Flowering cherry blossoms in Millennium Park Lake Oswego

Species Highlight: Flowering Cherry

March 18, 2020 By , ,

Against the grey spring Portland sky, flowering cherry trees explode with blooms in a breathtaking spring spectacle.  The fluttering petals, bright white and pink colors, and frilly textures of the flowering cherry are noticed from a distance against the stark backdrop of mostly bare deciduous trees and dark green evergreens.

White cherry blossoms

All across the Portland area, flowering cherry trees bloom in private yards, public gardens, and en masse along rights of way.  The numerous varieties of flowering cherry trees that grow well in our area are most notable for their striking spring-blooming flowers.  Most of the varieties bloom before the leaves appear in the spring, showcasing the blooms as the center of attention.  The flowers range in color from white to rosy pink and range in form from drooping clusters to single blooms.

Growth Habit

cherry tree blossoms close up Flowering cherry bark

Flowering cherry trees are ornamental members of the genus Prunus.  The growth habit of flowering cherry tree varieties range from tall shade trees (Prunussargentii) to small specimen trees (Prunusserrulata ‘Snow Fountains’).  Many flowering cherry trees boast vibrant fall color and interesting smooth grey or brown bark with horizontal lenticels, making them a good choice for multi-seasonal interest in the garden.  Their blossoms can be single, with five petals, or fuller double blossoms, with many more petals.  Flowering cherry trees, despite their showiness during bloom, do not have a strong fragrance.

Care of Flowering Cherry Trees

White flowering cherry canopy

All flowering cherry trees require well-draining soil.  Our arborists recommend ornamental and/or structural pruning of flowering cherry trees every two to four years.  It is ideal to prune flowering cherry trees in January or February, before they bloom in the spring.  Otherwise it is usually better to wait until after the spring growth flush to prune in order to avoid the likelihood of suckers sprouting from the branches and trunk.

Spring Bloom Viewing

Although the total spring bloom season of all cherry varieties lasts about a month in the spring, any one tree will only bloom for about a week, which makes the fleeting spectacle all the more special.  The bloom period varies from year to year depending on the weather, and is trending toward earlier bloom times every year.  Due to their popularity in private yards, you are likely to witness the showy blooms of the flowering cherry in your neighborhood.  If you would like to seek out the spectacle on a grand scale, there are several mass plantings of flowering cherry trees in the Portland area.

The one hundred Akebono trees on the northwest side of  Waterfront Park bloom around the end of March.  Many Portlanders enjoy picnics under these flowering cherry trees during peak bloom.  Cherry trees transform the Sunnyside neighborhood in SE Portland into a dizzying sea of color around mid-April.  The north end of Millennium Plaza Park in Lake Oswego is planted with a block of flowering cherry trees, which are a popular local attraction around late April.