Cherry trees are renowned for their beautiful blossoms in spring and their sweet, tangy fruit in summer. Their pink and white flowers are a stunning sight, while their shiny red cherries are a tasty summer treat.
But what about the rest of the year? Do cherry trees stay evergreen through fall and winter? Or do they lose their leaves like some other trees?
What Does Evergreen Mean?
When describing plants and trees, the term evergreen refers to species that keep their green, healthy foliage year-round. Evergreen species do not shed all their leaves at once in fall or winter. Instead, they maintain their green canopy of older and newer leaves over multiple growing seasons.
Some examples of classic evergreen trees include:
- Pine trees
- Fir trees
- Spruce trees
In contrast, deciduous is the term used to describe trees that completely lose all their leaves on an annual basis. Deciduous trees are considered “bare” in winter. However, they regenerate a completely new set of green leaves each spring.
Familiar examples of deciduous trees include:
- Maple trees
- Oak trees
- Birch trees
So in considering whether a given tree species is evergreen or not, you simply need to observe whether it keeps any green, healthy leaves during winter dormancy or loses them all until new growth in spring.
Types of Cherry Trees
To determine whether cherry trees are evergreen, we need to take a closer look at some of the most popular garden varieties:
Sweet Cherry Trees
Sweet cherry trees, with their scientific name of Prunus avium, are commonly grown for their sweet, heart-shaped summer fruits. Popular sweet cherry tree cultivars include Bing cherries, Rainier cherries, and Black Tartarian cherries.
Sour Cherry Trees
Sour cherry trees (Prunus cerasus) are close relatives of sweet cherries. However, as their name suggests, they produce smaller, more tart summer fruits that are often used in baking and preserving rather than eaten fresh. Montmorency cherries are a well-known sour cherry variety.
Flowering Cherry Trees
Flowering cherry trees like Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata) and Kwanzan cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’) are bred specifically for their prolific spring blooms rather than for fruit production. They put on a vibrant floral display in shades of white, pink, and red.
Are Sweet Cherry Trees Evergreen?
Looking first at popular sweet cherry varieties like Bing cherries, these trees demonstrate very clear deciduous habits:
- They produce lush green foliage over spring and summer
- All leaves turn yellow and fall from branches in autumn
- Bare branches go fully dormant in winter
- New buds, leaves, and flowers emerge again next spring
Therefore, while sweet cherry trees give a beautiful springtime display and bounty of sweet summer cherries, they unequivocally lose their foliage as winter approaches. Sweet cherry trees are deciduous rather than evergreen.
Are Sour Cherry Trees Evergreen?
Similarly, common sour cherry trees like Montmorency cherries are also deciduous:
- Flush with green leaves and clusters of white flowers in spring
- Bear deep red sour cherries in summer
- Drop all leaves come fall and winter
- Remain leafless and dormant for the winter
So sour cherry species follow the same seasonal growth and dormancy pattern. They are deciduous trees that are bare in winter.
Are Flowering Cherry Trees Evergreen?
The famous flowering Japanese cherry trees and Kwanzan cherry trees so renowned for gracing parks and gardens with gorgeous blossom displays also demonstrate classic deciduous behavior:
- Awakening with new growth and flower buds opening in spring
- Dense green foliage develops through summer after the flowers fade
- Leaves transform into warm shades of yellow, orange and red in fall
- All foliage drops away leaving naked branches over winter
- The cycle begins again with new leaf and flower bud burst next spring
Therefore, while flowering cherry trees provide breathtaking spring flowers and vibrant fall leaf colors, they too are ultimately deciduous rather than evergreen trees.
Cherry Tree Winter Dormancy
The deciduous nature of cherry trees serves an important purpose – winter dormancy allows them to conserve energy and protect themselves for renewal in spring.
While in dormancy through fall and winter, cherry trees will:
- Form winter cold-hardy bud scales to protect next year’s flowers and leaves
- Store energy reserves from the previous growing season in their roots and wood
- Avoid damage from freezing temperatures, wind, snow, and ice by remaining leafless
Deciduous habits are a survival mechanism allowing them to successfully reawaken after months of winter cold. Some protection may be needed from extreme cold and animals, but cherry trees are well-adapted to losing their leaves annually.
Benefits of Deciduous Cherry Trees
While they require more cleanup of fallen leaves in fall, deciduous cherry trees offer their own merits and appeals:
- Many cherry tree varieties burst into gorgeous blooms before they leaf out
- Provides early season color and nectar for pollinators
- Full canopies of green leaves offer cooling shade in summer
- Bare winter branches allow sunlight to filter through and warm homes or gardens
- Deciduous trees like cherries provide fall leaf colors before going bare in winter
So losing leaves seasonally is part of the natural lifecycle that allows us to enjoy flowering cherry tree displays in spring, summer cherry harvests, and vivid fall foliage. Their deciduous habits are essential to providing these much loved features.
Conclusion – Cherry Trees are Deciduous, Not Evergreen
In reviewing all major types from fruiting to flowering varieties, it is clear that cherry trees are decidedly deciduous rather than evergreen. They fulfil the definition of deciduous as they:
- Produce an entirely new set of green leaves and flowers each spring
- Lose all foliage on branches in fall and winter
- Endure cold winter months in a dormant, leafless state
Rather than retaining any older foliage, healthy cherry trees will grow fresh new leaves, delicate flowers, sweet fruits, and vibrant fall colors over their annual seasonal cycle.
So if you choose to plant any cherry tree variety in your own garden landscape, expect them to lose their leaves as an essential part of their cycles through spring, summer, fall and winter. Their deciduous nature is unavoidable and utterly normal – simply part of enjoying their many charms as they progress through each season of new growth and beauty.