Ranevskaya is the mistress of the cherry orchard estate. She has left the estate five years ago when her husband died and had gone to France to stay with her abusive lover, who now has abandoned her. During her stay in France, she has fallen into the huge debt. On her arrival, all become overjoy and hold a grand party. Lyunov Ranevskaya meets her elder daughter who has been looking after the estate in her absence. At her party all the major characters are introduced.
Lopakhin is the born serf, but he has struggled hard to make a successful life. Firs is another serf who has maintained the same post even after the liberation. Many subplots are introduced in the scene of party: a romance between the tutor Trofimov and Anya, another hopeful romance between her sister Barbara and wealthy Lopakhin, a love triangle between the servants Dunysha, Yasha, and Yepikhodov, the debt of the neighbor Pishchik, the class struggles of Lopakhin and Firs, the isolation of Charlotte, etc.
To overcome Madame Ranevskaya's debt, neither she nor her brother Gayev have money. If they do not find the solution to pay the mortgage on the cherry orchard estate, it will be auctioned off in August. Lopakhin a former serf, but now a big successful merchant suggests her to make villas on the estate and lease them to the foreigners. In this way she can save her childhood memories in the cherry orchard and pay back the debt too. But she rejects the idea and as the spring passes, she finds herself more miserably sank into debt with no solution.
Meanwhile, strange romances between Anya and Trofimov and Dunysha and Yasha continue, while nothing develops between Lopakhin and Barbara and Dunysha and Yepikhodov. Firs' health is degrading day by day. Madame Ranevskaya is receiving letters from her lover, and Gayev begins to consider a job at a bank. Pishchik takes out loans from Madame Ranevskaya, who herself is sinking deeper in the loan.
The day of auction come. Madame Ranevskaya thinks to hold a farewell ball party and calls all her friends and relatives. At the party, Madame Ranevskaya and Trofimov have a serious conversation about Madame Ranevskaya's extravagance. Trofimov gets angry at her for her decision to return to her abusive lover in France. Madame Ranevskaya is nervous about the outcome of the auction as the cherry orchard is bought by Lopakhin. He is too happy and cannot hide his extreme happiness as he has bought the very estate where her family lived as serfs. He continued the party, though the real host of the party Madame Ranevskaya is not in the mood to celebrate for she is ruined.
Madame Ranevskaya leaves the cherry orchard for the last time. Lopakhin and Trofimov share a tender farewell as he will return to the university. Charlotte complains that she no longer has a position; Yepikhodov has a new position with Lopakhin. Pishchik is able to pay off some of his debts. Gayev has a job at a bank, Barbara is positioned as a housekeeper, and Yasha will stay on with Madame Ranevsky, who is returning to France. Many characters try to confirm that Firs has been sent to the hospital. Lopakhin misses his last chance with Barbara, and Dunysha cries that Yasha is leaving.
Madame Ranevsky and Gayev share a nostalgic moment alone before leaving on a relatively optimistic note. At the last moment, the sound of cutting down the orchard trees is heard, and Firs stumbles on to the stage, forgotten, locked in the house. He lies down to rest and apparently dies.