Cherry Blossom Trees: Types, Care Guide, Problems & More

Imagine a tree that exudes pure elegance, a stunning showcase of colors that enhances the vibrancy of any landscape.

This is the charm of the ornamental cherry tree, a symbol of spring’s arrival and the fleeting beauty of life.

Known for their stunning display of blossoms, these trees have captivated hearts worldwide, becoming a cherished part of cultural traditions and garden landscapes.

While cherry blossom trees require some care to thrive, with the right knowledge, even a novice gardener can enjoy the annual spectacle of a cherry blossom tree in full bloom. The key is providing proper lighting, soil conditions, and irrigation and being aware of potential pests and diseases.

If you’re new to the world of ornamental cherry trees, prepare to embark on a journey of discovery.

In the following, we’ll explore their appearance, flowering patterns, growth habits, and the care they require. We’ll also discuss the different varieties of these trees and how to propagate them.

Whether you are considering adding one to your garden or recently purchased one of these beautiful trees, read on for a comprehensive guide.

Key Takeaways

  • Ornamental cherry trees require specific care, including the right growing conditions, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and mulching.
  • While generally robust, these trees can be susceptible to a few diseases and pests, including cherry leaf spot, verticillium wilt, bacterial canker, aphids, tent caterpillars, and Japanese beetles.
  • Propagation of cherry blossom trees can be achieved through several methods, including growing from seed, rooting cuttings, air layering, and grafting.
  • There are numerous varieties of ornamental cherry trees, each with unique characteristics.

Ornamental Cherry Trees Overview

Ornamental cherry trees, also known as cherry blossom trees, are a group of flowering trees belonging to the genus Prunus.

They are renowned for their spectacular springtime display of blossoms, ranging in color from white to different shades of pink.

These trees are not just about the flowers; they offer year-round interest with their changing leaf colors, autumn fruits, and striking bark in winter.

Tree Appearance & Size

Ornamental cherry trees vary greatly in size and form. Some varieties are small and shrubby, perfect for compact gardens or growing in containers, while others can grow into large, spreading trees.

The size of a mature tree can range from 15 feet for smaller varieties up to 40 feet for larger ones.

The trees typically have a rounded, spreading habit, although some varieties have a more upright or weeping form.

Cherry Blossom Flowering

The highlight of any ornamental cherry tree is undoubtedly its blossoms. The flowers typically appear in spring, but the exact timing can vary depending on the variety and local climate.

Blossoms can be white or pink, and some varieties have particularly deep pink, almost red flowers.

Some trees produce single flowers with a simple ring of petals, while others have double flowers with multiple layers of petals.

The flowers often have a sweet, pleasant fragrance that adds to their appeal.

The blooming period can last from a few days to a few weeks, creating a stunning display that is often associated with the arrival of spring.

Ornamental Cherry Leaves

The leaves of ornamental cherry trees add to their overall appeal. They are typically oval or lance-shaped and have a serrated edge. In spring and summer, the leaves are a fresh, vibrant green.

In autumn, they change color with many varieties producing stunning displays of yellow, orange, or red fall color before the leaves drop for winter.

Ornamental Cherry Fruiting

After the flowering season, ornamental cherry trees produce small fruits. These are typically small, round, and black or red in color.

While not typically eaten by people due to their bitter taste, they are a valuable food source for birds and other wildlife.

Growth Habit & Rate

Ornamental cherry trees typically have a medium growth rate with most varieties adding 1 to 2 feet of growth per year.

The trees usually have a spreading habit with branches that reach outwards and upwards to create a rounded canopy. Some varieties, however, have a more upright or weeping growth habit.

Ornamental Cherry Trees in Fall & Winter

Even after the blossoms have faded and the leaves have fallen, ornamental cherry trees continue to provide interest in the garden.

In fall, the leaves turn to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, or red, creating a stunning autumn display.

In winter, the bare branches and trunk take center stage. The bark of many ornamental cherry trees is glossy and reddish-brown, adding a touch of warmth to the winter landscape.

