Sweet Cherry Scaffold Shape

I am finding conflicting information. Should sweet cherry tree scaffold be trained as a central leader, modified central leader, or open vase shape? If I want to keep the tree small ( 6’ -7’ tall and about 4’ wide) how will this impact the decision.

what rootstock is it on? And what kind of vigor do you expect from your local variables.

As far as i understood. It’s gonna be really hard to keep a sweet cherry that small.

Probably UFO (y) or SSA described in this document would be interesting to look at.

Also consider a really dwarfing and or productive rootstock/variety.

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Thanks. I have to inquire to the seller regarding root stock as its not provided openly. The tree can grow 15-20ft tall, so its not a dwarf.

than I’d expect that tree to get far larger than the place you planned for it.

You could just let it go a few years, and replace when it gets to large.

you could source a tree on a more dwarfing rootstock. (productive variety on gisela 3 for example)

you could find a spot where it has more room.

or i could be wrong. I don’t have any “old” cherry tree’s myself (yet)

But from all if seen and read, 4’ wide and 7’ tall is really little room for a cherry tree on non dwarfing stock. It’s even on the smaller side for dwarfing stock.

I would not be surprised.

Even the other trees in the area, being semi-dwarf, would be too large if I just let them grow. I plan to prune a lot.

It wont be too large before grafts can establish in the other trees that have more area around them. I only purchased this one to act as pollinator next spring for the others. Maybe I will attempt moving it at that point or just see how heavy pruning works for it.

I will try the something in between the Super Slender Axe and Tall Spindle Axe. I will need to promote branching though.

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What cultivar(variety) do you have? The culitivar also influences size. If the rootstock is unknown it is probably mazzard and trees on mazzard can reach 40+ feet. In commercial production the trees are kept shorter with frequent pruning. Backyard orchardists often struggle to do this.

From your profile you state you are in the Great Lakes region. Dwarf rootstocks are more dwarfing under Eastern conditions. Out in the Western dwarf rootstocks are less dwarfing due to the difference in climate.

If you want to keep the tree small and use a open center, central leader, or modified central leader system you will want to get a tree on Gisela 3 or Gisela 5. I would myself probably go with Gisela 5 since I have a bunch of tart cherries on Gisela 5. For me with tart cherries it’s been very easy to prune, very productive and is well adapted to my heavy soil in Illinois. Gisela 3 is less productive but more dwarfing and would also work. The only reliable source for trees in the United States on Gisela 3 and 5 is Raintree nursery.

If you want to try other systems here is a guide that covers SSA, UFO, TSA and many other systems. Oscar recommended the same guide. It also has a handy chart that tells you if the system will work with dwarf, semi-dwarf or full sized rootstocks. See pg 9. Quite a few of these systems require you to induce branching with a combination of notching and chemicals like Promalin.


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The root stock is Mazzard

Either way, I’m going to try SSA / TSA. Who sells the growth regulating chemicals?

I have ordered a White Gold mini dwarf on Gisela3. However, it wont be shipped until next spring and I am not expecting blossom buds on it, which was important for me with this other cherry tree. Even if it does have them, I do not trust the shipping system. I am located in the last shipping region, and my last order ( not trees ) wasn’t shipped until after their guarantee cutoff date, which is beyond the flowering dates of such trees in my area.

For chemicals see this thread.

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since most tart cherries are naturally a little smaller than the sweet ones.

I’m curious what’s your experience with them on dwarfing stock.?

How did the tart cherry on gisela 5 work out for you? how large did it get? And how much smaller compared to a sweet counterpart on gisela 5?

I began pruning for KGB method this year. It seems to be a great way to keep vigorous trees small and compact for harvesting without ladders and chemicals. Not a recommended method for dwarfing rootstock. I’m trying it on Sweetheart, Lapins, Black Republican and Utah Giant both plum and Mazzard roots.

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I have these tart cherries

Montmorency/Gisela 5
Surefire/Gisela 5
English Morello/Gisela 5

The Montmorency and Balaton I have had for more than ten years.

The Montmorency is 12 foot tall and about that wide. It’s trained to the open center system. I don’t do size control pruning on it. Usually I try to open the canopy a bit each year by thinning crossing branches and removing branches that are growing towards the center of the tree. I don’t even prune each year because some years it really doesn’t need it. If I had starting using size control pruning from the beginning I am sure I could of kept it in the 6-8 feet range easily.

The Balaton is 14-18 feet tall and I need to Summer prune to control size every year. It’s about 14 feet after pruning. I also need to prune a lot to open the canopy up since it gets too dense.

Gisela 5 works well for tart cherries at this point I wouldn’t buy a tree on another rootstock if I could avoid it. I suspect Gisela 3 would be too dwarfing in the Eastern United States unless you really babied it or had to plant in a pot instead of the ground. I don’t think it would bounce back if damaged by animals, string trimmers or some other misfortune.

Sweet cherries will be bigger on Gisela 5 since they have more vigor. But I really think you could still keep them in the 6-10 feet range if you Summer prune. See this chart and text on Grandpas orchard. The site also has a lot of good info on rootstocks, pollination. fruit maturity and pollen compatibiltiy.

Here is the chart.


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