When to Prune an Ornamental Cherry Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Ornamental cherry trees produce fragrant blossoms in spring, but don't expect to feast on their fruit later in summer. The several varieties of this flowering tree draw many visitors to Washington, D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival every spring. To keep an ornamental cherry tree healthy, compact and attractive, yearly pruning is a good idea. Depending on the age of your tree, prune in either late winter or summer.

Types of Ornamental Cherries

The Sakura flowering cherry tree is the national flower of Japan. There are many specimens of the Quanson, or Kwanzan, cherry tree in Washington, D.C. It produces large double blooms in shades of pink and typically blooms later in spring than the Yoshino. The Okame cherry is another type of ornamental cherry tree that grows in parts of Washington. It grows quickly and produces an "explosion" of pink flowers, according to the website Gardening Central.

Prune Young Trees in Winter

When you prune an ornamental cherry tree, one of your goals should be to encourage its growth for the following blooming season. If you prune a young tree in summer, its growth will slow down, which you want to avoid; wait until the tree goes into its dormant period in winter before you tackle pruning. Prune all branches that appear diseased and those that are broken to improve the tree's health and appearance.

Prune Older Trees in Summer

Mature ornamental cherry trees can reach 40 feet in height. Because older trees are larger than younger trees, and because you might not want your older tree to become too large, prune it in summer to inhibit its growth. Wait until after it finishes its spring blooming cycle and then prune it to maintain a scaffold shape, and keep the central leader branch prominent. Cut all broken branches and those that grow less than 3 feet from the ground.

Growing Conditions

Plant flowering cherry trees in soil that drains well. Improve soil drainage and fertility by digging organic compost into the soil. Ornamental cherry trees also need full sun and good airflow, so leave sufficient space between your tree and other trees or structures such as fences and buildings. These trees accentuate a lawn area; if you want to plant yours in your lawn, dig out the sod in a 4-foot circle where your tree will grow.

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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.