How to Plant, Grow and Care For Weeping Cherry Trees
The pink weeping cherry tree is known for its plethora of pink flowers in early spring, though, unlike most cherry trees, this one isn’t grown for its fruit. This ornamental cherry tree can produce pink or white flowers and is grown primarily for the visual interest that it adds to the landscape.
These beautiful trees have the appearance of traditional cherry trees but with weeping branches that resemble a willow. Thus the weeping part of the name. Weeping cherries come in a variety of sizes as well. The standard trees can reach heights of 30 feet with a similar spread, while the dwarf weeping cherry tree has a maximum height of 6 feet tall and wide, which makes it perfect for small spaces.
There are even varieties of weeping cherry trees that produce double flowers, adding an extra layer to their already spectacular spring bloom. This is a deciduous tree. Once it blooms in the spring, it puts on glossy green leaves in the summer. In the fall, the leaves turn golden and drop to the ground. The weeping cherry tree is bare in winter until it blooms again in spring.
Growing weeping cherry trees is relatively easy when planted in their ideal location in well-drained soils. They rarely need pruning aside from removing any dead or damaged branches. Not only are the blossoms pleasing to the eye, but the flowers provide a food source for pollinators early in the growing season when not much else is available.
While the plant does not produce edible fruits, it is important to note that it produces small inconspicuous berries that will fall to the earth. These do not cause a significant litter problem. They mostly become food for the birds!
Quick Care Guide
|Common Name||Weeping cherry tree, Weeping Higan Cherry, Prunus pendula|
|Scientific Name||Prunus subhirtella, Prunus pendula pendula, and more|
|Height & Spread||Can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide, dwarf varieties around 6 feet tall and wide|
|Light||Full sun, can tolerate partial shade|
|Water||Keep well watered, especially during dry periods|
|Pests & Diseases||Spider mites, Japanese beetles, root rot, cherry leaf spot, powdery mildew|
All About The Weeping Cherry Tree
Prunus subhirtella and Prunus pendula are the botanical names for this tree, also known as the weeping Higan cherry tree. It originated in Japan and was one of the first varieties of cherry blossom trees introduced to the U.S. and Europe in the mid to late nineteenth century.
In Japanese culture, cherry blossom trees symbolize renewal because of their bloom time in the spring. However, since the blooms are short-lived, they are also symbolic of the fleeting nature of life. In Western culture, the gift of a cherry tree is supposed to symbolize good luck.
This perennial tree with weeping branches is considered a long-term investment in landscaping as it can grow for up to 30-40 years. The flowers are small, about an inch in diameter, and range from white to pinkish-white, and pink.
Since these are deciduous trees, they will bloom in the early spring. Once the blooms fall, they are replaced by green foliage.
The foliage will eventually turn golden in the autumn, and the tree will lose its foliage completely in the winter. The tiny berries that these trees produce are inedible, but they do provide forage for wildlife such as birds, squirrels and even deer.
Types of Weeping Cherry Trees
There are many different types of weeping cherry tree, but here we’ll discuss the most common types and what makes them stand out from the other trees.
Weeping cherry tree (Prunus pendula, pendula rosea)
This is the most popular variety of weeping cherry trees. It produces deep rosy-pink flowers that bloom on weeping branches in late winter/early spring. Flowers appear in clusters of 2-5 blooms.
As flowers fade, small black inedible berries appear in their place. Mature trees have a height and spread of 15-25 feet. Foliage turns red and orange in the fall.
Snow fountain dwarf (Prunus serrulata)
This dwarf weeping cherry tree has a mature height and spread of 8-10 feet. As its name would suggest, this variety showcases white flowers giving it the appearance of a fountain of snow. The flowers are fragrant, and the green summer foliage turns a lovely golden orange in the fall.
Japanese dwarf weeping cherry (Prunus serrulata Kiku-Shidare-Zakura)
This dwarf weeping cherry tree reaches a height and spread of 10-15 feet. It produces pink, double flowers. Kiku-Shidare-Zakura means “weeping chrysanthemum cherry” as the pink flowers have the appearance of a small chrysanthemum.
Hiromi dwarf weeping cherry (Prunus jacquemontii)
This is one of the smaller dwarf weeping cherry tree varieties with a mature height of 6-7 feet and a spread of 2-4 feet. Its compact growth habit makes it ideal for small spaces. It produces pink flowers, and because of its short height and even smaller width, it can appear more as a bush than a tree.
Double weeping cherry (Prunus pendula plena rosea)
This variety produces deep pink double flowers. These trees are covered in blooms, clustered in groups of 3-4, each with a red calyx. Their display lasts a week or so longer than other varieties. Mature height and spread of 15-25 feet.
Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Shidare Yoshino’)
This type is one of the larger varieties with a mature height and spread of 20-30 feet. The branches are covered in white flowers in early spring. The green summer foliage turns a bronze-gold before shedding for the winter.
Weeping Cherry Tree Care
These weeping trees are relatively easy to care for, but some base requirements must be met. Read on to learn about the ideal growing conditions for weeping cherry trees.
Sun and Temperature
Both regular and dwarf weeping cherry tree varieties thrive in full-sun areas that receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. They can tolerate partial shade, though they may not bloom as profusely under these conditions.
Most weeping cherry tree varieties can survive in USDA hardiness zones 5-10. However, be sure to check your specific variety as some are not suited to hardiness zones 5 and below.
Similar to the cherry trees that produce edible fruit, these trees need a certain amount of “chill hours” in order to break dormancy and flower in the spring. To achieve this, most varieties need 700-900 hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water and Humidity
Water is most important when you first plant your regular or dwarf weeping cherry tree to make sure the root ball gets established. Mature weeping cherry trees are more likely to survive dry spells, but young trees need extra attention.
To help with moisture retention at planting, placing a layer of mulch around the tree can be beneficial. When mulching, leave a 3-4 inch mulch-free zone around the base of the trunk. It’s best to water trees in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Water regularly until the tree is established.
If you live in a dry climate, then you may consider adding drip irrigation as a “set it and forget it” method of keeping your tree well-watered throughout its lifetime. This is not necessary if you receive regular rain in your area.
Weeping cherry trees do not appreciate high humidity. High humidity, in combination with poor circulation, can lead to fungal issues.
Weeping cherry trees are not picky when it comes to soil type as long as it provides adequate drainage. However, they will thrive in a loose, loamy soil type with a neutral pH.
Excess water surrounding the root ball can lead to issues with rot. For this reason, avoid planting these trees in a low-lying area of the landscape or near a downspout.
It’s also important to tamp down the earth around the roots when planting to avoid any air pockets. This helps the roots of newly planted trees work their way into the surrounding soil easily.
One of the things that make growing weeping cherry trees relatively carefree is that they don’t require additional fertilizers in order to put on their spectacular flowers.
A healthy dose of organic compost or organic material in the planting hole at the time of transplant will be sufficient when you grow weeping cherry tree types.
If you wish to offer your tree a boost, then you can side-dress with more organic compost at the beginning of each growing season.
Your regular or dwarf weeping cherry tree does not require regular pruning. However, the overall health of the tree and its canopy can be improved by pruning to provide adequate airflow and to remove diseased or dead branches.
It is recommended that growers do not remove excessively drooping branches. After all, it is a weeping tree! For the same reason, remove branches that are growing straight, as they will continue to grow upwards rather than weeping.
You may also want to consider planting far enough from other trees and structures to allow it to spread its canopy fully and avoid the need for pruning to control its size and shape. Leave exterior drooping branches in place and prune only to open up the canopy for good air circulation.
When you grow weeping cherry tree, you may also wish to prune in the event of disease issues by removing affected branches. Do not cut the tree when it begins flowering or while it displays its pink flowers. It is best to prune during the wintertime while the tree is dormant.
Like most flowering cherry trees, weeping cherries can be grown from seed. However, this is the most time-consuming method. Germination of weeping cherry seeds can take anywhere from 4 months to a year.
They can also be propagated from cuttings. Cuttings can be taken in the summer from newer wood. Choose a branch that has at least 2-4 nodes and leaves.
Follow traditional cutting propagation methods like dipping in rooting hormone and placing it in soil. Keep them well watered until roots form. Your cutting can be grown in a pot or directly in the ground.
Still, this method requires a few years to reach a full-grown tree. Most weeping cherry trees that are available commercially, however, are grafted trees.
Weeping cherry trees are often top-grafted trees, meaning the weepy part of the tree, the scion, is grafted onto the rootstock of a standard single trunk to create an umbrella-like shape.
Repotting Weeping Cherry Trees
Unless you grow from a cutting, you likely won’t need to re-pot your flowering cherry trees as you’ll be planting them directly into the ground. However, if you are growing from cuttings, you will want to re-pot every year as the cutting outgrows its container.
When you do, make sure you pick a container at least 2 inches in diameter larger than its current container. Once your cherry tree reaches about 4-5 feet in height, you may plant it into the ground. These trees can grow to full size in about 10 years.
