Flowering Cherry Trees
APRIL 2021 | PLANT SPOTLIGHT
By Emily Sachs, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Display Horticulturist
In Japan, the blooming of the Cherry trees, or Sakura, signals the coming of spring and renewal. The flowering of these trees is indelibly linked to new beginnings. The blossoms also embody the symbolism of the passing of time and the fleeting qualities of beauty and life.
Flowering Cherry are in the genus Prunus along with the fruiting cherry, peaches, nectarines, plums and almonds. This genus offers a great variety of flowering woody plants for the home gardener. Flowering Cherry trees are bred more for their flowers, form, and landscape value, than for their fruit, which is small and considered too sour to eat.
There are hundreds of different species, varieties, and cultivars of flowering cherry trees. There are variations in flower color, tree forms, leaf color, and size. Although relatively few of these are widely available commercially, there is still a great variety that can be sourced by the home gardener.
The Yoshino Cherry, Prunus x yedoensis, is a very popular Flowering Cherry tree species that is widely available. The flowers of the Yoshino Cherry are single white to very light pink. The elegant flowers emerge before the leaves, as with other flowering cherries, and create a sharp contrast with the darker branches. Another popular and much showier variety is the Kanzan, or Kwanzan Cherry tree. This tree’s bright pink double flowered blooms thickly cover the branches and create a carpet of petals when they fall.
Generally, the many species of Flowering Cherry trees are small to medium-sized trees which prefer full sun to part shade. Many of them have good fall color and are large enough to be considered a shade tree. As with any tree, proper planting and early maintenance and watering is important to the health and longevity of the tree.
Flowering Cherry trees do have some pest and disease considerations. One of the most important things to do if you suspect a problem is to have it assessed and confirmed before you treat it. This can reduce or eliminate unnecessary pesticide use. The Penn State Extension offers many guides and resources for pest identification.
At Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, you can find our collection of young Flowering Cherry trees at the Lotus Pond. Planting of the Prunus collection at the Garden began in 2016 and will be ongoing. As they mature, these trees will be a beautiful and meaningful expression of the beauty of nature.