With their beautiful blossoms and elegant forms, ornamental cherry trees are a stunning addition to any landscape.
However, to ensure these trees thrive and reach their full potential, it’s crucial to plant them at the right time as the timing of planting can significantly impact the tree’s growth, health, and blooming.
The best time to plant an ornamental cherry tree is early fall due to the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, which gives the tree time to establish a healthy root system before winter. However, planting in early spring gives the tree a full growing season to establish before winter.
In the following sections, we’ll explain the timing and methods of planting ornamental cherry trees and provide a step-by-step guide on how to plant your tree effectively.
- Bare root trees should ideally be planted in late winter or early spring, but potted trees can be planted in either spring or fall.
- Several factors need to be considered when planting an ornamental cherry tree, including the local climate, the planting site, and the tree’s sunlight requirements.
- Proper care and maintenance, including regular watering, mulching, light pruning, and occasional fertilizing, are crucial for the tree’s growth and health.
Getting the planting process right is definitely important, but it is just the first step of your tree’s journey. Learn all about key care guidelines in my detailed article, Ornamental Cherry Tree Care and Maintenance.
Choosing the Right Time to Plant
Choosing the right time to plant your ornamental cherry tree is crucial for its growth and survival. The timing can affect the tree’s ability to establish its root system, its growth rate, and its blooming.
Here, we’ll discuss the two best times of the year to plant ornamental cherry trees: spring and fall.
Spring is a popular time to plant many types of trees, including ornamental cherries.
Benefits: Planting in early spring gives the tree a full growing season to establish its roots before the winter. This can result in stronger growth and better blooming in the following seasons.
Timing: The best time for spring planting is after the last frost but before the tree starts to bud. This allows the tree to focus its energy on root development before it starts to put energy into producing leaves and flowers.
Fall is another excellent time to plant ornamental cherry trees.
Benefits: Planting in the fall takes advantage of cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, which can help the tree establish its root system and continue to grow roots during the winter, giving it a head start for growth in the spring.
Timing: The best time for fall planting is after the leaves have dropped but before the ground freezes. This allows the tree to establish its roots before the onset of winter.
Bare Root vs. Potted Trees
Bare-root trees, which are sold without soil around their roots, should ideally be planted in late winter or early spring when the tree is still dormant.
This allows the tree to wake up in its new location and start establishing roots immediately.
Potted trees, on the other hand, can be a bit more flexible and can be planted at any time in spring as long as they’re watered routinely and cared for.
Considerations for Planting Ornamental Cherry Trees
When planting an ornamental cherry tree, it’s essential to consider several factors that can significantly impact the tree’s growth and health.
These considerations go beyond just digging a hole; they involve understanding the tree’s specific needs and ensuring the planting site can meet them.
Climate and Hardiness Zones
Ornamental cherry trees are best suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8, but this can vary slightly depending on the specific variety.
These zones offer the moderate winter chill that cherry trees need to break dormancy and bloom in the spring.
It’s crucial to understand your local climate and ensure it aligns with the needs of the ornamental cherry tree. If you’re unsure of your hardiness zone, you can check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.
Choosing the right site for your ornamental cherry tree is another critical factor.
These trees prefer a location with well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot and other diseases. The site should also be large enough to accommodate the tree’s mature size.
Remember that ornamental cherry trees can grow up to 15-25 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. The root system should also be considered as it can grow quite large.
Ornamental cherry trees thrive in full sun, which means they need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Adequate sunlight is essential for the tree’s growth and for the production of its beautiful blossoms.
While these trees can tolerate partial shade, too much shade can lead to fewer flowers and a higher susceptibility to diseases.
Planting an ornamental cherry tree involves several steps. Whether you’re planting a bare root or a potted tree, the process requires careful preparation and execution.
Tree Selection and Inspection
Carefully inspect the tree before planting. Look for a tree with a strong central leader, healthy-looking branches, and no signs of disease or damage.
If you’re buying a bare-root tree, the roots should be moist and flexible, not dry or brittle.
Preparing the Planting Hole
The planting hole should be two to three times wider than the root ball or spread of the bare roots but no deeper than the root ball’s height.
This width gives the roots plenty of room to spread out and establish in the soil. The depth ensures that the tree is not planted too deep, which can lead to root diseases.
Planting the Tree
Place the tree in the center of the hole, spreading out the roots if it’s a bare-root tree.
The top of the root ball or the place where the roots meet the trunk in a bare root tree should be level with or slightly above the surrounding soil.
Backfill the hole with the original soil, firming it gently around the roots. Avoid adding fertilizer to the planting hole as it can burn the roots.
Watering and Mulching
After planting, water the tree thoroughly to settle the soil and eliminate any air pockets.
Apply a layer of mulch around the tree, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Post-Planting Care and Maintenance
After planting your ornamental cherry tree, the work isn’t over. Proper care and maintenance are crucial for the tree’s growth and health.
Newly planted trees need regular watering to establish their root systems.
Water the tree deeply once a week, but adjust as necessary depending on the weather and soil conditions. The goal is to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Maintain a layer of mulch around the tree to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. Replenish the mulch as it decomposes to maintain a 2-3 inch layer.
In the first few years, prune the tree lightly to establish a strong structure. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches and any branches that cross or rub against each other. As the tree matures, prune it in late winter or early spring to maintain its shape and promote vigorous growth.
Ornamental cherry trees generally don’t require heavy fertilization. If your soil is poor, you might consider applying a slow-release granular fertilizer (I use this one) in the spring.
Always follow the package instructions for the correct application rate.
How Fast Do Ornamental Cherry Trees Grow?
Ornamental cherry trees have a moderate growth rate. On average, these trees can grow 1-2 feet per year.
However, growth can be influenced by several factors, including the tree’s variety, its care, and environmental conditions.
How Long Do Ornamental Cherry Trees Live?
The life span of ornamental cherry trees can vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions. On average, these trees can live for 15-20 years.
However, with optimal care and under ideal conditions, some ornamental cherry trees can live for up to 60 years.
Planting an ornamental cherry tree is a rewarding endeavor that requires careful planning and execution.
From choosing the right time to plant to selecting the ideal site, each step plays a crucial role in the tree’s growth and health.
Whether you’re planting a bare root or a potted tree, understanding the tree’s specific needs and providing proper care and maintenance can ensure your ornamental cherry tree thrives and brings beauty to your landscape for many years to come.
Now that you understand the best planting practices, it’s time to further your knowledge so you can help your cherry tree thrive! Read these guides next: