit from being planted in full to partial sun to photosynthesize.

Cherry trees grow BEST in full sunlight, getting at least 6 hours of sun per day. There are a few reasons why cherry trees prefer full sun over partial or full shade. 

Let’s check out the specifics!

Cherry Trees Grow Faster In Full Sun

Every plant has a specific habitat where it grows best in. A tropical palm tree will not survive harsh Montana winters, and a very cold-hardy Norway spruce cannot survive in the hot Arizona desert.

Cherry trees have their favorite habitats and will grow much faster when given proper soil, water, and sun.

Sunlight is the most important trigger for a tree to begin photosynthesis. 

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as soon as the sun touches the leaves, chemicals called light-harvesting complexes get all excited and sound the alarm to start photosynthesis.

What exactly is photosynthesis and why does it influence a tree’s growth? 

Photosynthesis produces sugars that feed the tree. It’s the equivalent of when our parents always told us that eating will make us grow up big and strong.

A study reported in the Journal of Photosynthesis Research found that, unsurprisingly, the more sun a leaf gets, the higher the rate of photosynthesis.

The more sugars that cherry trees produce, the more energy they have to grow. This means a stronger trunk, taller branches, wider branches, and an overall healthier cherry tree.

Cherry Trees Bloom Better In Full Sun

While growing tall and having stronger branches is a huge benefit, full sun conditions also promote a higher number of flowers on cherry trees.

Cherry trees will bloom better in full sun, but this isn’t true of ALL plants. Shade-loving plants like begonias and primrose will struggle to bloom with too much sun.

Weird, right? What makes some plants benefit from sunshine while others wilt?

It mostly has to do with where the plant is found in the wild. Some plants like ferns and mountain laurels are used to being in the understory, beneath a thick canopy of trees. These plants have adapted to shady conditions.

Others, like cherry trees, are used to being out in the open in full sun or else towering over other trees in a mixed forest stand. 

Birds have a lot to do with why cherry trees hog all the sunlight in forests. Birds eat the fruit of cherry trees and help disperse the seeds all over the place. As long as there is adequate sunlight, cherry trees will sprout right up and take over!

Cherry trees aren’t unique due to the fact that birds help spread their seeds. However, there are some other cherry tree facts that might surprise you! Did you know that cherry blossoms actually don’t smell (at least not as strongly as tradition might imply?)

Spring blossoms in the sun. Tree branch with apple flowers, blur background.

Cherry Trees Produce More Fruit In Full Sun

Cherry trees take advantage of every bit of sunlight to improve their growth, flowering, and fruit production.

Similar to how more sunlight means a faster growth rate, more sunlight also means more fruit! There are a few reasons why cherry trees produce more fruit in full sun:

  • More energy: The more sun the cherry tree gets, the more ‘food’ the tree has. When cherry trees have tons of energy, they can focus on more than just surviving. They can grow faster and divert more energy to fruit production.
  • Fewer pests: full sun conditions help dry out cherry trees faster than if they were located in a shady spot. This helps prevent pests from attacking the tree and destroying the fruit.

Almost all fruit trees do better in full sun, including cherry, plum, citrus, and apple trees. Selecting a sunny spot in the yard to plant your cherry tree is super important!

Sunny Conditions Promote A Healthier Cherry Tree

We mentioned a few times how sunlight will help dry off the branches and leaves of cherry trees. This is more important than you may think.

Wet branches and leaves create an environment where the tree may contract an ailment. They may not have the sniffles or sneeze, but there will be a few signs that they aren’t feeling well.

  • Holes in leaves: Wet conditions will promote something called cherry leaf spot, sometimes referred to as cherry shot hole.
  • Yellow leaves: yellow leaves are the next step in cherry leaf spot. According to the University of Maryland, soon after the leaves turn yellow they will drop from the tree.
  • Brown flowers: If the flowers on your cherry tree are wilting and turning brown, it may be due to brown rot, a fungus that spreads rapidly in wet conditions.
  • Cracked fruit: When water sits on the fruit for too long, it will crack, making the fruit unusable except to maybe feed to the birds.

Once your tree shows some of these signs, bugs will zero in on the problem areas and can wreak even more havoc on your cherry tree.

Water is a necessity for trees to survive, but too much water can be a problem. Planting your cherry tree in a sunny spot will help the entire tree dry out quicker after heavy rain.

Another way to keep your cherry tree from getting too wet is to properly prune it each year. Pruning thins out the branches, allowing for better air circulation and more sunlight.

There are some tree maintenance tasks you can do on your own. Here are some simple steps to prune your cherry tree.

