How to Grow Flowering Cherry Trees; A Practical Guide

January 15, 2024

Why Choose Flowering Cherry Trees?

Follow this practical guide to growing flowering cherry trees. Flowering cherry trees are so important to us that you can plan your vacation around cherry trees. You can eat ice cream made from their blossoms, attend picnics dedicated to them, or just wow the neighbors with a glimpse of your gorgeous blooming tree in spring.

These trees are so beautiful that the National Park Service will tell you what dates to see them on every year! In many parts of the world, you can grow them in your garden. They are low-maintenance, disease-resistant charmers and come in sizes from small to medium. You really can plan your vacation around flowering cherry trees.

Some of them will produce cherries that the birds will love, and many have color-changing foliage for the months in which they are not blooming. The larger ones will give you shade to sit under.

If your backyard and garden is in these USDA Plant hardiness zones you can grow them: zones 4-8 in the eastern US and zones 4-9 in the west. Here is how to find your zone, Just bring up the map and enter your zip code.

Plan Your Vacation Around Flowering Cherry Trees

Botanical gardens and arboretums in temperate climate areas are perfect places to see cherry trees in bloom. Here are a few ideas:

Try These Two Articles With More Lists Of Places To See Cherry Blossomss

Afar-12 Places in the US to see cherry blossoms

Japan Objects-Places to see cherry blossoms in the US

The Long Road to America

We love our flowering cherry trees so much that we give them festivals all over the country. They are not native to North America and got here in complicated routes because of people who thought they belonged here.

In 1890 William Bigelow, a physician living in Japan, and botanist, Charles S. Sargent sent some to the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. David Fairchild, an American plant hunter, and botanist brought home 100 for his own garden.

How The Cherry Trees Got To Washington

The most tenacious, and eventually successful, advocate for the flowering cherry was an exploring woman named Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, an American writer, photographer, and geographer. She has a glacier named for her in Alaska. She was the first woman board member of the National Geographic Society.

Flowering Cherry Trees Washington DC

In 1885 Scidmore traveled to Japan and was astounded by the flowering cherry trees. She decided that they would be an asset to the new Potomac Park in Washington DC.

She presented her idea to the Superintendent of grounds who thought the idea was silly and rejected her. She reintroduced the idea every time there was a new Superintendent for 24 years! One superintendent complained that the cherry trees would bring small boys to steal the cherries and they would have to pay for police to guard the trees. When she explained that these were ornamental trees with no edible cherries he turned her down again. He said, “Who would want cherry trees with no cherries”!

David Fairchild, however, did like her ideas and together they worked with First Lady Helen Taft to get them planted. Prominent Japanese visitors learned of the idea and offered trees as a gift. On the first shipment “Murphy’s Law of Gardening” kicked in. The trees arrived with insect infections and were burned. The trees very nearly caused an international incident. Eventually, they got it right and the rest is history.

Flowering Cherry Trees With Long Blooming Periods

Some Flowering Cherry Varieties have unusually long blooming periods. They flower in flushes in fall and even winter. Two are Autumnalis and Autumnalis Rosea.

Flowering Cherry Trees by Tree Shape

If your space requires a certain shape the tree comes in five general shapes, an erect column, a broad shape, a vase shape, an umbrella shape, and a weeping form.

Blossoms of Flowering Cherry Trees

There is plenty of variety among ornamental cherry blossoms. For example, the petals! They range from 5-300 petals. The Japanese are purists and see no reason for more than 5 petals. There are, however, plenty of choices if you are not one.

A List of 10 Varieties To Grow

Variety NameNotesSizeMore Reference Material
Kwanzan CherryOne of the original 12 trees given by Japan to Washington DC in 1912.
After Yoshino it is the most prevalent in DC.
It has carnation like double blossoms.
Akebono Cherry
This pale pink tree is a mutation of the Yoshino.20-25’H
Afterglow CherryThis is popular in nurseries as the pink color
does not fade and it is replacing the Akebono
Stadler Garden Centers
Autumn Flowering CherryThis tree flowers in spring and again in fall. 20-35’H
Weeping Cherry This tree has a drooping style with flower colors
ranging from white to dark pink.
It blooms one week before the Yoshino.
It is created by grafting and requires regular pruning.
8-15’H with 8 varieties
Sargent Cherryhas a single petal in a deep pink color40-50′
Fugenzo CherryRose-colored clusters of blossoms lighten with age.
In Japan a very old cultivar.
Probable first planted in DC by First Lady, Helen Herron Taft
OkameThere is only one of these in DC, with small bright pink blossoms. It is usually the first to bloom.15-30’H
Yoshino CherryThis was one of 12 tree varieties gifted by Japan to Washington DC. It has a pleasant almond scent and is the most prevalent tree on the mall40-50’T
ShirofugenThere is only one in the Mall.
The blossom starts white then turns pink.
It is a late bloomer.

