Horticulture Magazine

Cherry Blossom ‘Sakura’ Tree Care & Growing Tips

pink cherry blossom flowers up close

Cherry Blossom Overview

Official Plant NamePrunus (various)
Common Name(s)Japanese Cherry, Cherry Blossom Tree, Sakura
Plant TypeTree
Native AreaJapan, Europe
Hardiness RatingH6
ToxicityNone
FoliageDeciduous
FlowersWhite or pink blossom
When To PlantJanuary, February, March, November, December
Flowering MonthsMarch, April
When To PruneJuly
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered or Exposed

Size

Height
4 – 8M

Spread
4 – 8M

Bloom Time
Spring (varies by type)

Soil

Preferred
Most soil types

Moisture
Moist but well-drained or well-drained

pH
Any

Growing a cherry tree in your garden is a great idea. In this article, we will look specifically at cherry trees grown for their ornamental appeal.

If you are looking for a garden tree which provides visual appeal, then a flowering cherry tree is one of the very best options to consider.

Of course, edible cherry trees also have beautiful blossom, and provide food. So don’t rule out a fruit tree that will add to the food you can grow at home.

Here though, we will cover the largely ornamental flowering cherry trees commonly referred to as ‘cherry blossom trees’.

What are Cherry Blossom Trees?

branches of a cherry blossom tree against a blue sky background

When we talk about cherry trees, these are usually categorised into three main groups.

There are sweet cherries (with fruits which can be eaten straight from the tree), sour cherries (whose fruits are tarter and usually cooked) and cherry blossom trees – or flowering cherry trees – which are usually grown predominantly for their ornamental appeal.

In this article, we are looking specifically at cherry blossom trees, ornamental cherry trees, also known as Japanese cherries or Sakura.

In Europe and N. America, these cherry trees are categorised into the Prunus genus, along with those cherry trees grown primarily for their edible fruit. In Japan, and elsewhere in the East, they are classified as Cerasus – around 100 species distinct from the main Prunus genus.

There has long been a culture of heading out to look at and enjoy cherry blossom in Japan, and this activity has become a major part of the culture there.

Each year, there is a cherry blossom forecast which tracks the progression of the cherry blossom blooming from the south to the north of Japan.

Many people watch eagerly and turn out in their droves to enjoy these beautiful trees. Many foreign visitors are also drawn to the country to see the cherry blossoms each spring.

Cherry trees prized for cherry blossom viewing are usually cultivars rather than wild species.

Many cultivars were created in Japan, and also in Europe around the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th, when Englishman Collingwood Ingram gathered and learned more of Japanese cherry blossoms before creating a number of ornamental cultivars.

Why Grow Ornamental Cherry Trees?

The UK climate is ideally suited to growing a range of ornamental cherry trees.

These bring great ornamental appeal during the springtime when the blossom is out. And wildlife such as pollinators and other insects will also love the trees while they are in flower.

Some varietals also have other features of ornamental appeal, such as purple foliage, for example. There are many cultivars which make great specimen trees in many UK gardens.

Do Cherry Blossom Trees Produce Edible Fruit?

As mentioned above, cherry blossom trees are typically grown for their ornamental appeal rather than for any edible yields. However, the fruits from some ornamental cherry trees (but not the seed inside) is edible when cooked.

Though there is not typically much flesh on these fruits, when the seeds are removed the fruits can be cooked and processed into preserves. Caution is required, however, and most should never be eaten raw.

Another thing to note is that the blossoms (and sometimes the leaves in moderation) are used as food ingredients in Japan.

The blossoms are pickled in salt and ume vinegar and used in confectionary. Sometimes, salt-pickled blossoms are steeped in hot water and used at festive events in place of green tea.

Seeds should never be eaten, and the leaves can be toxic in large doses due to the coumarin they contain and so should not be consumed in great quantity.

Cherry Blossom Varieties

When choosing a cherry blossom tree, there are a number of things to think about.

Consider how much space is available and whether you wish to grow in the ground or in a container.

Think about the eventual size of the tree you are considering, as some grow larger than others.

It is also important, of course, to think about the appearance of the blooms, which can vary significantly, and also about whether a particular cultivar also offers autumnal colour, beautiful bark or notable coloured foliage, for example.