Warm, Sunny Spots Help Cherry Trees Break Winter Dormancy

Believe it or not, some trees require cold temperatures to survive! Most (though not all) deciduous trees like require a certain number of days with cold temperatures, called a chilling requirement.

According to the University of California, sweet cherry trees require about a month of continuously chilly temperatures (below 45℉). Sour cherries need even longer chilling periods, around 50 days.

These are only approximations. Specific cultivars may have different chilling requirements. A study in the International Journal of Biometeorology found that chilling requirements may be as little as 17 days and as long as 102 days.

Now, what does chilling have to do with the sun and breaking winter dormancy?

Cherry trees need chilly temperatures followed by warm temperatures to trigger new growth and blooms. If cherry trees are growing in shady areas, they may get the order to break winter dormancy late.

Late winter dormancy break will mean:

  • Slower growth
  • Lower fruit yield
  • Later and shorter bloom period

While it won’t necessarily harm your cherry tree to be planted in partial shade, it will struggle more than a cherry tree planted in full sun.

Sunlight Helps Shape Your Cherry Tree

The shape of a tree influences both its aesthetics and health. We all want our yard trees to look good, but we also want them to be healthy and strong so we don’t have to worry about falling branches or a messy yard full of leaves.

Sunlight is an important component of shaping your tree because new growth is always going to gravitate towards a sunny spot.

Have you ever planted something on your windowsill and noticed the plant begin to lean toward the window? 

The same concept can be applied to trees. They are going to try to grow toward the sunniest spot. When sunlight is available everywhere, your cherry tree will grow uniformly with an upright canopy.

If your cherry tree is in partial shade, there may be a few unwanted consequences:

  • Lopsided tree: If sunlight is only available in a few concentrated spots, new growth will gravitate to these areas, creating a lopsided appearance.
  • Weak branches: Branches that are not exposed to full sun may be weaker due to reaching. They also may not be attached as firmly to the trunk as branches located in sunny areas.
  • Less uniform shade: Cherry trees make great shade trees, but if they are planted in shady conditions, the shade they provide will not be uniform and will not be as upright and spreading.

With plenty of sunlight, your cherry tree will grow into a vast, uniform canopy with strong branches that won’t make a mess in the yard.

Now, another benefit of having a cherry tree is that that make excellent shade trees in their own right! So shade isn’t all bad.

Cherry tree blossom explosion in hurd park, dover, new jersey

How To Give Indoor Cherry Trees Enough Sun

Not everyone has enough space in their yard to plant a full-grown cherry tree. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the wonderful blooms and fruit of a cherry tree, you just need a dwarf variety to grow indoors.

Growing cherry trees indoors is a little tricky, but with enough care and patience, you’ll be baking cherry pies and topping ice cream in no time!

To successfully grow an indoor cherry tree, it has to receive enough sunlight to grow, flower, and produce fruit.

Indoor sun isn’t really the same as outdoor sun because it’s filtered through a window. It’s recommended to put your potted cherry tree outside each day to get some much-needed sunshine.

Cherry trees typically require around 6-8 hours of direct sun per day. You can increase your cherry tree’s exposure to sunlight by placing it near a south-facing window while indoors.

Your cherry tree will not be very successful if you do not place it outdoors at certain times. There are two important reasons to put your indoor cherry tree out on the porch or balcony:

  • Sunlight: Your cherry tree needs unfiltered, direct sunlight to properly grow. If you don’t place your cherry tree outside to get some sun, it’s going to struggle to grow and may not bloom or produce fruit.
  • Chilling Period: Cherry trees must have a prolonged chilling period to bloom and set fruit the following growing season. For this reason, you’ll need to expose your cherry tree to continuous cold temperatures for at least a month by placing them outside while temperatures are 45℉ or below.

The key to chilling periods is that it needs to be continuous. Don’t bring your cherry tree inside on winter nights and warm it up. It needs to be at a steady, cold temperature for a month or more depending on the cultivar.

What Happens To Cherry Trees On Cloudy Days?

If sunlight is as important as we say it is, then what do cherry trees do on cloudy days? Will they start to wilt if there’s a week of cloudy weather?

According to an article in the European Geosciences Union, decreased light from clouds or other obstructions such as smoke or smog significantly reduces the amount of radiation available for photosynthesis.

However, just because it’s cloudy does not mean that your cherry tree will completely shut down.

Cloudy days are not as productive for cherry trees as sunny days. Cherry trees will produce less energy, meaning they’ll have fewer resources to put towards growing, blooming, or fruiting.

A few cloudy days here and there will not have a significant effect on cherry trees. If you live in a place that has a high number of cloudy days (Looking at you Seattle, Portland, and Pittsburgh), you may have to settle for a cherry tree with slower growth, fewer blossoms, and fewer fruits.

