Kwanzan Cherry Trees: Care, Issues, Pruning Guide & More

If you appreciate cherry trees for their landscaping advantages and have no desire for their fruits, then the Kwanzan cherry tree is a fantastic option. It will continue to be the focal point of your garden for three out of the four seasons each year.

You couldn’t ask more from an ornamental tree that doesn’t put you out with its care and maintenance demands.

What is a Kwanzan cherry tree? The Kwanzan cherry tree is a popular cultivar with great ornamental value. Its leaves emerge in copper color and then turn green before turning yellow in the fall. The double blossoms are deep pink. The deciduous tree is suitable for zones 5 to 9 and has a lifespan between 15 to 25 years.

However, there’s more to the Kwanzan cherry tree than meets the eye. This low-maintenance showy tree is a delight in the garden all year round.

Read more to find out about the Kwanzan cherry tree and how to grow one successfully in your garden.

Did you know that the Kwanzan is just one of many beautiful flowering cherry trees? Explore the most popular varieties in my article Best Flowering Cherry Trees. You’ll be glad you did!

Kwanzan Cherry Trees – The Facts

The Kwanzan cherry tree (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’) is a cultivar that hails originally from Japan. It goes back to the Edo period that ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867.

A member of the Prunus genus, the deciduous tree stands out among other cherry varieties with its deep-pink double blossoms. The cultivar is based on the Oshima cherry and goes by other names such as Kazan cherry.

Kwanzan Cherry Tree Appearance & Size

The Kwanzan cherry tree has an upright-spreading form and takes a vase shape at maturity. The tree averages 30 to 40 feet tall and the same in width.

The leaves change color with the change of seasons before they finally drop in the fall. In the spring, the leaves are red-copper, and by the time they reach 4 to 5 inches long, they turn green. In the fall, they turn yellow.

How Fast Do Kwanzan Cherry Trees Grow?

For their short lifespan, Kawazan cherry trees tend to have a fast growth rate. On average and in the right growing conditions, the tree will grow between 13 to 24 inches per year.

With this fast growth rate, pruning is the best way to manage the tree’s shape and encourage a strong structure.

Do Kwanzan Cherry Trees Bear Fruit?

Kwanzan cherry trees don’t bear fruit. They’re purely ornamental trees that dazzle with their deep-pink double blossoms and the ever-changing color of their leaves. If you want fruiting cherry trees, this cultivar is not for you.

When Do Kwanzan Cherry Trees Bloom?

The Kwanzan cherry trees start to bloom in mid-spring. The exact bloom time varies depending on the Grow Zone, but you can expect the flowers to open sometime between April and May.

Looking up into the blooming branches of a Kwanzan cherry tree.

What Color Are Kwanzan Cherry Tree Leaves During Fall?

The leaves of the Kwanzan cherry tree have serrated edges and reach about 4 to 5 inches long, but that’s not the most striking feature.

They tend to change color throughout their life. In the early spring, they’re red copper. Then they turn green in the late spring and remain that color through summer. In the fall, they turn yellow before they drop.

How Much Water Does a Kwanzan Cherry Tree Need?

The tree needs deep watering once or twice a week depending on the weather conditions. In the peak of summer and dry weather, you’ll need to water it twice a week.

Check the top of the soil before watering. If the top 2 inches are dry, that’s your cue to water the tree. Cut down on watering in the fall and winter when the tree goes dormant.

Are Kwanzan Cherry Trees Easy To Care For?

Kwanzan cherry trees are low-maintenance trees that don’t require a lot of care. As long as the tree is growing in a sunny spot and the soil is loamy and rich, it won’t give you a lot of problems.

The tree grows best in Zones 5 to 9, and it has a high tolerance for cold temperatures. During the spring and summer, the tree needs on average 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. 

The Kwanzan cherry doesn’t need fertilizing for the first two years of its life, but once the nutrients in the soil are depleted, the tree will need one application of a balanced fertilizer (Miracle-Gro makes a great one for flowering trees) or organic compost in the early spring before the first flowers emerge.

