Also known as the Japanese flowering cherry or Kanzan, the Kwanzan cherry tree is a fruitless and sterile plant that boasts stunning beauty. Thanks to the minimal care requirements of this tree, it is well worth planting in any garden. These cherry trees feature deep and dramatic pink double blossoms with rich red-copper leaves emerging in fall.
If this double-flowering cherry tree sounds perfect for your garden, then read on to learn how to grow and care for the Kwanzan tree.
Quick Overview of Kwanzan Cherry Tree
|Origin||China, Japan, Korea|
|Scientific Name||Prunus serrulata|
|USDA Hardiness zone||5-9|
|Fertilizer||slow-release nitrogen-rich blend after second year|
|Max growth||30 feet tall|
|Sunlight||at least 6 hours a day of direct sun|
|Water||deeply once or twice a week|
|Propagation||from cuttings and grafting|
|Soil||acidic, well-drained and wet|
|Pests||borers, scales, aphids and spider mites|
|Bloom time||spring from April to early May|
|Uses||bonsai, container or above-ground planter|
|Flower color||pinkish red|
|Plant type||fruitless deciduous tree|
History of Kwanzan Cherry Tree
The Kwanzan flowering cherry tree was originally named after Sekiyama mountain in Japan. It wasn’t until 1912 that the tree became known in the US after Japan gifted more than 2,000 of this flowering tree to Washington D.C. Today, the Kwanzan cherry tree can be seen all over the city and every spring, their beautiful blossoms attract lots of visitors to the city.
Appearance of Kwanzan Tree
With its clusters of large double pink blossoms that resemble carnations, this fruitless cherry tree puts on a great show from April to May. The pink flowers of the tree tend to last longer than other cherry tree species, and once the blossoms fade, the tree’s green leaves take on a hint of red by summer. In the fall, the shiny bark of the tree with its twisted branches become more noticeable. Once the tree has reached its maturity, it will have grown up to 30 feet tall.
Kwanzan Cherry Tree Care
Although the Kwanzan cherry tree is native to islands of Japan, China, and Korea, it has adapted very well to the climate in the US. This tree can tolerate temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes the tree ideal for growing in all kinds of climates.
This cherry tree requires irregular watering once or twice a week. Water the tree deeply after checking the topsoil. If it’s dry, then it’s time to water it.
Kwanzan cherry trees need a lot of sunlight to thrive. These trees should not be planted in partial shade and typically need a full day of sunlight.
The best soil condition for growing Kwanzan cherry trees should be well-draining and moist. That said, these trees aren’t too picky and generally do well in sandy or clay soils. They can tolerate both alkaline and acid levels.
Mulching and Fertilizing
The good news is, you won’t need to fertilize your Kwanzan cherry tree for the first two years. After the second year, boost its growth by feeding the tree with a slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizer for two years. Be sure to protect the tree from pesky weeds by mulching around its base. Mulching will protect and nurture the soil while preventing the tree’s roots from drying out.Apply the fertilizer in the spring and summer by dividing the fertilizer into 2-4 applications. As a rule of thumb, apply the fertilizer once a month from March to June.
While Japanese cherry trees can be propagated from seeds, cuttings will be the quickest and easiest method. Follow these simple steps to propagate your Kwanzan cherry tree:
Step 1. Take a cutting from the cherry tree in summer. Choose a branch that has 2-4 leaf nodes and leaves.
Step 2. Trim up to 4 inches from the cutting at a horizontal angle and remove all the bottom leaves. Leave the upper leaves intact.
Step 3. Place the cutting in a rooting hormone.
Step 4. After two days, place the cutting into a soil mix consisting of half peat moss and half perlite. Make sure the cutting is firmly planted into the soil.
Step 5. Place a plastic bag over the pot and put it in a sunny location. Lightly spray the cutting with water twice a day to keep the soil moist.
Step 6. After 3 months, check the cutting to see if it’s rooted. The roots must fill the pot before the cutting is repotted.
Step 7. Repot the cutting in a gallon-sized once it has rooted properly. Fill the container with potting soil and move the plant outside. The potted plant needs full sun (at least 6 hours a day).
Step 8. After one week, plant the cutting in the ground.
Kwanzan Cherry Tree Planting Tips
- Kwanzan cherry trees are bold focal points of gardens. They are best planted in rows along driveways and even in containers as a bonsai. You may even plant your flowering cherry tree in the front yard in full view of everyone. In fact, almost anywhere around your home can be a good location for planting this tree. Ideally, you’ll want it somewhere you can see from your window.
- Kwanzan cherry trees go very well with yellow-gold shrubs and blue flowers. The pink blossoms of these trees complement the blue and yellow flowers beautifully.
- When planting your Kwanzan, choose a spot with well-draining soil and direct sun. If you want to plant several cherry trees, space them around 12 feet apart.
- These types of cherry trees have a difficult time growing in grassy grounds, so it’s best to plant them in a raised mound bed that has good drainage. The mound should ideally be 15 inches or so above the surrounding soil. If you live in a hot climate, spread 3-5 inches of mulch layer around the tree. Test the soil for moisture after planting by dipping your finger into it.