There’s no good way to remedy having cloudy weather. Your cherry tree will survive, but a boatload of cloudy days could have small consequences, some of which you may not even notice.

For those who have indoor cherry trees, there is a way to solve cloudy days – LED lights. Artificial grow lights can help supplement your indoor cherry tree with the light that it needs.

WTINTELL’s LED Plant Grow Light with Stand is adjustable up to 56 inches tall. It comes with 4 lights that are adjustable and can be set to a timer. These are perfect to keep your cherry tree happy and healthy!

If you live in an area that’s just too shady for cherry trees, you can try one of these types of mock cherry trees. Depending on where you live, it might be a better fit for your yard!

Can Cherry Trees Get Too Much Sun?

There’s no such thing as too much sun for a cherry tree, right? Right?

Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to having a ton of hot, sunny days in a row. Most of the time it’s the hot, dry weather that affects a cherry tree as opposed to just simply sunlight.

Below are some of the signs that your cherry tree is getting too much sun.

  • Cherry spurs: Too much sun paired with hot weather can cause cherry fruits to double up. One full-sized cherry will be paired with a smaller cherry. While the fruit is still edible, it’s not the best site to see on your cherry tree.
  • Sunburn: Just like people, trees can get sunburned from being in the sun for too long! Signs of sunburn include discolored bark, bark that looks dried out, and loose/peeling bark.
  • Water stress: Mature cherry trees do not typically need watering. If your cherry tree appears droopy with dry, discolored leaves, it might be water stressed. This can happen when the cherry tree is exposed to too much sun, which dries out the soil.

How (And When) To Protect Your Cherry Tree From Too Much Sun

If you live in an area that’s always sunny, you may want to take some steps to protect your cherry tree. 

According to Washington State University, you’ll want to focus on the south or southwest face of your cherry tree’s trunk, as this is the area most likely to be affected by too much direct sun.

You’ll also want to look lower rather than higher when trying to spot damage. The light reflected off the ground is a double-whammy to the lower half of the tree’s trunk.

With that being said, it’s better to take preventative measures before you notice damage!

One easy way to help your cherry tree is by using tree wraps. Tree wraps are basically like a layer of sunscreen that you can wrap around the tree to protect them from too much sun.

Dalen’s Protective Tree Wrap is light-colored, which works perfectly to reflect the sun’s harsh rays. It’s also breathable and light, so it won’t hold moisture or prevent your cherry tree from growing.

Red ripe cherries

That’s All For Now!

Sunlight makes the world go round. It gives us Vitamin D and a boost of serotonin to help us feel better! Sunlight is also incredibly important for trees, including cherries!

Cherry trees benefit from being planted in an area that receives full sun. This means at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. There are a few different reasons why cherry trees grow best in full sun.

Now for a quick recap.

Here’s why cherry trees grow best in full sun:

  • Faster growth
  • Better blooms
  • Higher fruit production
  • Promotes a healthier tree
  • Helps break winter dormancy in the spring
  • Gives cherry trees a uniform shape

Sunlight is important, but too much sun paired with hot, dry weather can cause problems. Keep an eye on your cherry tree and look out for signs of sunburn or water stress.

If you are growing your cherry tree indoors, it’s recommended to place it on a porch or patio so it can receive direct sunlight for a few hours each day.

Your local arborist can help you pick out the right variety of cherry tree for your yard or home and give you some insight into what your cherry tree needs to thrive!

References

Goncalves, B., Santos, A., Silva, A. P., Moutinho-Pereira, J., & Torres-Pereira, J. M.G. (2015, November 07). Effect of pruning and plant spacing on the growth of cherry rootstocks and their influence on stem water potential of sweet cherry trees. The Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, 78(5), 667-672.

Lichtenthaler, H. K., Babani, F., & Langsdorf, G. (2007, May 08). Chlorophyll fluorescence imaging of photosynthetic activity in sun and shade leaves of trees. Photosynthesis Research, 93(235).

Luedeling, E., Kunz, A., & Blanke, M. M. (2012, October 06). Identification of chilling and heat requirements of cherry trees – a statistical approach. International Journal of Biometeorology, 57, 679-689.

Predieri, S., Dris, R., Sekse, L., & Rapparini, F. (2003). Influence of environmental factors and orchard management on yield and quality of sweet cherry. Food, Agriculture & Environment, 1(2), 263-266.

Yamasoe, M. A., von Randow, C., Manzi, A. O., Schafer, J. S., Eck, T. F., and Holben, B. N.: Effect of smoke and clouds on the transmissivity of photosynthetically active radiation inside the canopy, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 6, 1645–1656.

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