Flowering cherry trees make a magnificent display of cherry blossom during spring when the branches are wreathed in pink or white flowers. Weeping types of cherry tree are ideal for small spaces as both the height and spread are limited, and so they make lovely specimen trees to grow in a lawn, a courtyard, or a border. Those which form an ‘umbrella’ of weeping branches are popular with small children to use as a natural playhouse. Flowering cherries belong to the large genus Prunus, and are deciduous. While flowers are their key ornamental feature, young leaves are often attractively bronzed in colour, then in autumn develop colourful tints before falling.
Weeping cherry trees bear either white or pink spring blossom, with single or double flowers (single flowers are best for bees and other pollinators). The shape of the tree, with weeping branches, is distinctive at all times, and in spring and summer the branches are clothed with large, ovate, toothed leaves. All weeping cherries are compact in habit. Top grafted trees are smallest and grow no taller than the trunk at the time of purchase, usually in the region of 1.2-1.8m, whereas a single stemmed tree grows taller with pendulous branches weeping from the main trunk and has an ultimate height and spread of around four metres.
How to grow weeping cherry tree
Plant weeping cherry tree in good soil and a sheltered site with space to grow out as well as up. Ideally plant when dormant, preferably in autumn. Keep watered during dry spells for the first year and mulch annually.
Where to grow weeping cherry tree
Site a weeping tree where it has plenty of room to develop its wide-spreading habit, ideally as a single specimen to plant in a lawn or in a border underplanted by shade tolerant ground cover plants.
Plant in any reasonably fertile, moisture-retentive soil that doesn’t become waterlogged, somewhere sheltered from strong winds that would otherwise damage the blossoms. In cold areas, avoid low-lying areas prone to hard frosts that could scorch the flowers.
How to plant weeping cherry tree
Plant bare rooted trees only from November to early March, whilst dormant, while container grown trees can be planted at any time of year.
Dig a planting hole sufficiently wide for the roots to be spread out. Ensure the top of the root ball is at soil level, firm in well, water in, and mulch the soil with compost or chipped bark to improve moisture retention and discourage weed growth. Stake the tree with a short stake angled at 45 degrees and secured to the trunk using a tree tie.
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How to care for weeping cherry tree
During the first year, keep the tree watered during dry spells, watering thoroughly once every several days which encourages deep roots to develop. Thereafter, little care is needed apart from keeping the ground around the base clear of grass and weeds for at least a one-metre circle, as they which would compete with the tree for water and nutrients. Ideally, apply an annual mulch of well-rotted compost, 5-8cm thick, over the tree’s rooting area.
Pruning weeping cherry tree
No regular pruning is required apart from removing dead or damaged shoots, and any that are crossing as the contact point can cause wounds. Always prune only in summer when pruning cuts heal fastest.
Alan Titchmarsh shows how to prune a cherry tree, in this video guide. He explains why you must always prune cherry trees in summer, shows the right tools to use for pruning and demonstrates how to improve the shape of your tree.
Growing weeping cherry tree: problem solving
Flowering cherry trees are prone to diseases including silver leaf, blossom wilt, and bacterial canker. Pruning as little as possible, and at the right time of year, minimises the risk of infection as disease enters through wounds and cuts.
Wind and late frosts may damage the blossom in cold areas. Avoid by growing in a sheltered site and away from frost pockets (low-lying areas where cold air gathers).
Advice on buying weeping cherry tree
- Flowering cherry trees are widely available as container grown trees from nurseries and garden centres
- Specialist tree nurseries offer a wider range of sizes and these are best bought during the dormant season when trees are easiest to transport
- Always check trees for signs of damage or disease, before planting
Where to buy weeping cherry tree
Weeping cherry varieties to grow
Prunus ‘Kiku-shidare-zakura’ bears many clusters of double deep pink flowers in April and May. Height x Spread: 4m x 4m
Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rubra’ produces profuse quantities of single bright pink flowers in March and April and is also noted for its excellent autumn leaf colour. H x S: 8m x 8m
Prunus x yedoensis ‘Shidare-Yoshino’ (Yoshino cherry) forms a stiffly weeping head of branches and bears masses of small, single, white or blush-pink flowers in March and April. H x S: 4m x 3m
Prunus ‘Snow Showers’ bears masses of single, pure white flowers, during March and April. H x S: 3m x 2m