While weeping cherry trees are known for their stunning beauty and easy-to-manage care requirements, a few issues can arise. These flowering cherries can often be the target of many different pests and diseases. It’s best to remain vigilant and stay ahead of any potential problems.
Pink flowers and overall blooming can be reduced due to inadequate light. For this reason, when choosing a planting location, it is best to choose a site with full sunlight. Weeping cherries prefer as much light as possible but can tolerate partial shade.
To get the largest amount of pink flowers from your cherry tree, choose a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
Since your cherry tree will be in the ground for 30-40 years after planting, you’ll want to pick the best spot. To determine whether or not an area gets enough light, be sure to check it in the morning, mid-day, and early evening.
It’s important to do this in the winter when the sun’s rays are lowest in the sky since this will be the minimum amount of light that any given space will receive. Then you can enjoy the flowering cherries with their pink blooms in spring. Remember to mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture.
Spider mites are small tick-like arachnids that feed on the leaves of trees and plants. There are many different types of spider mites that can be red, green, yellow, or brown. You may notice web-like structures on the leaves, which can indicate their presence.
While they do feed on the young leaves, they usually leave behind only cosmetic damage, such as chew marks. If caught early, the spider mites can be blasted off with water.
Serious infestations can be treated with horticultural oil sprays. However, natural predators may move in to take care of the rest of the infestation, as lacewings love to snack on them! In addition to mites, aphids and caterpillars can also be a nuisance, but again, they cause little more than cosmetic damage, and their natural predators abound.
Japanese beetles are roughly ⅜ inch long with shiny green bodies and tan wings. They are an invasive species and are the bane of everything from your vegetable garden to your trees. They feed on plant leaves and flowers, usually in large groups.
Japanese beetles can cause serious damage to your tree’s branches and trunk. They can defoliate large sections or skeletonize the leaves. If you catch the problem early on, you can remove affected branches and apply organic pest control.
Using a pyrethrin spray is the most reliable method of controlling Japanese beetles. However, a product called milky spore powder can be used over time to gradually reduce the number of beetle grubs that overwinter in your spore. Follow all application directions for both of these products.
As mentioned above, this plant requires well-draining soil. Allowing these flowering trees to sit in standing water, or to be overwatered, can lead to a fungal disease that causes root rot. If too much moisture is gathering around your cherry tree and you notice that growth is lackluster and leaves seem to wilt, even with adequate water, then you may have an issue of rot.
To correct this issue, remove soil from around the base of the tree to reveal the upper roots and allow the area to dry out. Once the infected area is dry, spray the trunk with a copper fungicide according to the directions. Let the soil dry before continuing to water again.
Powdery mildew appears as a white powder on the foliage, especially in areas that receive a lot of rain or humidity. In these areas, shape your cherry tree to give it adequate airflow, removing any young branches that grow towards the center of the tree’s canopy. This fungal disease does little harm to the tree but will reduce its overall appearance.
Leaves can prematurely drop, and an unhealthy tree can be more susceptible to pests. In some areas, it’s quite common for powdery mildew to appear at the end of the growing season. Since this is a deciduous plant, you may wait it out until the leaves drop in the autumn, as this will resolve the issue naturally.
Cherry leaf spot is yet another one of the fungal diseases that plague the weeping cherry tree. It causes purple, yellow, and black spots on the leaves. The size of the spots will expand as the infection spreads, and this eventually causes the leaf to drop.
Fungicides with an active ingredient of myclobutanil or captan can protect leaves from infection of leaf spot, but some leaf spot has developed resistance to myclobutanil if it is applied too often.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is weeping cherry a good tree?
A: Yes! They add a beautiful focal point to your landscape, require little to no pruning, and can last for up to 30-40 years.
Q: How messy are weeping cherry trees?
A: Generally, they’re not messy. These trees do not produce edible fruit. Most produce very small, hardly noticeable berries when they drop to the earth.
Q: Can I plant a weeping cherry tree close to my house?
A: It’s not a good idea to plant any tree right next to the house as its roots can cause foundation damage, especially to slab foundations.
Q: Do weeping cherry trees have invasive roots?
A: The weeping cherry tree has a nonaggressive root system.
Q: How big do weeping cherry trees get?
A: Some varieties can grow to be 30 feet tall and wide. Most dwarf varieties are around 6 feet tall and wide.
Q: Where should I plant a weeping cherry tree?
A: Choose a planting site that receives full sunilght and has loose, well-draining soils.
Q: What is the lifespan of a weeping cherry tree?
A: Weeping cherry trees can grow for 30-40 years.
Q: What does a weeping cherry look like in the summer?
A: Glossy green leaves appear on this deciduous ornamental tree in summer.