Pests and Diseases That Plague Cherries

Kelly Givens explains some of the problems that can affect cherries and how to protect the harvest.
control insects on cherry trees to protect fruit

control insects on cherry trees to protect fruit

Cherries with insect damage will look like the ones seen here.

Cherries with insect damage will look like the ones seen here.

Minimize Damage

Kelly Givens shares information on the diseases, pests and weather conditions that can adversely affect cherry trees. Early spring frosts can damage cherry blooms, but an old real estate adage ("location, location, location") can help keep Jack Frost's dangers at bay. We also lean how to minimize bird damage to a cherry crop, discover the benefits of good sanitation practices in an orchard and find out the secret to harvesting cherries at their peak of ripeness.

Insects

fly infested cherries is problem for cherry tree

fly infested cherries is problem for cherry tree

These are fly-infested cherries.

These are fly-infested cherries.

As with all fruit crops, it's important to control insects and diseases on cherry trees. Selecting disease-resistant cultivars will help minimize potential problems, but you'll still need to monitor your trees and keep an eye out for potential problems.

Diseases

leaf spot is a common problem with cherry trees

leaf spot is a common problem with cherry trees

Leaf spots like these are a sign of disease.

Leaf spots like these are a sign of disease.

Common problems with cherry trees include leaf spot, seen here, bacterial canker and brown spot. Remove any signs of diseased foliage, dipping your pruners in full-strength rubbing alcohol or a 10 percent bleach solution between cuts and taking the diseased foliage out of the garden area for disposal.

In many areas of the country, you'll need to stick to a spray schedule in order to get a good harvest. Spray schedules for insecticides and fungicides are available from your local cooperative extension service.

Birds

birds love sweet cherries

birds love sweet cherries

Birds love sweet cherries.

Birds love sweet cherries.

Birds love sweet cherries; the only real solution is bird netting. Cover the trees with the netting when the cherries start to ripen, and secure the netting to the ground. Birds can also be a problem on tart cherries, but usually not to the same degree as with sweets.

A late spring frost can wipe out the harvest for a year. Where you plant cherry trees may make a difference. If possible, plant trees on higher ground, since frost settles in low-lying areas. Sometimes an elevation difference of only several feet can affect the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

To protect against a frost that's predicted after fruit-bud set, put lightweight plastic or fabric over the tree to form a tent and add a heat source in the form of a light bulb or string of holiday lights. For safety's sake, use only UL-approved outdoor lighting and extension cords, and make sure that the light source does not touch the fabric and is not too close to the tree trunk or branch, where it might burn.

Harvesting

  • Cherries are among the earliest fruits for harvesting, being ready to harvest in late spring or early summer.
  • There are some crops, such as apples, in which sugars will develop in the fruit after it's harvested. But cherries don't get any sweeter after they leave the tree, so if you pick too early, you sacrifice some of the sweetness.
  • Cherries increase in size until they're ripe. Sweet cherries also become firm when ripe.
  • You can taste cherries to test for ripeness, or test by trying to harvest a few. When they're really ready, they'll be easy to pick. If they're not quite ready, they'll be a little harder to pull off the tree.
  • Sweet cherries are typically picked stem and all. They have a relatively thick skin, which helps protect them and allows them to last for a week or two after being picked. Tart cherries are usually picked without their stems. They have a thin skin and bruise easily and are more fragile than sweet cherries.
Keep Reading

Next Up

Sweet and Tart Cherries

Sweet cherries are delicious for eating fresh and tart ones are best for making pies, cobblers and jams.

Growing Citrus Trees

Regardless of whether your climate is tropical or wintry, learn how to grow your own citrus trees at home.

Controlling Pests and Diseases on Pea Plants

Protect and maintain pea plants by taking a few simple, effective steps.

Peony Diseases and Problems

Peonies not blooming? Troubleshoot common problems, like disease, wilt and other reasons why plants fail to flower.

Growing Grapevines

Homegrown grapes can be used in making jams, juices and baked goods. Follow these tips on growing grapes in the home garden.

Diseases That Affect Viburnum

Learn which diseases you should keep an eye out for on your viburnums.

How to Fight Sweet Potato Wilt and Other Diseases

Though sweet potatoes are vulnerable to disease and a number of pests, keeping them healthy is easy. Learn how.

Shrubs, Flowers and Fruit

Learn about several plant varieties and the planting information for each zone.

Smart Strawberry Picking Tips

Make a outing extra sweet with these kid-friendly pointers.

Tree Shopping List

Learn about several tree varieties and the planting information for each zone.

On TV

I Want That

7am | 6c

Renovate to Rent

7:30am | 6:30c

Rehab Addict

8:30am | 7:30c

Rehab Addict

9:30am | 8:30c

Rehab Addict

10am | 9c

Rehab Addict

10:30am | 9:30c

Rehab Addict

11am | 10c

Rehab Addict

11:30am | 10:30c

Rehab Addict

12pm | 11c

Rehab Addict

12:30pm | 11:30c

Tiny Paradise

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Tiny Paradise

8pm | 7c

Tiny Paradise

8:30pm | 7:30c

Tiny Paradise

9:30pm | 8:30c

Containables

10pm | 9c

Containables

10:30pm | 9:30c

Bus Life Ever

11pm | 10c

Tiny Paradise

12am | 11c

Tiny Paradise

12:30am | 11:30c

Containables

1am | 12c

Containables

1:30am | 12:30c

Tiny Paradise

3:30am | 2:30c

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.