Advice on Topping a cherry tree

I’ve got a cherry tree from a nursery thats over a meter tall and already decently established.

The problem is that i want to KGB Train the tree in order to control its height. According to any training manuals etc, im reading that the tree must be headed at around 24 inches.

Will heading the tree down to 24 inches cause too much damage and will i be be better off heading about 25% max?

Apologies if this is a dumb question, but i am lacking in the experience and know how and im still learning alot along the way :slight_smile:

Thanks in advance for any assistance !

I recently bought two Sweetheart cherry trees on Mazzard roots from Costco that were over 1" caliper and roughly six feet tall. They had a nice open center but the problem was that branching did not start until close to four feet up the trunk. I am also interested in either KGB or Spanish Bush style training. My decision was to cut the trees down to 18" and put 2 grafts into the stump using scions from the upper growth since the trees were still dormant. It has been a few weeks now and the buds are beginning to swell so I am hoping that it works out. Cherry Video


Where i am, im carefull with heading peach tree’s. Since they seem to lack dormant buds.

I think cherry has this problem less. Or not at all. (i vaguely remember seeing a headed back 10+ old cherry sprouting from dormant buds)

But a picture of the tree, or the age of it would be good information to know.

If your heading back to 1 or 2 year old growth you’r probably fine. However if your heading back to a 5+ year old trunk, id think about leaving some new growth on it.

Or wait for some-one who has headed cherry tree’s to pitch in.


Thanks for the feedback. Havent picked up my tree from the nursery yet, but i do have a picture (See reply below) Id love to cut down to 18"-24" , but dont want to cut too much. Im guessing the tree is currently at 40"-50" long… or even longer my the look of it

Here’s a pic of the tree IMG_20210305_132136

Not sure how old is the is. I’d probably be aiming to cut off more than half… But would need to confirm first if its not a terrible idea to do so :slightly_smiling_face:

I think it would probably be fine. (especialy if you leave a few leafs).

If it was my tree i would do/risk it :slight_smile:

However your in quite a different climate. And i don’t have tons of experiance heading back cherry’s. So best to wait till a few others reply.

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Yep, no experience at all, so will wait for some more feedback… We’re in the beginning of autumn right now, but temperatures at still around 85F (30C) . I was thinking of pruning once now and again at the beginning of spring. I have limited space, so dont want the tree to grow too long.

If i do decide to top a large part of the tree, which parts of the chopped off piece can i use to make a clone of the tree in rooting gel etc ?

Can i possibly get the cut off stem to produce new roots, or would i need to take cuttings from the side branches/scions ?

Another option for me would be to plant this tree in the ground somewhere and just accept that it cant be trained as i’d like… and then propagate a couple more trees from cuttings and then train the new trees as i would like…

oow it is autum for you now ofc.
Then you can prune it now. just be sure to leave a few buds (with the leaves) on it. And it can regrow from there. I was worried that this early in the year the buds weren’t developed enough. But since your on the other side of the equator, thats not a problem.

Most edible cherry’s don’t root that well. And if they do root. They grow huge. Thats why cherry’s are mostly grafted. The rootstock can keep em smaller.

If your going to try it anyways (what is there to loose?) id snip off the leaves to avoid dehydration.

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I used the KGB method well modified somewhat. I decided to play it safe and leave some branching. Make sure if you do head to head above the graft!

Here is my tree when I planted it.

After the heading cut

It was planted and headed on May 2nd 2014

Here it is today


Since you are heading into your dormant season.,
I would suggest waiting until leaf fall, prune this tree after it is dormant.

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Thanks guys. Looking good @Drew51.

@Hillbillyhort yeah I think I’m just gonna plant it now and do some pruning when dormant…

Don’t wanna head it as much as I originally intended as the tree is apparently already 3 1/2 years old.

Cherries are great at branching. I wish peach trees were. So much easier to renew wood on a cherry. I would not be concerned about cutting it back.


Drew, it looks like the scion part grows bigger than the root stock. What root stock this cherry tree has and do you think it is a sign of compatibility issue?

Yes, I feel it will probably break. It’s Gisela 6 rootstock. I would go with Gisela 12 and will in the future.
This is the trees 8th season. It fruits like a beast! So easy to maintain vigor too. Cheery scion wants to grow to 40 feet and the rootstock is dwarfing it. All the same I have to summer and spring prune to maintain the 7 foot size. I don’t think anything is wrong, they suggest staking G6 trees and now I know why.

You have not said how big the tree is
How old it is.
One picture is worth a
thousand words.

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got the tree this weekendIMG_20210305_132136

Heres a pic and apparently the tree is already 3 / 3 and a half years old. Was thinking that maybe i shouldnt prune it too much then… as the growth towards the bottom of the stem is probably 2-3 years old already… Around 1.5m (5 feet) tall

Maybe just top in close to the top somewhere and then control it as it goes lol. Thoughts?

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Ken of

Grafts a lot of old (10+ years etc) cherry tree’s.
He first cuts em down to stumps. Then suckers sprout from the main stems. He thins (or lets others thin) those suckers and dormant grafts onto those.

This leads me to belive that cherry’s just like apples, have good latent buds.

So pruning heavy, even into older would. Would be no problem. As long as the tree is healthy.

in this video. he talks about it. And at the end you can see the stumps with sprouts.

I would top them at the desired hight. As long as you top above the graft union.

I don’t know much about your growing enviroment. But for me, i need to net cherry’s or the birds eat 99% of them. Netting a high tree is a pain. So i would always want the framework of a cherry tree to branch low. Rather have a low and wide tree. Than tall and thin.

Another option would be to plant it at an angle and try and make an UFO tree. Although it might be bit older then is normaly used for this (1 y maiden best.)

page 50 of this pruning guide. You could also lookup KGB in the same guide.


Hi guys.
The information offered in the document of the University of Michigan about the pruning system of formation in Spanish Bush is not correct.
It is not done that way.
I have a tutorial (pruning course for professionals) where its correct execution is explained step by step.
Now I have a lot of work, in a few days I will open an exclusive post for this pruning system with all the information perfectly described.



Thank you, for making a post with more information in a few days.

could you eleborate a little on what is “wrong” with the method discribed in the paper from Michigan?
-what is a key difference between what you do, and what is discribed in the paper.
-why is what you do “better” and would that thing be enviroment dependent?

Could the info from michigan. Not nescesarely be wrong, but just different? Or could the difference in climate/soil account for the difference?

With fruit growing, in lots of different places things are done differently. Usualy the people that do it differently than yourself. Are not nescesarely “wrong or incorrect” they might just be in a different enviroment, and what they do suits their envirment better. And what you do suits your’s better.

I tend to value university information quite highly.
Usualy because it’s not just 1 annecdote from 1 person in 1 year in 1 location. But a summery of multiple peoples experiance and data over a longer time period from different enviroments. usualy strengthend by “objective” data, and less based on feeling/memory.

But there has certainly been “bad” information put out by univirsity’s and there always will be. So i am always curius to hear arguments why the univiristy got it “wrong”.