Pink Kanzan Cherry Blossom flowers
Kanzan Cherry Blossoms

Here are just some of the highly regarded cherry blossom trees that you might wish to consider:

  • Prunus serrolata (e.g. ‘Amanogawa’, ‘Erecta’)
  • Prunus x sieboldii (e.g. ‘Caespitosa’, ‘Takasago’)
  • Prunus ‘Royal Burgundy’
  • Prunus ‘Shogetsu’
  • Prunus ‘Kursar’
  • Prunus ‘Kanzan’
  • Prunus ‘Accolade’
  • Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’
  • Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’
  • Prunus ‘Snow Goose’
  • Prunus incisa ‘The Bride’
  • Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’
  • Prunus x incam ‘Okame’
  • Prunus x subhirtella (e.g. ‘Autumnalis Rosea’)
  • Prunus pendula ‘Ascendens Rosea’

These are just a few interesting examples and there are of course many more to consider, so you are sure to be able to find one which appeals to you, and which would suit your garden style and preferences.

flowering Prunus cerasifera tree against blue sky
Prunus cerasifera

Planting Cherry Blossom Trees

Cherry blossom trees are usually purchased either as pot grown specimens throughout the year, or as bare-root examples over the dormant period.

It is usually cheaper, and you will have more variety, if you select and plant a bare-root cherry tree between November and February.

If you do choose a pot grown tree, planting out in spring or autumn offers the best chances of success in transplantation and establishment.

Where To Plant

Choosing a spot in full sun is ideal, and trees will bloom best in such a setting. However, many cultivars can also cope with some light or partial shade.

Make sure there is sufficient space for the cultivar you have chosen. Some smaller cultivars are ideal for container growing, and planting in a container of 40-60cm or so should suffice.

A sheltered spot is best as strong winds can blow the blossom off the trees.

The soil or growing medium should be rich, fertile, and moist yet free draining. Most varieties are relatively unfussy about soil pH.

How To Plant

When planting in the ground, dig a pole three times to radius of the rootball, and a few inches deeper.

Place your tree into this hole, making sure that the graft point is above the soil and the highest roots are around 2-3cm below the soil level.

Fill back in the soil around your tree, pressing it down gently but not compacting, and water well.

Mulch around your new tree with plenty of organic matter, but make sure this is not piled up around the trunk.

Creating a Guild for Cherry Blossom Trees

Even when trees are not grown for edible yields, creating a guild of companion plants around your tree can help to keep it healthy.

Flowering perennials will help to attract beneficial insects to keep down numbers of pests like aphids that might impact the appearance of your flowering cherry tree.

Deep-rooted perennials used around the base will help to draw up nutrients, which can be chopped and dropped to maintain fertility.

Nitrogen-fixing plants will help to feed your tree, and ground cover plants will help to reduce competition from weeds and grasses – also helping with soil moisture retention.

Caring for Cherry Blossom Trees

Cherry blossom trees are generally quite easy to care for in your garden, though when grown in containers, will require a bit more work.

Watering

Water well, especially during establishment. And remember that trees growing in containers will require more watering than trees growing in the ground.

Container trees will usually continue to require watering during dry spells, while mature flowering cherry trees grown in the ground in a suitable spot will usually find natural rainfall sufficient here in the UK.

You will need to water flowering cherry trees in the ground only during prolonged dry spells once they are established.

Feeding

Mulch well around your flowering cherry tree and replenish the mulch with more organic matter each spring.

Trees growing in the ground will not usually require additional fertilisation. If growing in a container, however, it is a good idea to feed with a balanced organic fertiliser each spring.

Pruning

Flowering cherry trees should not usually be pruned unless absolutely necessary. Most will retain a healthy and pleasing form without any pruning.

However, if there is any dead, damaged or diseased material or pruning is required, this should always be undertaken in early-mid summer to reduce the chances of infection creeping in through pruning cuts.

Silver leaf and bacterial cankers can become issues when pruning is undertaken later in the year or during the dormant period.

One well established in the right spot, a flowering cherry tree should be a beautiful and relatively low maintenance addition to your garden.

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