How To Grow And Care For Cherry Blossom Trees

Plus, some trivia about the beautiful blooming trees that are some of the first signs of spring.

One of the earliest harbingers of spring is the cherry blossom tree, which bursts into pink and white clouds of blooms in March and April. They're celebrated at cherry blossom festivals around the world when people flock to the grasses beneath their branches to marvel at the frothing blooms. There are several varieties of these ornamental trees that grow well in the South, so if you'd like to learn more about how to plant and care for these beautiful trees, read on. Be sure to study up on some cherry blossom facts before the next spring bloom. Plus, find a bit of tree-related trivia to test your knowledge about these blossoming signs of warm weather to come. Whether you're visiting a cherry blossom festival or planning to plant one in your front yard as an ornamental addition to your landscaping, there's lots to know about cherry blossoms. One thing to keep in mind for pet owners: Seeds, leaves, and stems of cherry blossom trees are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, so be aware if planning to plant them.

Plant Attributes

 Common Name  Cherry blossom, Japanese cherry, sakura
 Botanical Name  Prunus serrulata
 Family  Rosaceae
 Plant Type  Deciduous tree
 Mature Size  15-30 ft. tall, 15-30 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure  Full, partial
 Soil Type  Well-drained, moist
 Soil pH  Acidic, neutral
 Bloom Time  Spring
 Flower Color  Pink, white, yellow, green
 Hardiness Zones  5-8 (USDA)
 Native Area  Asia
 Toxicity  Toxic to dogs, cats and horses
Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Tree Care

Most ornamental cherry trees are bred more for the lovely blossoms than for the edible fruit. The strictly ornamental genus of cherry trees is known as Prunus. These trees still produce fruit in the summer months, but it's usually so sour that only animals eat it. Cherry trees that produce edible fruits are in the genus Rosaceae, but most of them are too difficult to grow in the South. That's because they need cool temperatures to thrive, and the Southern climes don't reach or stay at the temperatures they require to blossom.

Contrary to popular belief, most cherry blossoms do have a light fragrance. Cherry blossoms bloom in several shades. Many are light pink, while others have darker pink flowers or white flowers, depending on several factors. Some have yellow-green or white-green blooms that turn pink as they age.

The trees grow and establish themselves relatively quickly, but they don't last very long. Their life spans are usually from 15 to 25 years long, though in optimal conditions, they have been known to reach 30-40 years of age. On the other hand, some (like black cherry trees) can live much longer. Black cherries have been known to reach 250 years old under the right conditions.

Although their looks are delicate, you can actually grow them for yourself, assuming that you place your cherry blossom trees in a location with full sun and well-drained soil. Well-draining soil is key, as cherry blossoms don't like to sit in water and let their roots get soggy. Some gardeners find that sandy or clay-enriched soils can work for cherry blossoms and aid in drainage. However, many gardeners believe that loamy soil is best for growing cherry blossoms because it is rich and well-draining.


Cherry blossom trees grow best in full sun, with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Some varieties will tolerate some shade. In areas prone to droughts, be sure to plant the tree in a location where it will get partial shade, and mulch around the base to retain moisture.


Cherry blossom trees can adapt to a variety of soil types, including sandy and clay options, but they prefer moist, well-drained acidic soil. Mulch around the base of the tree, up to but not touching the trunk, to help it retain moisture without encouraging too much water collection.


Water young trees weekly, twice weekly during dry weather, to help them get established. After the first two seasons, watering every two weeks is sufficient, with more watering during droughts. Long soakings are better for these trees than quick showers.

Temperature and Humidity

Most cherry blossom trees need winters that aren’t too harsh. Cool temperatures of about 45°F are essential for the dormancy period that allows them to blossom in the spring. Warmer temperatures during late winter may bring earlier spring blooms. The trees can tolerate Southern summers, but they need more frequent watering during hot, dry months.


Test the soil to see if your tree has any deficiencies that require fertilizer. If modification or enrichment is needed, a slow-release fertilizer specifically designed for cherry or ornamental flowering trees may be applied once every spring.

Cherry Blossom
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Types Of Cherry Blossom Trees

There are many different varieties of these beautiful trees. The Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is the dominant selection that surrounds the Washington Tidal Basin and has a whole festival dedicated to it. It can grow up to 35 feet tall. The Weeping cherry (P. x subhirtella) can have pink or white flowers and comes in a variety of sizes. The branches spill downward, like a weeping willow tree or water issuing from a fountain.

The 'Okame' cherry (P. 'Okame') produces deep pink blossoms and grows to 20 feet tall with branches stretching up in a traditional, rounded tree form. It can be an early bloomer and sometimes blossoms as early as Valentine's Day in the warmer temperatures of the lower South. The 'Kwanzan' cherry (P. serrulata 'Kwanzan') is a vigorous grower with frilly blooms that look like carnations. It's usually a late bloomer that flowers in mid-to-late spring and can reach heights of up to 30 feet tall.


Cherry blossom trees don’t typically require much pruning. However, if you need to prune for any reason, do so after blooming in the spring. This will help shape the tree and remove any dead wood or buds that didn’t bloom.

