Cherry blossom trees impart a tranquil and elegant atmosphere to the landscape, unlike any other tree.
Varieties like the Autumn cherry tree dazzle with large clusters of pastel-pink flowers, and this particular hybrid is more generous with its blooms than others. So when can you expect to enjoy these blossoms?
After a couple of years, established Autumn cherry trees will produce blossoms in early spring and will provide a repeat bloom of flowers around late November during a warm fall. With good care and maintenance, this repeat flush of flowers can last through winter into the following spring.
To get the best out of your Autumn cherry tree and enjoy the sight of delicate pink blossoms throughout the dark winter months, be sure to give it the right growing conditions to thrive.
We’ll run through what this tree needs from ideal soil and when to prune to correct spacing and pest/disease control.
If you’re interested in learning all you can about popular ornamental cherry tree varieties, my article Best Flowering Cherry Tree is a must-read!
Autumn Cherry Tree
Also known as ‘Winter Cherry’, Autumn cherry trees are a naturally occurring Higan cherry hybrid and one of many species planted at the Tidal Basin area in Washington D.C., where they are celebrated as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring.
This variety is cherished for its four-season interest and tolerant nature. Let’s take a quick look at the Autumn Cherry tree before going into its appearance, size, and stunning seasonal changes.
|Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
|Full sun to partial shade
|Slightly acidic, well-draining loam/clay soil
|Every few days for new trees, every 1-2 weeks once established
|Balanced, low-nitrogen feed in spring
|Early spring and late fall
|Bloom color & fragrance
|Pale-pink to white, subtly sweet almond scent
|Gold, yellow, orange, red
The Autumn cherry tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree with a graceful spreading habit and peeling dark-brown to gray bark.
It features glossy, ovate, serrated green leaves and clusters of pale-pink to white blossoms that create a subtle canopy of shade, and its blooms are followed by pea-sized black cherry fruit in late summer.
At first bud, the blooms are a deep-pink shade before turning pale pink that fades to almost white by the time the semi-double bell-shaped flowers are fully open.
Blossoms enjoy a sporadic second bloom in a warm fall season that creates a stunning contrast with the leaves as they undergo their transformation from bronze in spring to deep green followed by rich colorful hues in fall.
By winter, the dark brownish-gray bark exfoliates to reveal a smooth inner red bark, extending the ornamental interest.
In the tree’s dormancy, its delicate structure of multiple trunks and upright branches that spread out gracefully with age can be fully appreciated.
Growth Rate & Mature Size
These trees are fast-growers, attaining 2 feet per year and growing to a mature size of 20 to 30 feet tall with a spread of 15 to 30 feet.
To accommodate their wide spread, be sure to space your Autumn cherry trees appropriately when planting, spacing them at least 15 to 20 feet apart from other trees.
The Autumn cherry is a repeat blooming variety, sending out pale pink to white blooms in early spring that last for 2-3 weeks.
There is also a second flush of flowers around late October or early November, and this can last through the following early spring.
The blossoms on the Autumn cherry have a subtle but pleasing and sweet scent of crushed almond.
The leaves on the Autumn cherry fade from deep green to arresting shades of bronze, gold, orange, and yellow and can be sometimes tinged with deep red.
Autumn cherry trees can have a life span of 20 years or more and are longer lived than most other Japanese ornamental cherry trees.
With excellent care, this tree may live even longer than this as some cherry trees can thrive for decades or even centuries!
Autumn Cherry Tree Growing Conditions
To ensure healthy growth and generous blooming, give your Autumn cherry tree a helping hand by providing it with the ideal growing conditions.
This means getting the soil type and richness just right as well as the preferred sunlight exposure and climate.
Grow Zones and Hardiness
Your Autumn cherry will grow best in Zones 5-8 and is considered a fairly hardy variety due to its great tolerance to heat, drought, and general stress compared with other ornamental cherry trees.
These trees will prosper in a full sun location (at least 6 hours of daily direct, unfiltered sunlight), although this variety can tolerate partial shade.
