The weeping cherry tree is a spectacular ornamental tree that is grown more for its long, graceful branches than its fruit. Though the tree can be disease and pest prone when neglected or sited incorrectly, healthy weeping cherries invariably attract the eye and are excellent showcase plants.
General Weeping Cherry Information
Native to Japan, the weeping cherry (Prunus subhirtella) can grow 20 to 30 feet tall and nearly as wide, and is prized for the white to pink flowers borne on long, trailing branches in the spring. Similar in form to weeping willow trees, weeping cherries are also frequently planted near water, which heightens their visual effect. Most specimens are made from weeping cherry switches grafted onto fast-growing cherry rootstock to hasten maturity. Young trees must be pruned so that the weeping habit forms higher up on the tree; left alone, the tree will sweep low to the ground.
Tree Care and Culture
Weeping cherries prefer to be situated in full sun, though rich soils with consistent moisture are essential for maintaining optimum health of the plant. The weeping cherry also grows well in clay soils as they are slow-draining. Trees exposed to dry soils and consistent drought conditions are susceptible to attack from a variety of pests, both insect and microbe. Grass should be trimmed back to the edge of the canopy to reduce competition for nutrients and water from grass roots. Mulching the root zone also increases water retention.
The tree grows well in most temperate areas of the United States. Though weeping cherry is cold tolerant and hardy to Zone 5, it cannot withstand the harsh winters in most parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa, and will not survive at all in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Colorado's Rockies. Heat-tolerant to Zone 8, weeping cherry generally fares poorly in the extreme southern areas of Texas, Florida, Louisiana, coastal California and Arizona deserts.
Pests and Diseases
As with many members of the Prunus genus, the weeping cherry boasts a whole litany of bugs and invaders. Common insect pests include the tent caterpillar, aphids, borers and spider mites. Diseases that commonly affect weeping cherries include verticillium wilt, powdery mildew, black knot, leaf spot and twig canker. With adequate irrigation, the tree will generally stay healthy enough that these pests won't pose a lethal threat, but any infestation should be treated at the first sign of stress.
Numerous cultivars of the weeping cherry were created for various traits, including extended bloom time, disease resistance and flower color. Pendula is possibly the most commonly planted selection, featuring a heavy crop of light-pink flowers in the spring. Autumnalis blooms in the spring and fall in warmer climates. Yae-shidare-higan, a double-flowered form, blooms for a longer period than other weeping cherry selections.