Ornamental cherry trees are known for their explosion of showy flowers in the spring. Some types also produce small cherries in the summer that are too tart for our palettes, but appeal to a wide variety of birds. Flowering cherry trees are an excellent choice for home gardens because they require minimal care. In addition to spectacular cherry blossoms, they provide year-round color and interest with seasonally-changing foliage and attractive bark.

A weeping Higan flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula Rosea'). Photo by: Susan A. Roth.

Zones:

5-8, 5-9 in the West

Height/Spread:

20 to 30 feet

Exposure:

Full sun

Bloom Time:

Late March through April. Temperature has a greater impact than the amount of sunlight or precipitation on bloom time. Warm, cloudy days are the best environment for coaxing early spring blooming.

Color:

Often the blossoms change colors, starting out dark pink when in bud, turning lighter pink when they first blossom, and then eventually turning pale pink or white. Some varieties also display wonderful fall color, with foliage that turns purple, red, or orange. Some varieties feature colorful bark as well.

When to plant:

Early fall is the best planting time for bare-root flowering cherry trees. Container-grown specimens can be planted in fall or after the last frost in spring.

Where to plant:

Plant in full sun for best flowering. Locate in an area with well-drained soil and away from strong winds. Flowering cherry trees should not be exposed to extreme heat or cold.

How to plant:

Dig a planting hole the same depth as the root ball or container and twice as wide. For bare root trees, the final planting depth should allow the crown of the tree or the topmost root to be level with or just above the surface. For grafted trees, be sure not to cover the grafting union.

Other:

For best results, choose a tree appropriate for your zone, preferably from a local nursery that carries varieties suited for your climate. Also make sure that you have the garden space required for your tree to mature and grow well.

Pruning:

The best time to prune is just after spring flowering. Although ornamental cherries generally require little to no pruning, branches can be thinned out for shape. This will also allow for better air circulation to help keep your tree healthy.

Soil:

Ornamental cherry trees are not demanding in regard to soil type or pH requirements, but will grow best in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Ornamental cherry trees can benefit from a general purpose fertilizer applied in early spring before new growth appears.

Watering:

Water thoroughly after planting and regularly until the tree is well-established, weekly thereafter, and more often in extreme heat.

Diseases and Pests:

Like all cherry trees, ornamental flowering cherries are susceptible to insect and fungal disease problems. Many fungal diseases can be treated by application of a fungicide. Signs of disease include powdery mildew, hard knots or swelling on branches, leaf spot, and discolored or wilted leaves. Pests may include aphids, scale, borers, leafhoppers, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and spider mites.

Other:

According to Rutgers University, flowering cherry trees are rated as “seldom severely damaged” by deer.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN TIPS

  • Flowering cherry trees are quite versatile and will fit in with many garden styles including Japanese tea gardens, Asian or Zen gardens, cottage and country gardens.
  • Plant a single specimen as a striking focal point in a large border, lawn area or courtyard garden.
  • Use in pairs to accent either side of an entry or gateway.
  • Plant in groves to make an impressive impact in a larger landscape.
  • Establish in rows along driveways or streets.
  • Larger varieties can provide useful shade.
  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs beneath ornamental cherries for a second splash of color.

BEST FLOWERING CHERRY TREES FOR RESIDENTIAL GARDENS

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: KHD / Shutterstock.com.

Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’
Yoshino Cherry

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 25 to 35 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: White to pink flowers. Dark green, glossy foliage turns bright yellow in fall.

Moderately fast grower with a rounded crown. Good choice for single specimen and for use in lawns. Relatively short lived, usually at 15 to 20 years.

Photo by: Susan A. Roth.

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula Rosea’
Weeping Higan Flowering Cherry

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 15 to 20 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: Magenta buds open to pink flowers. Bronze leaves mature to green.

Slender branches weep downward forming an umbrella of flowers.

Photo by: Garden World Images, Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’
Fuji Cherry

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 5 to 8 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: White to pale pink flowers with deeper pink centers. Light green leaves turn darker green in summer before providing beautiful fall color.

A compact, rounded shape, dwarf variety suitable for small gardens and container planting that features wiry, twisted branches.

Photo by: Bonnie Watton / Shutterstock.com.

Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ or ‘Kanzan’

Zones: 5-9

Height/Spread: 10 to 15 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: Deep pink double flowers. New foliage may be bronze and turn yellow to orange-bronze in the fall.

