Incredibly pretty when in full bloom, the Japanese flowering cherry, Prunus serrulata, is primarily grown for its profuse and showy spring blossoms in early or mid spring. Depending on cultivars, the flowers may come in various shades of white and pink and may be single, semi-double or double. The double-flowered varieties tend to hold their bloom longer. Some are fragrant. Unlike the species which bears black, pea-sized sour cherries, most of the cultivars are fruitless. Native to China, Korea and Japan, most of the Japanese flowering cherry cultivars, previously grouped under Prunus Sato-zakura, are largely of Japanese origin.
- The Japanese flowering cherry is a small deciduous tree that can reach 15-25 ft. in height and spread (4-8 m). This tree is relatively short-lived (15 to 20 years).
- Depending on the cultivar, it may enjoy an upright habit, a wide spreading habit with horizontal branching or a weeping habit.
- The foliage of elliptical, serrated, shiny leaves emerges reddish brown or bronze during or after flowering. It matures to dark green in summer and creates a fresh summer canopy before warming up to attractive shades of bronze, red and yellow in fall.
- The thin, smooth, reddish to bronze, glossy bark is marked by prominent lenticels which add winter interest.
- The Japanese flowering cherry is an excellent tree for lawn specimens, street trees and in groupings.
- Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree (minimum of four hours of direct sunlight each day).
- The Japanese flowering cherry is prone to diseases and pests. Watch for caterpillars, leaf-mining moths, bullfinches, silver leaf, bacterial canker and blossom wilt.
- While the Prunus serrulata species is rarely sold in commerce, its many beautiful cultivars are extremely popular with gardeners, in particular the Kanzan cherry, which is responsible, along with the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) for the outstanding pink floral display each spring in Washington, D.C.