A flowering cherry tree blooms in the spring with a riot of blossoms covering the branches. Because the cherry tree blossoms develop on stems that grew the previous year, a gardener must wait to perform pruning maintenance until after blossoming finishes. This ensures that you do not accidentally prune away future blossoms, thereby reducing cherry growth during the growing season. Prune flowering cherry trees annually in late spring or early summer to keep the trees healthy and vibrant.
Watch the blooming progress of the cherry tree in the spring so you will know when the blossoms finish blooming. This is the time to prune the cherry tree.
Examine the cherry tree to find branches that you should remove for basic thinning on the cherry tree, to maintain healthy growth and an attractive shape. Look for branches that cross other branches and rub, and tag these branches for removal by tying a piece of brightly coloured string around the branch. Tag any new sucker growth growing out from the trunk below the first established scaffold branch. Tag unhealthy branches that did not blossom.
Cut away sucker growth with lopping shears as long as the branches are less than 3.75 cm (1 1/2 inches) in diameter. Remove these suckers at the trunk and discard them.
Trim away the branches you tagged in the centre of the tree that cross other branches and rub. Use a pole pruning saw for branches larger than 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter that are high up in the tree or use the lopping shears for smaller branches within easy reach. Remove these branches back to 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) away the next-largest branch by cutting or sawing them off cleanly.
Prune unhealthy branches from the cherry tree with the pole saw or the lopping shears, removing them back to 1.25 cm (1/2 inch away) from the next largest branch.
Discard all growth you remove. Do not leave it beneath the tree because it can cause bacteria to develop in the soil.
If you must trim back a branch without cutting it back all the way to the next-largest branch, cut it off just above a bud without removing more than one-half of the length of the branch. This trimming is effective for controlling growth -- if a power line is above a tree, for example.