How To Grow Flowering Cherries Where You Are

RegionRecommended Varieties
SouthYoshino, Kwanzan, Okame
NortheastYoshino, Kwanzan, Higan, Sargeant, Autumnalis
Middle AtllanticWeeping Higan Tree, Kanzan, Nanking
MidwestHigan Cherry
PacificAkebono (most commonly used)

The Right Environment

Flowering Cherry Trees require full sun, well-drained soil, and enough space to grow. Plant the trees 20-30′ apart and farther apart for larger trees.

Hardiness Zones For Flowering Cherry

Check the recommendations for individual varieties you are planning to buy. In general zones 4-8 in the eastern half of the US and zones 4-9 in the west should suit the plant.

How To Plant Them

Plant in early spring while the plant is still dormant but after the risk of frost has passed. This is most effective in zones 4-6A. Plant also in fall as soon as the plant is dormant. This is most effectively done in warmer climate zones 6B and warmer.

Dig a hole as deep as the new tree and twice as wide. Carefully remove the tree from the pot or wrapping. The crown of the planted tree should be at least 1″ above the surrounding soil. Place the tree in the hole holding it upright. If you are not confident you have it even use a level. backfill the hole to about 3/4 full and add water slowly. Fill the rest of the hole. Do not add soil over the top of the root ball, You can cover this with 2-3″ of mulch. Water the tree well.

Trees are most commonly injured by mowing and trimming equipment. Mulch the entire area under the canopy. If you can’t reach it you can’t damage it.


The trees do not require highly fertile soil. It should, however, be well-drained and fertile. If you are not certain of your drainage here is a link to an article including a way to test your soil for drainage.

Flowering Cherry trees prefer soil pH of 6.5 to 7. Test your soil with a kit and amend it. If it is too alkaline add peat moss. If too acidic add dolomitic lime. You can buy the kits and amendments at a good garden center. Test and amend the soil early so that the tree enters the ground with the right balance.

Water And Fertilizer

Fertilize in early spring before the new growth begins. Use a balanced blend of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. (this is N-nitrogen-P phosphorus and K potassium. We live in a community on the Gulf and have local fertilizer regulations. Follow yours.


Prune immediately after blooming is finished or in late winter while the plant is still dormant.

Prune with clean clippers and to remove any broken, dead, or damaged wood. Remove suckers from the bottom of the tree being careful to avoid any root damage. Select branches to cut back to the main trunk to improve airflow.

Pests And Diseases

Regular maintenance counts! Healthy, growing trees and plants are the best defense against disease or pests.

How To Grow Grafted Weeping Cherry Trees

The weeping cherry tree will add dramatic interest to a small space that is highly visible. It is however an investment and will require yearly pruning. It is created by grafting, three different plants.

When planting the trees it is important to keep the grafted portions always visible and never covered by earth or mulch. The tree will require staking and pruning to maintain its size and shape. You can trim the branches to raise them from the ground. Prune the tree in late winter while dormant or just after its bloom period.


A cloud of cherry blossoms;

The temple bell-

Is it Ueno, is it Asakusa?

How many, many things

They call to mind

Those cherry blossoms

-Basho Matsuo, most famous of the Haiku poets

Ephemeral, delicate, airy. That’s how they look. It is not really how they are, If you would love to grow these trees don’t worry. Just remember how the first gift of 3000 trees arrived from Japan.

In 1912 they packed them into a ship in Yokohama, over water to Seattle, and then onto rail cars to Washington DC. They survived all that and you can still see them on The Mall today! We should just go to one of the many Cherry Blossom festivals we have today and just enjoy them.