Flowering cherry trees are one of the first harbingers of spring, with the pink or white flowers blooming over the entire tree before the leaves put in their appearance. The trees do not have a long life span when compared to other varieties, just 15 to 25 years. Plant new trees every few years so there will be new ones to take over for the old.
The Okame (Prunus x incam); Kwanzan (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan'); Higan (Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' ); and Yoshino (Prunus x yedoensis) are all types of flowering cherry trees. The different varieties bloom at different times, with the Okame being the earliest, followed first by the Kwanzan, then the Higan and finally the Yoshino. Pick different varieties to achieve the longest flowering season.
Okame grows from 15 to 25 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide with dark-green, oval leaves 1 to 2-1/2 inches long that change to copper, orange and yellow in the fall. The pink flowers bloom in early spring and are followed by small inedible fruits.
Kwanzan grows from 15 to 25 feet tall and about the same in width, with oval or lance-shaped, 2-to-8-inch-long leaves that turn yellow, orange and copper in the fall; it has double, pink flowers and small, inedible fruits.
Higan grows from 25 to 35 feet tall and about the same in width, with dark green oval or oblong leaves that grow from 1 to 4 inches long, turning yellow and bronze in the fall. This type has semi-double pink flowers that bloom from spring through autumn, and small black fruits.
Yoshino grows from 20 to 40 feet tall and about the same in width. The tree produces almond-scented flowers that start out pale pink and fade to white.
Plant Okame in full sun to partial shade and a soil that is moist to dry. Kwanzan likes full sun and a soil that is moist and very well drained. Higan needs full sun or partial shade and a moist, well-drained soil. Yoshino performs best in full sun and a moist, well-drained soil.
Okame is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9, as far north as southern New England and as far south as Central Florida than across the south and Midwest and up the west coast. Kwanzan is hardy from 5B to 9A, a little further north and not quite as far south as Okame. Higan and Yoshino are hardy from zones 5 to 8, most of the country, except for the far south of Florida and California and the upper Midwest.
Aphids damage new growth; boring insects damage the trunks and branches; tent caterpillars, scales and spider mites damage the leaves. Leaf spot, twig cankers, black knot and powdery mildew are fungal diseases that cause varying degrees of damage to the trees.