How to Prune Japanese Cherry Trees

Updated July 19, 2017

Ornamental flowering fruit trees like Japanese cherry trees grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide, and require a yearly pruning in order to maintain the natural, wide-spreading and weeping form. Japanese cherries produce stunning single to double, white or pink flowers that bloom from early- to mid-spring and are followed by their small, round fruit. Foliage on cherry trees is yellow to orange to create a showy display. Used mainly as street and lawn specimen trees, Japanese cherry trees enhance the garden and landscape.

Prune the Japanese cherry immediately after spring flowering. Remember flower buds develop on cherry trees during the previous season's growth and if pruned before spring flowering, the flowers will be eliminated.

Cut crossed or overgrown branches by making a ΒΌ-inch cut above an active bud. Cutting above a bud encourages new branch development and prevents die back of each stem.

Remove all disease- or insect-infested branches by cutting them to ground level. Discard the branches to prevent infecting nearby plants.

Trim back new shoots to 1/3 to 1/2 of their length to encourage side shoots to develop. Thin out small branches and twigs to decrease dense, weak growth and redirect nutrients to remaining branches.

Remove all low-hanging branches that interfere with mowing and walking. Cut off all suckers or shoots rising out from the base of the tree as soon as possible.


Begin pruning while the plants are young to maintain the tree's natural shape and avoid over pruning. In between cuts, sterilise the pruning shears with rubbing alcohol to decrease spreading of disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Rubbing alcohol
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About the Author

Callie Barber has been writing professionally since 2002. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate indoor and outdoor living environments. Her articles have appeared on and Barber holds a Bachelors of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina.