How to Grow a Thriving Cherry Blossom Tree Right in Your Backyard

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated June 28, 2022
Father holding smiling daughter among cherry blossom trees
Photo: Lorado / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Thrives in hardiness zones 5–9

  • Flourishes in well-draining soil, from alkaline to acidic

  • Easy to maintain after initial year

  • Needs plenty of sun and room to spread

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Whether you're a cherry blossom festival enthusiast or are simply looking to attract more pollinators to your backyard, a cherry blossom tree is a must-have. There are hundreds of varieties of these popular flowering beauties, and lucky for us, they're pretty ideal for home gardeners. 

Let's explore the best tips for planting cherry blossom trees, how to keep them happy, and what to expect from these showstopping trees throughout the year.

What Are Cherry Blossom Trees?

While you'll find varieties all over the world today, Japan gifted the U.S. its first cherry blossom tree in 1912 as a sign of friendship, according to the National Park Service

Today, cherry blossom trees—aka ornamental, flowering, or Sakura trees—can be found across the country, from NYC and DC festivals to your neighbor's front yard. 

Can You Eat Cherry Blossom Tree Fruit? 

Keep in mind that cherry blossom trees differ from the cherry trees that bear tasty fruit—at least the fruit you'd want to pop on top of an ice cream sundae. Depending on your region, local pollinators, and the tree varieties, you may see small cherries on your tree, but it's best to leave these for the birds.

Hardiness Zones for Cherry Blossom Trees

Depending on the species, cherry blossom trees flourish in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9—essentially regions with warm and humid summers and winters that don't get too extreme. 

As a deciduous tree, the cherry blossom goes dormant in the winter but sprouts lush pink or ivory flowers in the spring, often just for a couple of breathtaking weeks. Their leaves turn green in the summer and transition to stunning orange, yellow, and red foliage in autumn.

Here are some of the most common types of cherry blossom trees you'll find today.

Common Cherry Blossom Hardiness Zones and Sizes

NameHardiness ZonesSize
Akebono Cherry6 – 930 – 50 ft.
Autumn Flowering Cherry6 – 925 – 30 ft.
Kwanzan Cherry5 – 9Up to 30 ft.
Weeping Cherry5 – 920 – 40 ft.
Yoshino Cherry5 – 930 – 50 ft.

Common Cherry Blossom Colors and Features

NameFlower ColorFeatures
Akebono CherryPale pink that fades to whiteRounded top
Autumn Flowering CherryPale pinkBlooms both in spring and warm autumns
Kwanzan CherryBright pinkMultilayered blooms in clusters
Weeping CherryWhite or pink depending on the varietalLong, weeping branches
Yoshino CherryWhite2 – 5 flowers per cluster

How to Plant Cherry Blossom Trees

Purchase a cherry blossom sapling with a wrapped root ball or bare roots from your local nursery. Determine when to plant your cherry tree by the timing of your local frost. If you're planting a cherry blossom tree with bare roots—common when you order saplings online—plant your cherry blossom tree in the early fall. This gives the roots time to spread out before going dormant for the winter.

There is a little more flexibility with transferring container-grown trees to the ground. While most trees still do best when transferred in the early fall, you can also plant them in the spring after the last frost.

1. Choose the Right Location

Cherry blossom trees are relatively resilient, but you can help them grow taller and stronger against disease if you choose the right conditions.

  • Soil: Well-draining soil is key for cherry blossoms. And while they prefer acidic soil, they can grow in alkaline soil as well. 

  • Sunlight: Choose a spot with either direct or partial sunlight. The tree should receive at least four to six hours of direct sun a day.

  • Space: Give your cherry blossom roots and branches at least 10–20 feet to spread out.

  • Shelter: If you live in a windy area, plant your tree in a sheltered spot to keep spring gusts from removing the blooms.

2. Prepare to Plant

Dig a hole that is at least 2 feet in diameter and the depth of your root ball. When you place the root ball in your hole, the top of the ball should sit right at the surface. Shake loose or trim away any tightly bound roots that wrap around the ball and keep it from expanding. For best results, surround the root ball with fertile, compost-amended soil.

3. Stake for the First Year

Planting a cherry tree
Photo: brianbigel/iStock/Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Now's a good time to support your young tree with stakes and strings. Place your stakes in the ground at a 45-degree angle and attach them to the trunk with twine. Keep the supports in place during the first year. 

4. Water Thoroughly

Water the tree after planting and schedule consistent waterings during the first year or until the tree is established with a strong canopy and root spread. This is a good time to ensure your soil properly drains, as cherry blossom trees will not flourish in oversaturated soil.

How to Care for Cherry Blossom Trees

Learning how to plant a tree can take a little trial and error at first, but most only require consistent attention during their first year. The same goes for the relatively unfussy cherry blossom tree. Here's how to keep an eye on your cherry blossom tree as it grows over the years.

Water

As we mentioned above, be sure to add an inch of water to your tree's soil at least once a week. Once the tree becomes established after about a year, you can let the rain do all the work unless you're currently in a period of drought. 

The tree should maintain about an inch of water each week either way. Like most plants, there's no need to water your tree once the ground is frozen for the winter.

Fertilizer

Give your cherry trees a nice boost by adding a slow-release fertilizer in the early spring right before their big bloom. Speak with your nursery about purchasing specific types of fertilizer for ornamental flowering and fruit-bearing trees. 

Pruning

Pruning a tree can be a DIY job if you don't have to climb too high on the ladder, but we recommend calling a tree service near you for taller or trickier jobs. Prune cherry blossom trees right after their bloom in the spring. Not only can you trim the tree to your desired shape, but removing dead buds and the ends of branches encourages better blooms in the long run.

Additionally, remove any branches sprouting from the trunk or branche that keep light from reaching the center of the canopy.

Pests and Disease

Pruning is also a great time to look out for signs of rot or pests. Trim back brown, dying leaves, dark and swollen branches, or leaves with a silvery hue. These can be signs of brown rot, black knot, or silver leaf fungus.

As for pests, keep an eye out for caterpillar nests, aphids, and spider mites. Remove or trim away areas with the beginning of infestations or treat with a natural insecticide oil if necessary.

Professional Care

If you're not sure about where and when to plant a cherry blossom in your yard or how to care for ongoing issues, call a local arborist for advice. 

Hiring an arborist costs as little as $75 for basic trimming services or between $80 and $120 for a consultation on disease and care, according to HomeAdvisor. Call in the pros whenever you're concerned that your cherry blossom tree requires a trained eye.

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