Sakura trees are small deciduous trees that are native to various parts of Asia, though most Sakura trees hail from Japan. These are beautiful trees that flower heavily with showy blooms in early or mid-spring. They bloom before the foliage has had a chance to arrive, and therefore give a very dramatic floral display of white or pink blossoms clustered on bare branches.
These trees typically reach heights of between 15 and 25 feet, though, in some rare instances, they can grow as tall as 40 feet. They spread to a similar size, providing shade in gardens and public spaces. The foliage of this tree is also attractive, starting out in a reddish-bronze in spring before developing to deep green and then fading to yellow, orange, and red in fall, then finally dropping to the ground.
The leaves are elliptical and have a glossy finish, with serrated edges. The tree carries interest through every season, providing an interesting skeleton even through winter when the shimmering bronze bark can be better seen. Most Sakura trees do not fruit, which is beneficial if you are put off by cherry blossom trees because of the messy clean up when the fruits fall to the ground. These trees are well suited to being planted on large lawns, on sidewalks, and in borders. They are easy to care for, requiring little maintenance except for consistent irrigation.
Sakura Trees Overview
|Origin||Japan, China, Korea|
|Scientific Name||Prunus serrulata|
|Type||Flowering deciduous tree|
|Common Names||Cherry blossom tree, Japanese cherry tree, Sakura tree, East Asian cherry tree, Oriental cherry tree, Hill cherry tree|
|Height||Up to 40 feet tall|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering||Average moisture needs|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets and livestock|
|Pests||Leaf-mining moths and caterpillars|
Prunus serrulata' Amanogawa'
This cultivar was first produced in 1886. It is a small tree with a narrow growth habit. It produces stunning, fragrant, semi-double flowers throughout spring in a pale shade of pink. It has received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Prunus serrulata ‘Asano’
This is a very graceful tree that blooms in abundance with flowers that look like pom poms. Each blossom has around 100 petals and resembles chrysanthemum flowers. They arrive in tightly packed clusters between mid and late spring.
Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'
This is one of the most popular cultivars of ornamental cherry trees and is actually the second most popular type of tree planted in Washington D.C, which is famous for its cherry blossom festival. The flowers of this tree can measure up to three inches across and are held in pendulous clusters.
Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’
This tree produces clusters of drooping flowers that emerge as pink buds but are white in full flower. It flowers in late spring, with blooms all along the elegant branches. It has a very vigorous growth habit and is one of the more popular Sakura cultivars.
Prunus serrulata' Shogetsu'
The flowers of this tree are pure white, with frilly petals that give the blooms the look of dancing ballerinas tutus. This tree blooms in late spring through early summer with large clusters of flowers that can measure up to six inches.
Prunus serrulata' Shirotae'
This is an award-winning variety of cherry blossom that produces pure white flowers. Each flower has between 5 and 11 petals, which fan out as cup-shaped semi-double flowers. The blooms have an alluring fragrance that is reminiscent of almonds, and they are some of the largest blossoms of any Sakura tree.
Sakura trees grow well in a wide range of soil types, including loamy, clay, or sandy soils. This ability to thrive in varying soil types makes them suitable for growing in almost any garden, as they will be able to adapt to different soil types. They can also grow well in acidic, alkaline, or neutral soils. Their one requirement when it comes to soils is that the soil is well-draining because they will struggle to thrive in excessively wet soil that becomes boggy or waterlogged. A well-draining soil will prevent these types of problems, as the soil will allow any excess water to drain away from the roots of the tree instead of holding it close by.
Sakura trees have average moisture needs, enjoying neither wet nor dry soils, but performing best in soil that is kept consistently moist. They do gain some tolerance of drought once mature, but long periods of dry soil is not good for Sakura trees, so avoid this if possible. During months when rainfall is low, be sure to water your tree regularly. An appropriate soil type is one of the best ways to ensure that your tree gets the right amount of water it needs.
A well-draining soil will prevent the roots from being subjected to too much moisture, though ensure the soil is not too sandy and drains too quickly; otherwise, the water will pass through before the roots have a chance to absorb enough. Another way to ensure the tree receives adequate moisture is to use mulch over the top layer of the soil. Mulching will prevent the soil from losing water through evaporation and will help to keep the soil moist between irrigation.
Sakura trees perform best in full sunlight, though they can also tolerate partial shade. They require between four and six hours each day of unfiltered, direct light to thrive, though more sunlight will result in a greater abundance of flowers, so for the most spectacular floral display, you should ensure the tree is grown in a position of full sun. These trees are not tolerant of high levels of heat, so if you are growing the tree in a climate towards the higher end of their hardiness zones, then allowing the tree some shade in the afternoon will help it to keep cool. Otherwise, full sun exposure should be your aim for this tree.