Propagating A Cherry Blossom Tree

There are a few methods that can be used to propagate a cherry blossom tree, including grafting, softwood cuttings, and air layering. Propagating using softwood cuttings must be done at the right time, just as buds appear and early in the morning. Grafting requires buying rootstock of a compatible tree.

Air layering is the easiest and most reliable method, and it is done right on the parent plant. To begin the process of air layering, follow these steps:

  1. Use a sharp knife to make two parallel cuts at least two inches apart around the circumference of a branch that is at least 3/8 inch thick.
  2. Remove the bark between the cuts, and scrape away the cambium layer to block the flow of any water and nutrients.
  3. Cover the bare area with wet sphagnum moss, and then cover it with plastic wrap, securing the ends with tape to prevent water from entering the area.
  4. When roots begin to show through the plastic, watch for a root ball to form. When it has formed, remove the plastic, cut the branch below this new root ball, and plant the cutting.


Cherry blossom trees need little protection during winter throughout most of their hardiness zones, as the typical temperature ranges in these zones don't usually stress the trees. Young trees planted in the northern area, zone 5, will need mulch or a layer of pine straw to protect the roots from the cold during the winter months.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Flowering cherry trees are relatively low maintenance, but they are susceptible to pests and diseases that can damage or kill the trees. It's these potentially harmful garden visitors that you should watch for.

Common pests like aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and borers can cause problems. If you encounter them on your cherry blossom tree, use a water hose to spray them off your tree’s leaves. Remove any caterpillar nests you see, as they will eat the leaves, leaving holes as they go. Use an insecticide to get rid of Japanese beetles.

Diseases cause more damage to cherry blossom trees and are more worrisome than any pests that may visit. Leaf spot and powdery mildew can be treated with fungicide. Other diseases may require the removal of infected branches and debris around the tree. Severe infections may require the removal of the tree to prevent any sickness from spreading to other trees in your yard.

Cherry Blossom
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How To Get A Cherry Blossom Tree To Bloom

Cherry blossom season lasts for about a month every spring and is always dependent on the weather. Early March to early April is generally a good rule of thumb when you're looking at the calendar and hoping to see blooms. However, if warm temperatures arrive sooner, they can encourage some cherry blossom trees to bloom as early as January and February. Most cherry blossom trees bloom for one to two weeks during the season. The further south you go, the earlier in the season the trees will bloom. When blooming, cherry blossoms make for easy and beautiful flower arrangements that can last quite a long time.

Trees that are planted in a location with favorable conditions will typically bloom well. Weather can sometimes be a factor. If a hard frost happens once the buds appear, it can cause the tree to lose its blooms for the season. However, the tree should return to blooming the next year.

Cherry Blossom
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Celebrate The Blossoms In Washington, D.C.

Some of the most recognizable cherry blossoms in the United States are the ones that surround the national monuments in Washington, D.C. The cherry blossom is the unofficial national flower of Japan, and in 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave the United States 3,000 cherry trees to celebrate the friendship between the cities and countries. First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first cherry blossom tree along the Potomac. In return, the United States gifted Japan flowering dogwoods in 1915.

Because of these trees planted in abundance around Washington, D.C., the city has become a hub for blooming cherry blossoms. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is dependent on when the trees bloom each year. There is an official website dedicated to predicting the peak cherry blossom bloom time each spring. Peak bloom typically falls in April in Washington. The festival usually includes an opening ceremony, a kite festival, and a parade, among other bloom-centric events.

If you visit the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., don't even think of snapping off a branch to take home. According to The Washingtonian, "Breaking off blossoms and branches is considered vandalism of federal property and can land you a citation or even get you arrested, though a Metropolitan Police spokesperson says officers enforce the law with 'an incredible amount of discretion,' mostly issuing warnings and small fines." Savor the blooms in situ, and leave them for others to enjoy.

Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Trivia

George Washington never actually chopped down a cherry tree. According to Mount Vernon, that was a myth created by one of Washington's early biographers, Mason Locke Weems.

Cherry blossom trees are known as "sakura" in Japan, and there, the blooms are symbols of renewal and hope. Picnicking beneath the trees is a longstanding Japanese tradition, which is known as "hanami."

In Washington, D.C., you can find cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin, but other trees are located near the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. There are also cherry trees at the National Arboretum.

Cherry blossoms aren't native to the United States, but they can be found in many cities around the country. Macon, Georgia, is known for its cherry blossom trees (350,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees and counting!) and has the moniker "The Cherry Blossom Capital of the World." Macon hosts the International Cherry Blossom Festival every season, and it's called the "pinkest party on earth."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are cherry blossom trees hard or easy to grow?

    Cherry blossom trees are easy to grow because they require little pruning and care compared to fruit trees. However, they are susceptible to diseases that affect many fruit trees, and tend to live only 15-20 years.

  • What is the best month for planting cherry blossom trees?

    In the South, plant flowering cherries in the fall or in late winter or early spring before they start blooming. Flowering trees need time to get their roots established before the summer heat arrives.

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Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. North Carolina State University Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Prunus serrulata.

  2. Library of Congress. Today in history - March 27.

  3. George Washington's Mount Vernon. Cherry tree myth.

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