Considered to be one of the most ornamental flowering cherry trees. Sterile tree, does not produce fruit.

Photo by: Avalon / Photoshot License / Alamy Stock Photo.

Prunus serrulata ‘Kiku-shidare-zakura’

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 10 to 15 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: Pink flowers; new bronze leaves turn green in summer.

This variety also offers attractive peeling copper-colored bark.

Photo by: Mark Turner.

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
Higan Cherry

Zones: 4-8

Height/Spread: 20 to 35 feet tall, 15 to 30 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Bloom Time: Spring, with an additional lesser bloom in the fall

Color: Pink double flowers. New foliage may be bronze and turn yellow to orange-bronze in the fall.

The Higan cherry tree produces a spectacular show of semi-double pink flowers in the spring and may even rebloom in autumn, but not as profusely. Small black fruits that ripen in the summer are a favorite treat for birds. Wil tolerate weather extremes better than most other varieties.

Photo by: Shinnji / Shutterstock.com.

Prunus ‘Ichiyo’

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 15 to 20 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Late spring

Color: Flowers open shell pink and fade to white. Foliage emerges light bronze-green, turning deep green in summer, and finally orange to red in fall.

This variety blooms slightly later than others and grows in a vase-shaped habit.

Photo by: Unni Karin Henning / Shutterstock.com.

Prunus serrulata ‘Amanogawa’

Zones: 5-8

Height/Spread: 20 to 25 feet tall, 8 to 12 feet wide

Exposure: Partial shade to full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: Pale pink flowers; bronze-green early foliage, turning mid-green in summer and orange to red in fall.

Narrower, columnar habit makes this variety a good choice for lining streets or long driveways. Fragrant flowers.

Photo by: D. Hurst / Alamy Stock Photo.

Prunus serrulata ‘Mt. Fuji’ or ‘Shirotae’

Zones: 5-7

Height/Spread: 15 to 20 feet tall, 15 to 25 feet wide

Exposure: Partial shade to full sun

Bloom Time: Spring

Color: White semi-double flowers; pale green leaves tinged with bronze emerge in spring, turn dark green in summer and shades of orange to red in autumn.

Smaller-sized tree with mildly fragrant flowers up to 2” wide.

BEST PLACES TO SEE CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Flowering cherry trees have long been essential to Japanese gardens, and were introduced to the United States in 1902. Since then, they’ve become almost as American as cherry pie, and are celebrated annually in many cities across the country during their spring awakening. The sight of a single spring-blooming Japanese cherry tree is pure bliss. But seeing hundreds or even thousands of them blooming en masse is a special event. Here are some cherry blossom festivals held across the country each spring:

Cherry blossom festivals:

  • Washington, D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, the largest of its kind in the U.S.
  • The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia
  • The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco
  • The Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, presented by the Japan-America Society of Tennessee.

If you can’t make it to one of the above festivals, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a beautiful display, as well as the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.

FLOWERING CHERRY TREE FACTS

“How can we ever lose interest in life? Spring has come again, and cherry trees bloom in the mountains.” This quote, from Japanese poet Ryokan Taigu, describes the Zen-like experience of seeing cherry trees laden with ethereal pink and white flowers each spring, a promise of the intoxicating weather to come.

Cherry tree history:

  • The term “flowering cherry” refers to several species of Prunus trees and their cultivars, most originating in Japan.
  • In Japan, the cherry blossom, or sakura, has been the national flower for centuries and is a symbol for the country itself.
  • Flowering cherry trees have relatively short life spans of only 25 to 50 years. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden's flowering cherry collection includes some of the oldest specimens in North America, two weeping Higan cherries that were planted in 1921.
  • The first Japanese flowering cherries planted in Washington, D.C. were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo.

Related:

Flowering Trees for Residential Gardens
Spring Gardening Ideas

Free Weekly NewsletterSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Join thousands of design-conscious readers for exclusive offers, gardening inspiration and innovative design solutions for enjoying outdoor spaces.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Come on a journey with us! Explore amazing gardens, view beautiful plants, and gain insights from the world’s best designers. Click on the issue to preview its contents.

Summer 2018 - Issue 203Summer 2018 - Issue 203
Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Google Plus Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Get a back issue for $4.95!

Pay $4.95 for shipping and handling and we’ll send you the Autumn 2015 issue of Garden Design.

Discover colorful containers, amazing dahlias, spirited gardens and more! Offer only available in the United States, and one per household.

Get Your Back Issue!