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How to Acclimate Cherry Trees

Acclimate (ac·cli·mate): "To become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions. Also to harden off a plant."
Acclimating cherry trees helps minimize stress when planting. Because our potted cherry trees are grown in our controlled greenhouse environment, they may arrive to you already sprouting tender new growth. This fragile growth can be sensitive to things like:

  • Temperature (below 50ºF or above 90ºF)
  • Frost snaps
  • Strong/direct sunlight
  • Wind

NOTE: This is part 2 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow cherry trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.

These conditions are more likely to occur in early spring, but can happen during other times of year, depending upon your growing zone. We strongly recommend following this simple process prior to planting cherry trees that are leafed out:

Step 1. Upon arrival, keep your cherry trees in their pots and place them in a sheltered, shady spot outdoors, like a covered patio or porch. Leave them there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day. Bring them back indoors each night.

Step 2. After 2-3 days of this hardening-off process, begin transitioning the cherry trees from their shady spot to one that provides some morning sun. Return them to the shade in the afternoon. If you’re not home during the day, try moving the trees to an area that receives less-intense filtered sunlight instead. Be sure to bring the trees indoors again overnight.

  • Water as needed to keep the roots from drying out. If the soil in the pots is dry to the touch, then it’s time to water them. You may occasionally mist the leaves with water, because the environment indoors has less humidity than outdoor air.
  • Observe the foliage daily. If signs of leaf injury/burn appear prior to planting, move the trees back into filtered sunlight and start from Step 1 again. Proceed to Step 2 when conditions improve.

Step 3. After 7-10 days, your cherry trees should be ready for planting in their permanent home, as long as temperatures are forecasted to stay between 50ºF and 90ºF. For best results, try to transplant on a cloudy day.

  • If daytime temperatures are expected to drop below 50ºF within the next day or so, continue to repeat Step 2. Monitor your trees (and the weather) until conditions are more suitable for planting.

Please note: These are general recommendations. Your particular growing environment might require a slight modification to these guidelines, because some trees can take more (or less) time than others to harden off. Factors like the current season’s weather, individual trees, and your location can affect the acclimation process.

NEXT: Choosing a Location for Cherry Trees
Previous: How to Grow Cherry Trees