Do Cherry Trees Have Deep Roots? Uncovering the Facts

  • By: Michael Barnes
  • Time to read: 10 min.

You might wonder if cherry trees have deep roots, and the answer is quite surprising. Cherry tree roots are actually shallow, extending around 10 to 17 inches into the soil. The roots spread out horizontally, often covering a distance of 2 to 3 times the perimeter of the tree’s crown.

Compared to other trees with deeper root systems, cherry trees have lateral roots occupying a more shallow layer of soil. This can be an advantage when planting them in areas with limited space but also makes them vulnerable to strong winds and drought. It’s important to consider the soil conditions, water availability, and surrounding plants when choosing a location for your cherry tree.

Taking care of your cherry tree’s roots is essential for its overall health and well-being. As the roots are shallow, ensure they have adequate moisture and nutrients while avoiding unnecessary damage during gardening activities. By understanding how cherry tree roots function, you can make informed decisions about planting, care, and maintenance to enjoy the beautiful blooms and delicious fruit of these wonderful trees.

Cherry Tree Root System

Deep Roots vs Shallow Roots

Their root systems are not considered deep. Instead, cherry tree roots are known to be shallow and lateral, extending 10 to 17 inches into the soil. This means that the roots spread out horizontally in a relatively shallow state, about 2 to 3 times the perimeter of the tree’s crown 1. It’s worth noting that both dwarf cherry and regular cherry tree roots exhibit shallow characteristics, but their respective depths may vary.

Taproot and Feeder Roots

The root system of a cherry tree consists of a taproot and a network of feeder roots. The taproot is a large, central root that serves as the tree’s primary anchor to the ground. It’s responsible for providing stability to the tree and accessing deep water reserves when necessary.

On the other hand, feeder roots are smaller and responsible for absorbing nutrients and water from the soil. They are found closer to the surface and branched out from the taproot. Due to the shallow nature of cherry tree roots, it’s essential to maintain the health of these feeder roots, as they play a crucial role in the tree’s overall well-being.

Common Cherry Tree Rootstocks

Cherry tree rootstocks are essential for determining the tree’s eventual size, vigor, and tolerance to specific soil conditions. Some common rootstocks used for cherry trees include:

  1. Mazzard: This is a standard-sized rootstock that produces large, vigorous trees. Mazzard rootstocks are known for their cold-hardiness and adaptability to various soil types.
  2. Mahaleb: Mahaleb rootstocks result in slightly smaller trees compared to Mazzard. They’re known for their drought resistance and adaptability to different soil types, as well as their resistance to root rot.
  3. Gisela Series: The Gisela series of rootstocks includes Gisela 5, Gisela 6, and Gisela 12. They are popular for dwarf or semi-dwarf cherry trees, with each offering varying degrees of size and vigor reduction, as well as improved cold-hardiness, precocity, and resistance to some diseases.

Understanding the characteristics of these rootstocks can help you make informed decisions about which cherry tree variety is best suited for your specific needs and environment.

Do cherry trees have deep roots?

Soil and Nutrient Requirements

Ideal Soil Conditions

To provide the best environment for your cherry trees, ensure they are planted in deep, well-draining soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Although cherry trees can tolerate various soil types, they prefer fertile loam soils with sufficient moisture.

Nutrient Needs

Proper nutrition is crucial for the growth and productivity of cherry trees. The primary nutrients required by cherry trees are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen promotes vegetative growth, phosphorus is essential for root growth and fruit production, and potassium improves overall tree health and fruit quality. In addition to these primary nutrients, cherry trees also require trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, and iron.

Drainage and Oxygen Importance

Cherry trees are susceptible to root rot; therefore, it’s crucial to provide good drainage and oxygen to the root system. Waterlogged and excessively sandy or heavy calcareous soils should be avoided. Adequate oxygen in the soil is essential for cherry tree roots to absorb nutrients and water efficiently, leading to healthier and more productive trees.

To summarize, for healthy cherry tree growth, focus on providing ideal soil conditions, meeting nutrient needs, and ensuring proper drainage and oxygen availability in the soil.

Planting Cherry Trees

Location and Sunlight Considerations

When planting cherry trees, it’s important to select a suitable location for their growth. Cherry trees thrive in a sunny site with good air circulation. Consider avoiding areas near larger trees or buildings that might shade them. Ideally, your cherry trees should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.