Common Pests & Diseases of Kwanzan Cherry Trees

The Kwanzan cherry tree attracts the same pests as other ornamental trees in the garden. These include aphids, Japanese beetles, thrips, spider mites, and caterpillars.

You can get rid of most of these pests with neem oil (find it here). As for Japanese beetles, you will need to manually pick them and drown them in a bucket full of soapy water.

The common diseases you might encounter with the Kwanzan cherry tree are fireblight, root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf curl.

Good ventilation and keeping the soil moist but not wet will prevent most of these diseases. Fungal infections such as powdery mildew can be treated with a fungicide spray.

What Is the Best Planting Location for Kwanzan Cherry Trees?

You can plant the Kwanzan cherry tree as an accent plant or in rows. Choose a sunny spot that gets full sun or partial shade in warm Hardiness Zones.

The roots of the tree don’t compete well with weeds and grass, so you’ll need to build a raised mound for the tree to allow the roots to develop fully during the first two years of its life. Build a mound 18 inches above the ground to improve drainage.

If you’re planting more than one Kwanzan cherry tree, make sure to space them 30 to 40 feet apart to improve airflow and prevent competition over resources.

Best Places To Buy Kwanzan Cherry Trees Online

You may be able to find them in the local nursery if you live in Zones 5 to 9; otherwise, you can easily buy Kwanzan cherry trees online: I recommend the following:

Life Span of a Kwanzan Cherry Tree

The Kwanzan cherry tree has a short life span. On average the tree will live between 15 and 25 years as long as the tree is not infected with diseases or pest infestation.

Ideal Growing Conditions for a Kwanzan Cherry Tree

Although the tree can grow in different types of soil from loam to sandy and even clay, you should amend the soil to make it loamy and fast to drain. Add a generous portion of organic compost or homemade fertilizer to the soil before planting the tree. 

The cherry cultivar needs 6 hours of sunlight a day and can survive in partial shade in hot Zones.

Fertilizing is not necessary during the first two years, but one application of balanced fertilizer is required in the early spring to encourage the blooms. Water it deeply and regularly once the top 2 inches of the soil go dry.

When & How To Prune Kwanzan Cherry Trees

Despite its fast growth rate, the Kwanzan cherry tree doesn’t need regular and heavy pruning. Ideally, you’ll prune the tree in the late fall after all the leaves have dropped. During the first two years, prune the outer branches to encourage a robust structure. 

Once the tree establishes, you can prune it to keep it in shape. Remove any crossing branches, and clear pathways into the canopy to allow airflow and sunlight on the inner branches.

Cut any damaged or diseased branches as soon as you see them no matter what time of year it is. 

Can a Kwanzan Cherry Tree Survive Over-Pruning?

Even if you over-prune your Kwanzan cherry tree, the hardy tree will fill back in within a couple of years. As long as the tree has a good structure, it’s easy for the tree to recover. Even the main branches are replaceable. 

The only problem with over-pruning is that the tree will look lopsided or out of shape for a few years before it regains its natural vase-like shape. With regular care that includes fighting off pests and diseases and ensuring that the soil is rich, the tree should recover quickly.

How To Overwinter a Kwanzan Cherry Tree

In the cold Zones where the winter gets really cold, the Kwanzan cherry tree needs overwintering to survive these harsh conditions. Once the tree has shed the last leaf in the fall, start pruning it to improve air circulation and sunlight inside the canopy. 

Remove dead, broken, and crossing branches before treating the cuts with pruning sealant to protect the tree against infections. Do the same for any accidental cuts or scratches in the trunk.

Limit watering to once every two weeks in the fall and winter. Then cover the soil around the base of the tree with a 6-inch layer of mulch. This will preserve the soil temperature and protect the roots from freezing over. 

Conclusion

The Kwanzan cherry tree is a deciduous cultivar that grows in Grow Zones 5 to 9. It has a life span of 15 to 25 years and has deep-pink double blossoms and ornamental leaves that change color three times a year.

Eager to see more of what the world of ornamental cherry trees has to offer? Be sure to read about these varieties next: