When to Prune Flowering Cherry Trees?

Updated February 21, 2017

The yoshino, okame and quanson -- also called kwanzan -- flowering cherry trees are three varieties that bloom in spring and grace the roadsides of Washington, D.C., and other cities with their colourful white to pink blossoms. Late winter pruning is an important yearly practice for young trees. It assists the healthful growth of the tree and ensures the maximum number of blooms the following spring. Prune older trees in summer.

Identification and Species

Many species of flowering cherry trees exist. According to the website About Cherry Trees, the quanson cherry sports large, pink, double blooms that mark the beginning of spring. Foliage begins to appear while the flowers remain. The Snow Fountains flowering cherry cultivar is a weeping type with branches that reach the ground. It has a large array of light pink flowers that blooms also in spring. Flowering cherry trees do not produce fruit, but many gardeners choose them for the beauty and interest they add to their yards.

Growing Conditions

Flowering cherry trees need full sun and well-draining soil, as standing water can kill this tree. Adding organic material, such as compost, at planting time helps soil drainage and gives your tree nutrients it needs. Plant your tree in an area with good airflow, as cold air at ground level harms trees in spring. If you want to plant your tree in a lawn area, clear a 4-foot diameter around the planting area.


Prune young trees in late winter, and mature, older trees when they complete their annual blooming in June through July. Summer pruning inhibits growth and is not recommended for younger trees. Whether you have a young tree or one that has achieved its maximum height of 20 to 40 feet, depending on variety. Correct annual pruning improves the tree's appearance. Pruning broken and diseased branches give energy to living branches.


Prune your mature flowering cherry tree in summer and younger trees in late winter. Maintain a scaffold shape for your tree to accentuate the central leader branch. Prune to encourage the largest branches encircling the tree, leaving about 2 feet between the horizontal branch levels. Cut off all branches to the trunk if any grow closer to the ground than 2 to 3 feet. Do not cut into the branch collar, the raised area at the junction of the branch and the trunk.

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About the Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.