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Planting a Yoshino Cherry Blossom Tree

Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree

I was looking for a beautiful tree to put in my backyard for a bit of shade, and finally decided to plant a Yoshino Cherry tree, aka the Japanese Cherry Blossom tree. If you are a fan of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., you’ll want to plant one too! Learn how to plant and care for the beautiful, flowering Yoshino cherry tree.

About the Yoshino Cherry

Also known as the Japanese flowering cherry (it’s native to Japan), the Yoshino Cherry is a deciduous tree that blooms in late April. It was introduced to America in 1902. The Yoshino cherry is considered both a flowering tree and an ornamental tree because it’s typically planted for both its visual interest and profusion of white to pale pink spring flowers. An early spring bloomer, the blossoms arrive before the foliage of the tree even fills in. My tree in Northeast PA typically blooms in the last week of April.

In the summer, this tree will remain a highlight in the yard because of its oriental branching pattern, glossy bark and dark green leaves. It grows to 40 feet and prefers well-drained, moist, acidic soil in full sun.

Planting a Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree
Here’s our Yoshino Cherry Blossom Tree, planted on May 8, 2016

The Yoshino Cherry is the star of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The first Japanese flowering cherries planted in the nation’s capital were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo.

The Yoshino Cherry blossom is a hybrid cherry of Prunus speciosa (Oshima zakura) as father plant and Prunus pendula f. ascendens (Edo higan). Although it’s native to Japan, it’s one of the most popular and widely planted cultivated flowering cherries in temperate climates worldwide!

Quick Tip: If you aren’t sold on the Yoshino Cherry Tree, check out my post on the best trees for your front yard. Spoiler alert: the Yoshino makes this list, too!

Yoshino Cherry Tree’s Best Features

  • Produces an amazing profusion of white-pink flowers March through April.
  • It’s simple shaped leaves are often reddish as they emerge and turning dark green by summer.
  • Beautiful, rounded growth habit
  • Blooms attract butterlies
  • Produces 1” round fruits. You can technically eat them, but only small birds (robins, cardinals, waxwings) and small animals enjoy consuming them because the pit (seed) is huge in comparison to the flesh.
full frown Japanese Cherry Blossom Trees
Here’s some full grown Yoshino Japanese Cherry Blossom trees on Marywood University’s campus. It’s a national arboretum!

Yoshino Cherry Tree Pests & Disease

Cherry trees are susceptible to many stresses, including insect problems and disease. However, you can control with regular care: adequate watering, regular pruning and cherry tree fertilizer. Don’t let these diseases deter you too much. It’s a beautiful tree and you’ll enjoy its beauty in your landscape for years to come. 

Most common cherry tree pests and diseases

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  • A bacterium causes leaf spot and twig cankers on cherry. Small, reddish spots dry, and drop out, giving a shot-holed appearance. Defoliation can be severe when conditions favor disease development. Fertilize infected trees and prune out infected branches.
  • A fungus causes reddish spots which drop out leaving shot holes. Once the hole appear the leaves may drop. Update: This actually happened to my tree. The key is to remove the diseased leaves from the tree as soon as possible. If any of the leaves drop clean them up and dispose of them so it doesn’t infect other areas of the tree. Treat it with a copper fungicide.
  • Black knot causes black swellings or galls on the branches. Branches with galls are pruned out. This can also be treated with fungicide.
  • Powdery mildew causes a white coating on the leaves.Mildew thrives in areas with hot summers and mild winters. Planting your cherry tree in a sunny area, pruning to allow good air circulation and using slow-release fertilizers can help discourage powdery mildew. If you already have the mildew, a fungicide can help.
  • Yoshino Cherry may be subject to witches broom. Branches are deformed and clusters of small branches form. Infected branches bloom and leaf out earlier. Prune out the brooms to help control the disease. This is also a fungus so again, try a fungicide to help out your tree.
  • Resources for cherry tree disease:

As you can see, there are a decent amount of diseases that can infect your cherry tree. Most of these diseases are fungus-related. The rest can be prevented by regular care and fertilization. So, I wouldn’t let all these “scary” diseases deter you. My advice would be to buy some copper fungicide and keep it on hand so you can treat it at the first signs of disease. 

Growing and Caring for your Yoshino Cherry Tree

Yoshino Cherry blossom trees should be planted in early spring.  If growing cherries for their fruit, a cooler drier climate is best.

With new trees planted within the last 2 to 3 years, problems are often due to (1) improper planting techniques or (2) inadequate care. So, here are some tips for planting and caring for your cherry blossom tree, especially in its early growth stages:

  • Remove the twine before you plant: If the tree is b&b (balled and burlaped) and the twine isn’t removed, the roots could girde themselves and cut off the trees ability to take up water and nutrients.
  • Cut away some of the burlap and make sure none is above-ground: If not enough of the burlap was cut away and there is any above ground, the moisture will be wicked away.
  • Plant level with the ground (or even a little bit above): Many trees are planted too deep and young trees tend to show the ill effects within 2 to 3 years. Check to see that the trees weren’t planted too deep and the rootflare is showing.
  • Keep mulch away from the trunk: Mulch around the tree, but do not put mulch against the trunk.
  • Water adequately: If your cherry blossom tree was purchased in a container and severely rootbound, it might have trouble taking up enough water. Slow dripping the water is the best way to make sure that it’s absorbed. Get yourself a Treegator slow release watering bag. I use these — and absolutely 100% recommend them!    
  • Fertilize: Keep your Yoshino cherry tree happy and healthy by using a fertilizer regularly Buy fertilizer on Amazon.

Wrapping Up

Even though there are some diseases that cherry trees are susceptible to, it’s a beautiful tree that when properly cared for will be a show-stopper in your landscape. I work at a University that’s also a national arboretum, and we have many Yoshino Cherries on the property. All of them are healthy, beautiful trees. And, the arborist here also recommended this tree to me for my own yard! So if you want your own little cherry blossom festival at home, plant a Yoshino Cherry blossom tree today! Not sure about the Yoshino? Check out my post on the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree – it’s another beauty!

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