Temperature and Humidity
Sakura trees are hardy throughout USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. They cannot survive in extreme temperatures, whether that be very hot or very cold. Once established, they are better able to withstand temperature fluctuations, but on the whole, prefer to remain somewhere in the middle of the temperature range. They can tolerate humidity but do not need it to thrive and grow well in dry air.
Sakura trees can be propagated from both seeds and stem cuttings, though stem cuttings will provide a faster and more successful method of growing new Sakura trees. To achieve this, you should take a cutting from your tree that is semi-hardwood. This means that it should not be an older branch that is stiff and brittle, but also not a new branch that is very flexible. You can identify semi-hardwood by attempting to bend it. The stem should give a little, neither snapping nor bending too much.
The cutting should be taken during the summer. It will need to be between four and eight inches long, and have between two and four leaf nodes on it, with sets of leaves. After making your cutting, remove all of the leaves from the lower half of the stem, then dip the raw end in rooting hormone powder. Prepare a small pot of moist soil and make a hole in the center by pushing a pencil into it. Insert your cutting, cut side directly into the soil, and gently tuck it in so that it stands up without help.
Fix a plastic bag over the pot and place it on a sunny window. The plastic bag will recreate a greenhouse environment for the cutting, providing it with humidity to help it root more quickly. Keep the soil moist by misting it twice a day, or adding a small amount of water every few days. Sakura cuttings can take a long time to root, so you will need to be patient with this process. After two or three months, you can start checking on your cutting to see if it has rooted.
New leaf growth will indicate that the cutting has rooted, but you can also check for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If it pulls out of the soil easily, then roots have not yet formed, and you should leave it a few more weeks before trying again. If you feel resistance when you pull on the cutting, then this indicates that roots have formed and gripped onto the soil, which is why it will not be pulled out easily.
Continue your care of the cutting, keeping the soil moist until the roots have filled the pot. Once the roots have developed enough, transplant the cutting to a larger pot of fresh soil and sit this outside for a few weeks to acclimatize. After this, you can plant the young Sakura tree directly into the ground, ensuring it is in a spot that will receive enough light to keep it thriving. Ensure that the soil is kept moist as the tree settles into its new spot, and reduce watering slightly as it becomes more established.
This is a fast-growing tree that is great for quickly filling a space or providing shade and cover in your garden. Sakura trees rarely need pruning for aesthetic purposes, as they tend to grow in an even, symmetrical and attractive shape naturally. However, the speed at that the tree grows means that sometimes branches can become large and heavy before the trunk is mature enough to withstand the weight. If this happens, you can simply prune back the heavier branches to reduce the pressure on the trunk. You should also periodically prune the tree to remove any damaged or diseased branches. If you want to prune the tree to control growth or maintain a neater appearance, you should always do this after the branches have flowered so as to avoid interrupting the blooming process of the tree.
Unfortunately, Sakura trees are prone to suffering from pests and diseases, and due to this, they do not have very long life expectancies. They are considered to be short-lived trees and do not typically live longer than 15 to 20 years. The best advice to ensure your Sakura tree has a long and healthy life is to ensure it has plenty of water and fertilizer. This will ensure vigorous growth, which will help to keep the tree strong and hopefully better able to resist attack. However, problems should still be expected.
Common pests that affect these trees are caterpillars, aphids, spider mites, and scale insects. Caterpillars will munch voraciously through the leaves and deprive the tree of vital nutrients. You should remove caterpillar nests as soon as you spot them and check the tree over regularly in order to prevent too much damage from being done. Regularly blasting the foliage of the tree is a good defense against aphids, spider mites, and scale, as this will physically wash them away. This is a good way to prevent serious infestations, but if you notice a severe problem with pests, then you'll need to take further measures, such as a pesticide. You may wish to treat your tree with a neem oil spray as a preventative measure against pests. This is an organic pest control that will discourage pests from setting up a home on your Sakura tree, and it is completely safe for your plants, pets, and the environment.
Blossom wilt, bacterial canker, silver leaf, and other fungal infections can also commonly affect Sakura trees. The best way to encourage good health and protect against these problems is to ensure the tree has good air circulation. You can do this by thinning out any dense branches and ensuring other trees or shrubs are not growing too close by. If a problem does take hold, you can treat it with a fungicide or antibacterial spray, but if the issue persists, you should dispose of the tree to prevent the disease from spreading through the rest of your garden.