Spacing and Root Protection

Cherry trees generally have shallow roots that extend around 10-17 inches into the soil. The roots usually spread 2-3 times the perimeter of the tree’s crown. When planting, you should provide enough space for the root system to develop without hitting any obstructions.

Keeping in mind the root system, plant your cherry trees 20 to 40 feet apart, depending on the variety. This allows for proper growth and prevents competition for nutrients and water among trees. If you’re planting a dwarf cherry tree, you may need to adjust the spacing accordingly, as their root depths may vary compared to regular cherry tree varieties.

Complementing the shallow root system, it’s essential to create a hole about 3 times as wide as the tree’s roots and deep enough for the same depth the tree was in the field. You can also add some compost to the soil but don’t overdo it, as too much might not be suitable for the tree.

Do cherry trees have deep roots - Care

Potential Root Damage

Damage to Foundations and Sidewalks

Cherry trees typically have shallow roots, with 90% of them found in the first 2 feet of soil. Although the cherry tree root system grows laterally, it doesn’t have much potential for severe damage1. However, it’s important to take precautions to minimize potential harm. If your cherry tree is already established in a location where its roots may pose a problem for sidewalks or structures, there are options to limit potential damage.

For example, if sidewalk buckling is an issue, it may be possible to replace the damaged concrete with a wooden bridge or concrete tunnel. Additionally, be aware that cherry tree roots can spread and multiply, which might cause potential damage to foundations or pipes if they have existing cracks.

Damage to Other Trees

Since cherry tree roots are relatively shallow and can spread out about 2-3 times the perimeter of the tree’s crown, they might compete with nearby trees for water and nutrients. To prevent any potential issues:

  • Ensure that there’s enough space between cherry trees and other trees in your garden.
  • Regularly water and fertilize your cherry trees, so their roots don’t need to grow aggressively to seek nutrients.

By following these simple steps, you can minimize the potential for damage to other trees, foundations, and sidewalks while enjoying the beauty and fruit of your cherry trees.

Cherry Tree Growth and Fruit Production

Pruning for Healthy Growth

To promote healthy growth in your cherry tree, it’s essential to perform regular pruning. Pruning helps to maintain an open canopy, which allows sunlight and air to penetrate, improving fruit quality and reducing the risk of disease. The best time to prune your cherry tree is in the late winter or early spring, before the tree starts to blossom. To optimize your tree’s growth, remove any dead, damaged, or diseased limbs, as well as any that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

Fruit Bearing

The process of bearing fruit begins when your cherry tree flowers in the spring. By ensuring that your tree is well-nourished, you can increase the likelihood of a bountiful harvest. The root system plays a vital role in the tree’s ability to produce fruit; however, it’s crucial to note that cherry tree roots are relatively shallow, extending only 10-17 inches into the soil. Taking care of the roots, especially around the drip line, will contribute to better fruit production.

To enhance fruit-bearing, consider the following:

  • Water your tree regularly, especially during dry periods.
  • Fertilize your cherry tree in the spring with a balanced fertilizer.
  • Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.


Pests can be a significant issue for cherry trees, as they can cause damage to leaves, bark, and fruit. To protect your tree from these nuisances, monitor the tree regularly and take action if you notice any signs of infestation. A few common cherry tree pests include:

  • Cherry fruit fly: The larvae of these flies burrow into the fruit, causing damage and making it inedible.
  • Aphids: These tiny insects can cause leaf curling and distorted growth.
  • Scale insects: These pests may cause yellowing leaves and reduced tree vigor.

To minimize pest damage, you can:

  • Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control aphids and scale insects.
  • Implement a cherry fruit fly control program, including trapping, sanitation, and occasionally spraying with an approved insecticide.
  • Promptly remove and dispose of any infested fruit or affected branches.

By following these guidelines, you can foster healthy growth and abundant fruit production in your cherry tree. Just remember to nurture the root system, prune responsibly, and keep an eye out for pests that may jeopardize your harvest.

Cherry trees

Comparing Cherry Tree Roots to Other Tree Roots

Dwarf Cherries vs Standard Cherries

Dwarf cherry trees have shallower roots than standard cherry trees, reaching depths of only about 10 to 17 inches. Their roots spread 2 to 3 times the perimeter of the tree’s crown, making them relatively shallow compared to other tree species. Dwarf cherry trees generally have roots that spread about 15 feet, while standard cherry trees may have roots spreading up to 25 feet. This is important for you to consider when choosing the type of cherry tree to plant in your garden, as it affects their overall stability and ability to withstand strong winds.

