Although a hybrid ornamental cherry tree with origins in Japan, the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) has the potential to reach 40 to 50 feet in mature height, but it typically stays much smaller than that in the garden landscape. In March or April its branches are filled with thousands of palest pink to white blossoms. Attaining a broad but rounded canopy, this ornamental cherry tree requires little pruning maintenance, but it should always be pruned immediately after flowering ends. This allows for healthy regrowth of stems and initial development of next year's flower bud tissues by fall.
Examine the canopy of the cherry tree, looking for any dead or damaged branches. These branches likely will not have flowered and will feel dry and brittle. Cut them off with hand pruners, positioned flush with the tree trunk or main branch or 1/4 inch above a lower live branch junction or leaf bud. Dead or broken branches can be removed any time of year when you find them. Branches thicker than 3/4 inch in diameter are more easily cut with loppers.
Look for any diseased or insect-ridden areas of the tree. Fungal problems may cause some twigs to ooze a gooey sap or feel soft and rotten, while insect webbing or cocoons may be attached to twigs. Remove them, making the pruning cut 1/4 inch above a lower branch junction or leaf bud that is not infected. If you do remove a diseased branch, rinse the cutting blades with rubbing alcohol to sterilize them before you prune other branches or plants in your landscape.
Reduce the length of any overly long or errant branch tips in the tree to your visual aesthetic. Look for low branches that dangle into the clearance area over a walkway or driveway or those that are growing toward or into a building facade. This should be trimmed back for safety.
Snip off any sprouting suckers, the leggy stems that shoot up from random bare areas on the trunk or base, making the pruning cut flush with the trunk. Suckers can be removed anytime they are seen and may resprout a couple of times during the growing season.
Make a final visual inspection of the tree's canopy, seeing if there are any branches that are rubbing against one another, causing a wound. Remove or reduce the length of one of the branches so the rubbing no longer occurs.
Consider removing any branches that grow across the center of the canopy, too. You want a well-structured Yoshino cherry with all branches growing outward from the central trunks and branches. Make pruning cuts 1/4 inch above lower branch junctions or flush with the trunk or larger branch.