Cherry blossom trees hold a special place in many cultures. Their striking spring blooms draw crowds of admirers each year. If you’re considering adding a cherry blossom tree to your landscape, it’s important to weigh their many virtues against a few potential downsides. This article will overview the pros and cons so you can decide if they are the right choice for your yard.
The Allure of Cherry Blossoms
During their brief 1-2 week spring flowering, cherry blossom trees are showstoppers. Their flowers emerge right on the branch, not from flower buds like many other blooms. This gives the entire tree the illusion of being covered in a frothy pink and white floral cloud.
In places like Washington D.C. and Japan, the bloom of the cherry blossom trees is an important seasonal event. Festivals celebrate the New Year and the beauty of spring’s arrival. Even in private gardens and landscapes, these trees provide unique texture and visual interest.
Pros of Cherry Blossom Trees:
- Striking “flowering cloud” effect when in bloom
- Signal the arrival of spring
- Frequently draw tourism and events when planted en masse
- Graceful shape and growth habit as a landscape specimen
- Less pruning and maintenance needed than some alternatives
The Fleeting Cherry Blossom Season
One downside to cherry blossom’s eye-catching flowers is their brief lifespan. Depending on weather and variety, the blooms only stick around for 7-10 days. Warmer weather may shorten their peak. Cool, wet, or windy conditions can batter the delicate petals.
So after a year of waiting, that explosion of color quickly fades away. Within 1-2 weeks the floral show is over, carpeting the ground with fallen petals. The tree rapidly greens up with leaves, looking like any ordinary ornamental for the rest of the year.
Cons of Cherry Blossom Trees:
- Very short flowering time – as little as 1-2 weeks
- Can create mess as petals fall rapidly
- Lack fall foliage interest after flowering
That narrow flowering window does mean you need to be ready to appreciate their beauty. Tourists travel at just the right time hoping the peak bloom and their vacation align.
|Typical Bloom Period
|March 15 – April 15
|March 15 – April 7
|April 28 – May 6
So a walk or picnic under the flowing branches has to be carefully timed. But that rarity adds to the mystique of natural wonders like the cherry blossom.
Growing Conditions for Cherry Trees
In addition to fickle bloom times, cherry blossom trees have fairly specific growth requirements. Their needs will vary slightly by cultivar, but in general they thrive under the following conditions:
- Hardy to USDA planting zones 5-9
- Prefer temperate climates with defined seasons
- Susceptible to late spring frosts
- Full sunlight is best
- Can tolerate partial shade
- Well-drained, fertile soil
- Avoid soggy, swampy, or clay-dense soils
- Need regular watering – 1-2″ per week
- Drought stress can cause leaf scorch
Accounting for Size
These ornamental cherry trees have a uniformly rounded shape, branching low to the ground. They are prized as specimen plants, grouped plantings, or fluffy floral hedges:
Their maturing dimensions should factor into positioning them with adequate space to grow. Plant them 15-20 feet from buildings, other trees and infrastructure their roots could interfere with.
Proper siting will let them showcase their flowers and graceful form. It also prevents future pruning battles to control size.
Common Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, the eye-catching flowers also attract insects and other pests to cherry trees. Some potential problems include:
- Tent caterpillars
- Japanese beetles
- Spider mites
- Brown rot
- Bacterial canker
- Leaf spot
- Powdery mildew
Cherry trees have naturally lovely structure and form. So maintaining them with occasional pruning for shape, density, and pest control is worthwhile.
Types of Ornamental Cherry Trees
If you’re sold on adding a burst of spring blooms, many cherry tree varieties exist. A couple popular options include:
The quintessential ornamental cherry tree, renowned for its candyfloss-like white and pink blossoms. Fast growth to around 40 feet tall bears the classic cherry blossom blooms.
Pink double-blossom flowers on a smaller, compact tree that hits 15-20 feet at maturity. The vibrant pink blooms hold up slightly better than more delicate options.
See even more cherry tree varieties in this guide from The Spruce.
Top Cherry Blossom Display Gardens
Part of the mystic draw of these flowering wonders is seeing them en masse. Some iconic spots to catch their fleeting blooms include:
The National Mall (Washington, D.C.) – The capital’s collection of 3,800 cherry trees along the Tidal Basin and National Mall is likely the most famous in the U.S. Gifts from Japan in 1912, they now attract over 1 million visitors annually.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden (New York City) – Home to over 200 cherry trees of 42 Asian varieties surrounding the central Cherry Esplanade. Favorite of locals, although smaller than D.C.’s display.
High Park (Toronto) – Canada’s flagship cherry tree grove contains around 1,300 double-blossom cherry trees scattered around this 400 acre green space. Sakura in the Park Festival celebrates at peak bloom.
Are Cherry Blossom Trees For You?
Only you can weigh all the up and downs of planting an ornamental cherry in your yard. No doubt their spring floral display is stunning. But the realities of the narrow bloom period, maintenance, and pest pressures give reason to pause.
Here are a few good alternatives that may beat cherry’s looks and challenges:
- Crabapple – Similar shape and size to ornamental cherries, bright spring flowers and fall fruit for year-round beauty. Disease resistant modern hybrids make it an easier tree overall.
- Redbud – Spectacular magenta blooms coat branches in early spring, fading to large heart-shaped leaves that turn golden in fall. Shorter height only 15-30 feet suits gardens of any size.
- Dogwood – Springtime white, pink, or red bracts, lovely red fall foliage, and bright berries on shorter trees of just 15-30 feet height. Lends four-season appeal.
Hopefully this overview gives you a complete look at the upsides and downsides of cherry blossom trees. Their cultural fame is unmatched, but be sure to pick the right plant for your landscape’s needs and care capability. Catch their fleeting blooms as they sweep through your area, or appreciate them in managed public spaces.
With proper siting and care, those clouds of pink and white blooms will keep enchanting from private yards or grand botanical gardens every spring. Just be ready to enjoy nature’s show while it lasts!