Cherry Trees vs Other Common Trees

  • Silver Maple: Silver maple trees have more aggressive and invasive root systems than standard cherry trees. These roots can extend large distances from the trunk and cause damage to nearby structures. When planning your landscape, avoid planting silver maples too close to any foundations, driveways, or underground utilities.
  • Southern Magnolia: Southern magnolia trees are known for their deep and extensive root systems. These roots can grow both vertically and horizontally, providing stability to the tree. As a result, the roots of a southern magnolia tree are less likely to cause damage to nearby structures than the shallow roots of a cherry tree.
  • Sycamore: Sycamore trees also have deeper root systems than cherry trees. However, their roots tend to grow closer to the surface of the soil than southern magnolias. This makes sycamores relatively more likely to cause damage to foundations and underground utilities, but still less invasive than cherry tree roots.

When comparing cherry tree root systems to other common trees, it’s clear they have shallower roots than some other species, such as the southern magnolia and sycamore. Keep in mind that while shallower root systems may pose a lower risk of damaging structures, they may be less stable and more susceptible to damage from strong winds. Carefully consider your specific needs and environmental factors when selecting the perfect tree for your landscape.

Cherry Tree Diseases and Root Protection

Common Diseases Affecting Cherry Trees

Cherry trees, with their shallow root system, can be susceptible to various diseases that can affect both the surface roots and feeder roots. Some common diseases include:

  • Brown Rot: This fungal disease affects the fruit, blossoms, and twigs of the cherry tree. Brown rot can lead to decay, ultimately weakening the tree’s root system.
  • Leaf Spot: Caused by a fungal infection, leaf spot results in yellow or brown spots on the leaves, eventually leading to defoliation and stress on the tree’s roots.
  • Root Rot: This disease, usually caused by the fungus Phytophthora, affects the taproots and feeder roots of the cherry tree, causing the roots to rot and decay.

Preventive Measures

To ensure the health of your cherry tree and protect its shallow root system from diseases, consider the following preventive measures:

  1. Plant Selection: Choose disease-resistant cherry tree varieties to minimize the risk of common diseases.
  2. Proper Planting: Plant your cherry tree in well-draining soil, at the right depth, to prevent excessive moisture that can facilitate root rot development.
  3. Watering: Water your cherry tree adequately but avoid over-watering, as this can lead to root rot. Ensure the soil is moist but not saturated.
  4. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the tree’s base to maintain soil moisture, regulate temperature, and suppress weeds that can harbor disease-causing pathogens.
  5. Pruning: Regularly prune your cherry tree to remove dead or diseased branches, improve air circulation, and prevent the spread of fungal diseases.

Taking these preventive steps will help maintain your cherry tree’s health and protect its susceptible shallow root system from damage and diseases.

How close to a house should you plant a cherry tree?

The distance to plant a cherry tree from a house will largely depend on the type of cherry tree. Some cherry trees can grow quite large and spread wide, with some sweet cherry varieties reaching heights of 30-40 feet and spreading 20-30 feet wide. To avoid potential damage to your property from root growth and branches, it is generally recommended that large trees be planted at least 20-30 feet away from buildings. Smaller, dwarf varieties of cherry trees, which usually grow to around 10-20 feet tall, can be planted closer, but still should be at least 10-15 feet away from the house.

Which tree roots are deepest?

Among the trees with the deepest root systems, the Fig tree (Ficus species) holds the record. Its roots have been found to grow as deep as 400 feet. In comparison, most tree species have roots that extend only about 1-3 times the height of the tree. Trees that are native to arid regions, like mesquite and some species of acacia, also tend to have deep roots. These tree species develop deep roots to access water sources that are far below the surface. It’s important to note that tree roots also depend on the soil conditions and availability of water.

Do cherry trees need thinning?

Yes, cherry trees benefit from thinning, but the process is a bit different than for some other fruit trees. Thinning cherries primarily involves pruning the tree itself rather than the fruit clusters. Regular pruning, typically done in late winter or early spring, helps to open up the canopy, increase sunlight penetration and air circulation, and can lead to healthier trees and better fruit yields. This also helps manage the tree’s size and shape and removes dead or diseased wood. Overcrowded branches should be thinned to help the tree bear larger, sweeter fruit.

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