Try to meet a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun to enjoy a decent blooming period.
Autumn cherry trees will adapt fairly well to most soils, but to get the best out of them, opt for a well-draining loamy or clay soil that is slightly acidic (between 6.0 and 7.0 pH is the sweet spot for most cherry trees).
The soil should also be slightly moist and fertile for best results. You can achieve this by adding in plenty of peat-free compost before planting.
Autumn Cherry Tree Maintenance and Care
With the immediate planting needs taken care of, let’s cover what your cherry tree needs to thrive in the long term including watering amount and frequency, feeding needs, and the importance of pruning for shaping and overall health.
New trees will need about an inch of water every few days or as often as needed to make the soil lightly moist but not soggy.
Perform a finger test in the top few inches of the soil if you’re unsure. Cherry trees are very drought tolerant but will not cope well in waterlogged soil.
Once established and blooming, your Autumn cherry can be watered less often — about half an inch of water every 7 to 10 days or once every two weeks, depending on rainfall levels and soil moisture.
This variety is a fast-grower without much need for fertilizer, but if you happen to notice sparse foliage or slow growth (i.e., less than 8 inches per year), then a balanced fertilizer applied once in spring will help.
This slow-release formula is excellent for encouraging bountiful blooms and healthy foliage.
You’ll first want to deadhead any spent blooms during the initial spring flowering period to help coax a second bloom in the fall. Pinch these out gently by hand or use clean clippers or micro pruning shears.
As for pruning to shape and improve the tree structure, wait until your tree’s second fall blooming period to give it plenty of time to heal.
Remove any branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged using sharp and sterile pruning tools.
Keep pruning to a minimum to retain its naturally graceful, rounded canopy.
Pests & Diseases
Pests like Japanese beetles and black cherry aphids can be a common problem, especially if you overfertilize and neglect aspects of their care.
These bugs can stunt growth by devouring leaf sap, so monitor the foliage throughout the growing season, and target infestations with neem oil (find it here).
Placing sticky traps in your tree and deterring pests through companion planting (Japanese beetles hate rye and garlic) can be beneficial.
As for disease, the Autumn cherry can be vulnerable to cherry leaf spot (purple-dark brown spots on upper leaves in summer) and powdery mildew (patches of white powdery fungus) if you expose it to moisture stress from overly saturated soil or fail to prune regularly.
You can prune badly damaged leaves and apply an eradicant fungicide containing the active ingredient myclobutanil to healthy foliage to help fight the infection.
Landscape Uses & Wildlife Value
With its wide-spreading structure, the Autumn cherry makes a wonderful shade tree, and its year-round interest creates a stunning display when planted as a lone specimen or in groups.
Twice-yearly blooming brings beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies to this tree while the juicy black cherries are prized by songbirds and mammals including squirrels, mice, and chipmunks.
There are many plants that your Autumn cherry will be happy to share its soil with from those that improve soil quality to ones that deter damaging pests and look generally gorgeous in the process!
Some of the best pairings include:
- Spring bulbs
- Sweet alyssum
Where To Buy
You may find this variety at large garden centers or local tree nurseries, but as this is a hugely popular and naturally occurring hybrid, you’re likely to have better luck finding a quality specimen online.
Online tree nurseries typically offer quality guarantees in case of growth issues and can be delivered straight to your door in various sizes to suit your needs. Find your perfect Autumn cherry tree at one of the following:
In summary, Autumn cherry trees are fairly low-maintenance, fast-growing trees with two blooming cycles and a gorgeous display of foliage color and bark appeal throughout the colder months!
To enjoy these transitions in all their glory, give this variety plenty of planting space to accommodate its wide spread, and choose a full-sun location where possible.
Pay attention too to its ideal soil needs as this tree can tolerate a lot, but waterlogged conditions will take their toll.
If you enjoyed learning about the magnificent Autumn cherry tree, be sure to read about these gorgeous varieties next: