Where Can We Grow Cherry Trees in the South?

Getty Images/Maria Mosolova
From blushing spring blooms to sweet fragrance to fall color, Yoshino has it all.

Imagine yourself on a fine, early spring day when the lawn chair beckons insistently. As you sit reading a book, you notice a light fragrance in the air. Tiny, translucent, pale pink petals are drifting down onto the pages. It’s like being in a wonderland.

How can you put yourself into this picture? Just plant a Yoshino cherry tree.

Yoshinos became popular in this country after the Japanese government presented a gift of their nation’s favorite tree to the people of the United States in 1912. Pictures of Yoshino cherry trees blossoming along the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., soon became an annual harbinger of spring for all Americans.

Yoshino cherry (prunus yedoensis) blooms early in spring with the forsythia. Slightly fragrant, ethereal, white blooms with a pink center usually appear before the leaves, giving the effect of a pale pink cloud. They are followed by inconspicuous purplish-black fruit. Ranging in size from 20 to 30 feet (with a possibility of 50 feet) in height and a spread of 20 to 30 feet, Yoshinos will give you shade in a very short time. Smaller selections are available, so it’s important to know the ultimate size of the one you choose. Trees can have multiple trunks or a single one with a canopy that spreads out like an umbrella. The blooms look especially pretty with a tall evergreen background. In summer, the tree’s deep green leaves fade into the background until fall, when its leaf colors of gold and orange put on another show.

Full sun, a moderate amount of moisture with good drainage, and pruning to remove any deadwood or suckers on their trunks are all that Yoshino cherry trees ask in return for their spring extravaganza. If your soil is very acidic, adding some lime would help. A soil test can tell you how much lime you need. Because it tolerates pollution, a Yoshino makes a good city or street tree.

You can grow this cherry in the Upper, Middle, and Lower South. Bill Welch, an Extension landscape horticulturist at Texas A&M University does not recommend it for Texas gardeners, nor is it suggested for Florida gardeners. There’s just not enough cold to set blooms. Elsewhere in the South, Yoshino thrives.

If you’ve always wanted an allée of trees but can’t wait for live oaks, this cherry tree may be your answer. It won’t live as long as an oak, but it grows up to 2 feet year. In 8 to 10 years you will have a canopy you can walk under. Be the envy of the neighborhood at cherry blossom time. Plant your dream.

AT A GLANCE

  • Habit: spreading tree with rounded top
  • Features: mildly fragrant pink to white blooms, fall colors of gold and orange
  • Bloom: early spring
  • Hardiness: Upper, Middle, and Lower South
  • Culture: sun, average soil, good drainage with medium moisture. Prune suckers off trunk.
  • Use: specimen garden tree or fast shade tree
  • Problems: subject to borers, stem canker, and bacterial canker

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YOU HAVE A CHOICE

  • Akebono (also known as Daybreak) Single, soft pink flowers; 25’ high x 25’ wide
  • Shidare Yoshino White flowers and weeping habit. 20’ high x 3-‘ wide, this is the tree known as the weeping Yoshino
  • Cascade Snow Pure white flowers; more resistant to disease; 25’ high x 20’ wide
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