Ornamental Cherry Grow Zones

Ornamental cherry trees are hardy and can be grown in a range of climates. Most varieties do well in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8, but some can tolerate colder or warmer conditions.

The trees, whether upright or weeping, prefer a location with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. They can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils as long as the drainage is good.

A close look at Pink cherry blossoms in spring.

Cherry Blossom Tree Care and Maintenance

Caring for an ornamental cherry tree involves understanding its needs and providing the right conditions for growth.

While these trees are relatively low in terms of maintenance needs, they do require some specific care to thrive.

This includes providing the right growing conditions, watering appropriately, fertilizing, pruning, and mulching.

Growing Conditions

Ornamental cherry trees are quite adaptable, but they do have some specific requirements for optimal growth.

They prefer a location with full sun to partial shade. At least four to six hours of direct sunlight each day will ensure the best flower production.

The soil should drain readily as these trees do not like to sit in waterlogged soil.

They can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, but the pH should ideally be slightly acidic to neutral.

If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, you can improve its texture and fertility by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.

Watering Needs

Watering is a crucial part of cherry blossom tree care. These trees prefer a consistent supply of moisture but do not like to be overly wet.

A deep watering once a week is generally sufficient, but this may need to be increased during hot, dry periods.

It’s better to water deeply and less frequently as this encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the tree more tolerant of drought.

When watering, aim to moisten the soil to a depth of about 12 to 18 inches.

Fertilization

Ornamental cherry trees benefit from regular feeding. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in early spring can provide the nutrients these trees need to produce their spectacular display of blossoms.

It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying fertilizer. Avoid overfertilizing as this can lead to excessive, weak growth and reduce flowering.

Pruning

Pruning helps to maintain the shape of your ornamental cherry tree and encourage new growth. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring before new growth starts.

Pruning at this time minimizes sap loss and reduces the risk of disease transmission.

When pruning, remove any dead, diseased, or damaged wood first. You can also remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

Beyond this, minimal pruning is needed, and it’s best to maintain the tree’s natural shape.

Mulching

Mulching is beneficial for ornamental cherry trees. It helps to conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and gradually improve soil fertility.

Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as compost, well-rotted manure, or bark chips, around the base of the tree.

The mulch layer should be about 2 to 3 inches thick and should not touch the trunk of the tree as this can lead to rot.

The white blooms of a Snow Goose cherry tree.

Ornamental Cherry Diseases and Pests

Ornamental cherry trees, while generally robust, can be susceptible to a few diseases and pests.

Being aware of these potential problems and knowing how to manage them can help keep your tree healthy and vibrant.

Diseases

Cherry leaf spot, caused by the fungus Blumeriella jaapii, is one of the most common diseases affecting ornamental cherry trees.

This disease causes small, purple or brown spots on the leaves, which can eventually lead to leaf drop.

To manage this disease, ensure good air circulation around your tree, and avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Fungicides can also be used if necessary.

Verticillium wilt is another disease that can affect these trees. This soil-borne fungus causes wilting and yellowing of the leaves, often on just one side of the tree.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, and affected trees may need to be removed to prevent the fungus from spreading.

Bacterial canker can also affect ornamental cherry trees. This disease causes sunken, oozing areas on the bark and can lead to branch dieback.

Pruning out affected branches and applying a copper-based spray can help manage this disease.

Additional diseases that can plague ornamental cherry trees include:

  • Blight diseases
  • Powdery mildew
  • Black knot disease
  • Cherry shot hole disease
  • Rot diseases
  • Silver leaf 
  • X-disease
  • Crown gall
  • Necrotic ringspot

Pests

Aphids are small insects that suck sap from the leaves, causing them to curl and distort.

They can be controlled by encouraging beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, or using insecticidal soap.

Tent caterpillars can also be a problem. These caterpillars create web-like tents in the branches and can defoliate a tree if present in large numbers.

They can be removed manually or with the use of a biological pesticide.

Japanese beetles can also affect ornamental cherry trees. These beetles eat the leaves, flowers, and fruit, causing significant damage.

They can be controlled by hand-picking or using a specific pesticide.

Additional pests to watch for include:

  • Spider mites
  • Ants
  • Cherry bark tortrix
  • Cherry fruit fly
  • Borers
  • Scale
  • Leafhoppers
  • Thrips
  • Slugs
  • Cherry sawfly
  • Leafminers
  • Leaf rollers
  • Bark beetles
A large cherry tree covered in pinkish purple blooms.

Propagating Cherry Blossom Trees

Propagating your own cherry blossom trees can be a rewarding process. There are several methods you can use, including growing from seed, rooting cuttings, air layering, and grafting.

Seeds

Growing ornamental cherry trees from seed can be a lengthy process, but it’s also an interesting project.

The seeds need to be stratified, or exposed to cold temperatures, before they will germinate.

This can be done by planting the seeds in a pot of soil and leaving it outside over winter or by storing the seeds in the refrigerator for a few months.

Once stratified, the seeds can be planted in a warm, sunny location and should germinate within a few weeks.

Rooting Cuttings

Taking cuttings is another way to propagate cherry blossom trees.

This involves cutting a piece of stem from the parent tree, dipping the cut end in rooting hormone, and then planting it in a pot of soil.

The cutting should be kept in a humid environment until roots develop. This method can be quicker than growing from seed, but it still requires patience.

Air Layering

Air layering is a more advanced propagation method that involves inducing a branch to form roots while it’s still attached to the parent tree.

A small section of bark is removed from the branch, and the area is covered with damp sphagnum moss and wrapped in plastic.

After a few months, roots should form in the moss, and the branch can be cut off and planted as a new tree.

Grafting

Grafting involves attaching a piece of stem from one tree (the scion) to the rootstock of another tree.

This is a common method used for propagating ornamental cherry trees as it allows for the production of trees that are identical to the parent tree.

Grafting requires some skill and knowledge, but it can be a successful and rewarding method of propagation.

Ornamental Cherry Tree Varieties

There are numerous varieties of ornamental cherry trees available, each with unique characteristics. Here are a few popular ones:

  • Yoshino Cherry: Known for its clouds of white to pale pink flowers, the Yoshino cherry is one of the stars of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. This fast-growing tree can reach up to 50 feet in height.
  • Kwanzan Cherry: This variety is loved for its double, pink blossoms and vibrant fall foliage. It’s a hardy tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall.
  • Autumn Cherry: The Autumn cherry is unique for its ability to bloom in both spring and fall. It has delicate, pale pink flowers and can reach up to 30 feet in height.
  • Okame Cherry: This tree is one of the first to bloom in spring, producing bright pink flowers. It’s a small to medium-sized tree, making it a great choice for smaller gardens.
  • Pink Weeping Cherry: This variety is known for its weeping form and pink blossoms. It’s a small tree, typically growing to around 15 feet in height.
  • Snow Fountain Cherry: This weeping cherry tree has white blossoms and a compact size, making it perfect for small spaces or as a specimen tree.

Ornamental Cherry Companion Plants

When planting an ornamental cherry tree, consider adding companion plants that complement the tree and provide interest at different times of the year.

Spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips can provide early color before the tree blooms. Groundcovers like vinca or hostas can provide greenery and cover bare soil.

Other shrubs and trees that have different bloom times can ensure that your garden has color throughout the growing season.

Best Places To Buy Cherry Blossom Trees

Local nurseries and garden centers often carry a selection of cherry blossom trees, but the selection may be limited.

Online retailers offer a wider variety of trees and often guarantee tree health upon arrival.

Here are a few online nurseries that I personally use and recommend:

Closing Thoughts

Ornamental cherry trees are a beautiful addition to any garden, offering stunning spring blossoms and year-round interest.

With a bit of care and attention, these trees can thrive and provide beauty and enjoyment for many years.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner, consider adding an ornamental cherry tree to your garden — you won’t regret it!