Japanese Cherry Tree Facts

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Cultivars of Cheal’s weeping cherry, also called Japanese flower cherry (Prunus serrulata), and Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) are the ornamental cherry trees that yield profuse flowers in the annual cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C. The attractive Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella) offers the advantage of living longer. You're most likely to find shorter cultivars at nurseries and garden centers.

Japanese cherry trees in the spring.
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Cheal’s weeping cherry, grows 50 to 75 feet tall, producing profuse numbers of white to pink flowers in early spring and pea-sized black fruits in late summer. The grafted cultivars do not yield fruits. Cheal’s weeping cherry and its cultivars will all grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6a through 9b. The cultivar you're most likely to find, “Kwanzan” (Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan”), also listed as “Kanzan" (Prunus serrulata “Kanzan”) grows 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The narrow, columnar “Amanogawa” (Prunus serrulata “Amanogawa”), also listed as “Erecta” (Prunus serrulata “Erecta”) grows up to 20 feet tall, and produces light pink flowers. Wide-spreading “Shirofugen” (Prunus serrulata “Shirofugen”) has unscented flowers white flowers with double rows of petals. Two cultivars are not good for coastal areas. They are “Shirotae” (Prunus serrulata “Shirotae”) also listed as “Mt. Fuji” (Prunus serrulata “Mt. Fuji”), which grows up to 20 feet tall yielding fragrant, pink flowers and “Shogetsu” (Prunus serrulata “Shogetsu”) also listed as “Shimidsu” (Prunus serrulata “Shimidsu”) that grows 15 feet tall, showing pale pink flowers in late spring.

A weeping cherry tree in Japan.
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The rounded, spreading Yoshino cherry tree can grow 40 to 50 feet tall and just as wide. Its showy, slightly fragrant white to pink flowers appear in early spring before the tree leafs out. Yoshino cherry and its cultivars will grow in USDA zones 3a through 7b. Smaller cultivars include “Akebono” (Prunus x yedoensis “Akebono”) also called “Daybreak” (Prunus x yedoensis “Daybreak”) a rounded tree with pink flowers that blooms in early spring. This cultivar is not suited to coastal areas. “Shidare” (Prunus x yedoensis “Shidare”) grows in a weeping form and has white flowers.

Yoshino cherry tree in full bloom.
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Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella) grows 20 to 40 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide, living longer than Cheal’s weeping cherry or Yoshino cherry. As with the other Japanese cherry trees, it produces white to pink flowers with single or double rows of petals before it grows leaves. The cultivars you're likely to find at nurseries are not suited to coastal areas. “Autumnalis” (Prunus subhirtella “Autumnalis”) features multiple trunks with upright branches that form a rounded canopy. “Autumnalis” produces white to pinkish flowers with double rows of petals in early spring and sometimes again in warm fall weather. You’ll need a lot of room for the graceful, weeping “Pendula” (Prunus subhirtella “Pendula”), with its white or pink flowers with a single row of petals. Higan cherry and its cultivars will grow in USDA zones 5a through 9b.

Higan cherry tree in spring.
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Japanese cherry trees grow rapidly, up to 25 inches a year in some cases, but are short lived. Yoshino cherry may only live 15 to 20 years. These trees are susceptible to numerous problems with insects and diseases, which generally contribute to their early decline.

An old cherry orchard.
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