Is a cherry tree able to grow back from a stump? Yes.
Like most deciduous trees, cherry trees can sometimes grow back from a stump. However, a tree that grows from a stump will never be as vibrant as the original, and it will look more like a shrub than a tree with a defined trunk.
Perhaps you are concerned that your freshly cut tree will return with a vengeance. Black cherry (Prunus serotina), for example, is poisonous to livestock, so farmers must stay ahead of it to protect their animals.
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Or maybe the opposite is happening, and you hope your cherry stump is game for round two in the aftermath of a lightning strike.
This article will help you manage your expectations and give you ideas for both encouraging growth and eliminating it.
Understanding Cherry Rootstocks and Scions
If you have a cherry tree stump in your yard, it’s unlikely that the stump’s genetic code matches the genetic code of the cherries that once grew there.
Cherry trees sold in stores are a combination of two different types of cherry trees that are fused together to produce the most desirable tree traits.
The tree that forms the roots and base is called the rootstock while the tree that forms the branches and fruit is called the scion.
The scion is grafted into the rootstock and develops differently depending on which rootstock is used. For example, semi-dwarfing and dwarfing rootstocks produce shorter trees, making the fruit easier to harvest.
According to Washington State University, growers will select scions depending on potential yield, taste, size, color, firmness, precocity (growing fruit at an earlier age), and resistance to disease and cracking (source).
Therefore, if your tree grows back from the rootstock, don’t be surprised if you get cherries that are not the ideal size, taste, color, etc.
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Under What Circumstances Will a Cherry Tree Grow Back?
A living cherry tree stump, if left to its own devices, will push up new shoots using the root system’s stored energy.
A cherry tree will not grow back if the root system is dead, but just because your cherry tree develops a disease or a pest infestation does not mean the stump is dead.
If all you are left with is a stump after cutting back the infected wood, there is still the chance the cherry tree can grow back from the stump, but the tree that grows will be the rootstock.
Give the stump consistent moisture and a low dose of balanced fertilizer. Once you see watersprouts and suckers, increase the moisture to promote lots of new growth.
If you want the tree to regrow for the fruit, you may be wasting your time. The fruit will be less than ideal, and the amount of time it will take to prune the tree up into a usable plant could be better served with growing a new tree in its place.
However, if you grew the original tree from seed, then this would be a worthwhile endeavor, although the tree itself may end up looking like a stump with an afro.
If you want the tree to regrow for aesthetics, good luck. A tree will not grow a new trunk to replace an old one. Instead, it will grow suckers and watersprouts, which are small branches that grow out from the base of the tree. With time, you can prune these up into a shrub, but it will never regain the look of a tree.
What are Grown Cherry Rootstocks Like?
If you purchased a tree from a nursery, you will likely have one of these three trees sprout from the stump:
- Mazzard cherry trees usually grow to be between 20 and 30 feet tall but have been known to reach as much as 60 feet in height. It blooms white flowers in spring before their leaves appear. It produces cherries, but they are small and bitter, so it serves best as an ornamental tree (source).
- Mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb) is another traditional cherry rootstock that usually reaches between 20 and 30 feet in height. It also produces white flowers and fruit that offer only a thin layer of flesh (source).
- Dwarf cherry varieties have become more common in recent years. Growers favor rootstocks such as the Gisela series that are dwarf or semi-dwarf and precocious, meaning they bear fruit at a younger age.
Encouraging a Cherry Tree to Grow Back From a Stump
A healthy stump is well-resourced to produce sprouts that grow leaves to support further growth.
You do not necessarily need to do anything to get the cherry tree to grow back from a stump, but there are ways to encourage healthy growth.
Bear in mind that if the original cherry tree suffered from an issue that was present in the stump, it will carry over to the new growth.
Here are ways to aid the cherry tree growth process:
- Cut the stump at an angle so that the water does not collect resulting in decay, pests, and disease. Cut as high as you can to keep the scion material, if possible, and develop a tree shape. You may be able to see the union between rootstock and scion, which will be a raised ring with slightly mismatched colors or bark designs.
- Keep the stump clear of debris to prevent decay, pests, and disease.
- Provide ideal conditions for the cherry tree to flourish such as full sun and well-draining soil.
- Prune to direct growth towards the strongest, most desirable stems. If given an option, favor the sprouts coming out of the ground instead of the stump as they are more likely to establish properly.
- UW-Madison recommends cutting sprouts at an angle to prevent them from collecting water and pruning during dormancy (source).
The advantage to growing a tree from its stump is just how quickly it can generate stems versus the slower growth of a seedling.
If your cherry tree was young, you may be able to graft new scion material onto the old stump. This requires more technical skills, but if you are able to find scion material that matches the diameter of the stump, it is possible.
How Can You Prevent a Cherry Tree From Growing Back?
Perhaps you do not want your cherry tree to come back. There are a few methods that the University of Kentucky recommends to prevent a cherry tree from resurrection.
- Stump Herbicide Treatment
When faced with a freshly cut tree, apply concentrated herbicide to the stump immediately for maximum effectiveness. According to the University of Kentucky, applying herbicide over one hour after cutting greatly limits the amount of herbicide transported to the roots.
Effective stump killers include glyphosate, triclopyr, and dicamba. Other stump killers like Crossbow, Tordon, and Pathway are more likely to harm nearby plants.
If the roots are intermixed with other cherry tree roots, you might consider removal or grinding as a safer alternative to avoid herbicide traveling to the trees you want to keep.
- Stump Grinding and Removing
Stump grinding is the process of grinding down a stump to the point where it cannot effectively grow back. Removal extracts the stump and connected roots. Either method costs a couple hundred dollars, give or take.
It’s less expensive to rent the equipment yourself, but hiring experts is recommended, because this process can be dangerous.
- Foliage Treatment
Spraying diluted herbicide on a cherry tree’s foliage can also kill the tree. This requires some planning ahead since the window for application is limited to full leaf out and requires an intact tree, so apply it before cutting down the tree, obviously. This treatment is easier and safer to apply on dwarf trees (source).
There are other ways to apply herbicide to an intact tree such as the hack-and-squirt method or applying it to basal bark. They are just different ways of getting the poison into the tree’s system.
If you don’t take measures to kill the stump, expect many sprouts to spring up rapidly and bush out. You can keep cutting the sprouts repeatedly until the stump depletes its food stores, but that may take a long time, and in some cases, the pruning will only encourage more growth.
The stump’s endurance is good news if you’re hoping to regrow the cherry tree. Let’s explore how you can support that effort.
Cherry trees can provide both an ornamental delight and tasty fruit. It’s tempting to grow the tree back from a stump to relive the glory days, but this may not be possible thanks to grafting. Be prepared for a rootstock tree that does not match the shape and fruit quality of the scion.
If you want to avoid battling vigorous sprouts coming out of the stump, you will need to kill the roots with herbicide or pay money to get rid of the stump.