Kwanzan cherry trees don’t require much pruning unless their twigs or branches are attacked by pests or diseased. In these cases, you must cut the infected twigs immediately. It is also advisable to prune the limbs that have grown too heavy starting from the base of the tree. This will ensure the tree doesn’t get overloaded with out of shape twigs.
As a rule of thumb, you should only prune the flowering tree in the fall after it has completed flowering. Important: sterilize your pruning tools with alcohol in order to ensure healthy trimming and prevent fungus infestation.
Follow these quick steps to safely prune your cherry tree:
Step 1. As stated previously, start pruning your tree in the fall or after the spring season once the tree has completed its floral blooms. This will help eliminate any damaged branches that are susceptible to disease.
Step 2. Using a sharp trimming shear, trim off the discolored branches. Make sure you wipe down the tool after you finish in order to kill any lingering fungus on the shear.
Step 3. Any connecting branches also need to be cut off. These branches will grow bigger and rub on each other, thus reducing air circulation. A cherry tree can’t stay protected against fungal diseases if it doesn’t have proper air circulation. Moisture from overcrowded branches will cause rot disease. Once the tree’s trunk and branches get discolored, they will decay and infect the entire tree. By pruning the connecting branches early in the season, you will help your tree grow in the healthiest possible way.
Common Pests and Diseases
Aphids, Scales and Spider Mites
These pests are commonly seen in most gardens, but if you have a Kwanzan cherry tree, it can be at particular risk of such pests. The small size of aphids, mites and scales makes them difficult to spot. However, the signs of pest attacks often appear on the leaves. Bumps on the flowering cherry tree leaves are a sure sign of scales. Spider mites tend to attack the stems and buds as well as the leaves. White webs are the visible signs of spider mites.
An infestation of mites, scales or aphids will cause severe damage and result in distorting and yellowing of the leaves.
Chemical treatment isn’t recommended unless the tree’s life is threatened by an infestation. For small-scale pest attacks, simply use a garden hose to wash the spider mites, aphids or scales off the tree. To prevent future pest attacks, attract wasps and ladybugs to the cherry tree by planting tansy or dill near the tree.
There are several types of borers that can attack Kwanzan flowering trees. These include the peach tree borer, Pacific flathead borer, and American plum borer. Just as their name implies, these termite-like insects bore through the cherry tree and cause holes that are filled with sawdust.
To prevent borer attacks, the best line of defense is to keep your cherry tree healthy. By watering it properly and making sure the tree receives adequate sunlight, it will have fewer chances of borer injury. While there isn’t much you can do to prevent borers from infesting your tree, pruning and disposing of the infested branches will help minimize damage.
There are also insecticides that will effectively kill adult borers, but these must be applied as soon as the adult borer has laid its eggs.
The most common diseases that threaten the health of Kwanzan flowering trees include black knot, spot, and rot diseases. These trees can also get canker, blight, and mildew. Crown and root rot diseases are due to fungus organisms that are present in some soils. If the moisture level of the soil is too high, the tree will be prone to rot damage, so always make sure the tree isn’t sitting in a puddle of water.
The symptoms of rot disease include discolored leaves that wilt as soon as hot weather arrives. This disease can even cause tree death as there is no cure for it. However, rot disease can be prevented by ensuring the tree is planted in well-draining soil and watered adequately.
For all other common Kwanzan cherry diseases like black knot, there is effective treatment available. The typical signs of black knot include hard, dark swellings on the twigs and branches. Treat these areas by first pruning the infected twigs at a point below the branch’s gall before applying fungicide 3 times per year, starting from spring just before the tree blossoms.
Fungicide is also effective for treating leaf spot and brown rot diseases. Apply as soon as the buds emerge and again when the tree has reached full bloom.
How do I care for a Kwanzan cherry tree?
Kwanzan cherry trees require full sun and well-drained loamy soil. Keep the soil adequately moist as these trees don’t tolerate drought very well. They will thrive in any climate as long as they are watered adequately and fertilized in spring and summer after their second year of growth.
When is the best time to plant a Kwanzan cherry tree?
The best time to plant these cherry trees is in late fall or early spring when the soil is soft and moist. Plant the tree in a sunny spot with good air circulation.
What is the best fertilizer for Kwanzan cherry?
A nitrogen-rich fertilizer, such as a 5-10-10 blend is recommended in early spring before the tree starts blooming. To avoid burning the roots, don’t fertilize until the tree is into its third year of growth.
Why is the lifespan of Kwanzan cherry trees so limited?
Kwanzan cherry trees have a limited lifespan due to their susceptibility to pests and diseases. But despite their ephemeral nature, the tree provides great beauty in any landscape and their blossoms can be enjoyed every spring for up to 25 years.
If you’re looking to add a touch of spring color to your garden, but without having to make a lot of effort, then look no further than the low-maintenance Kwanzan cherry tree! This is the perfect tree to grow purely to enjoy its beautiful and richly colored blossoms in spring.