The Japanese cherry tree (Prunus x yedoensis), known as the Yoshino, is made up of numerous varieties that average 20 to 40 feet in height. The tree has a large, spreading crown with graceful, arching branches. Blossoms appear each spring in a lovely shade of pink that gradually fades to white. The tree's foliage appears after the blossoms in March or April depending on where the tree is located.
The Japanese cherry tree is a hybrid that was created when the Prunus speciosa (Oshima cherry) and P. subhirtella (spring cherry) were crossed in Japan. The tree was first brought into the U.S. in 1902. Since then, numerous varieties and cultivars have been successfully created.
The Japanese cherry tree grows well in full sunlight. When planted in partial shade, the tree produces fewer flowers. The tree prefers well-drained acidic soil with abundant organic material. The tree grows most successfully in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.
The tree requires moist soil conditions to thrive. At least 40 inches of rain is required or supplemental watering must be provided. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the tree to help the soil stay moist and keep weed growth at bay. The tree does not grow well in arid conditions.
In early March, the Japanese cherry tree blossoms. Most blossoms last only two or three days before falling from the tree. Many claim that the scent of the flowers is reminiscent of almonds. The flowering Japanese cherry trees of Washington D.C. always draw large crowds each spring.
Small black cherries measuring 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter appear during the summer and fall months. The cherries are inedible to humans but are adored by birds.
Aphids, tent caterpillars and spider mites often afflict Japanese cherry trees. They are easily removed by hosing the tree off with water or chemical control. Borers attack weak trees. A regular fertilizer and watering regimen will help combat their attacks. Prune away any branches that show signs of borers. Scales appear as tiny red, brown or black dots on the stems of the tree. They are easily scratched away using a fingernail. Use of horticultural oils helps control the insects.