How to Prune a Weeping Cherry Tree

Overview

A weeping cherry tree (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula') is a romantic garden feature in spring, with its drooping branches laden with showy white or pink flowers. The form of the tree is an important part of its beauty and careful pruning is essential to maintaining its appearance. Pruning is also important for the health of the tree, along with proper watering. The weeping cherry is happiest in moist, well-drained soil and full sun. A mature tree can be 15 to 30 feet across and 20 to 40 feet tall.

Assessment

Step 1

Check the weeping cherry tree to see if there are any "suckers" or small branches growing at the base of the trunk.

Step 2

Examine the trunk and branches to see if there are any watersprouts, which are branches that grow vertically and quickly from the trunk or drooping branches. In a weeping cherry tree these vertical branches may be concealed at first by the drooping of branches above them. These fast-growing branches can drain energy from the tree.

Step 3

Look at each branch to see if it is crossing and touching another branch. With its multitude of narrow branches the weeping cherry needs careful attention to the potential problem of branches rubbing against each other and opening the bark to diseases. If there are crossed branches, choose which will be cut.

Step 4

Note which branches have no leaves and are dead, and plan to remove them.

Pruning

Step 1

Assemble pruning tools based on the maturity of the tree and the size of its branches: pruners for branches up to one-half inch in diameter, loppers for branches up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and a pruning saw for larger branches.

Step 2

Cut any suckers at the base of the trunk. Be careful not to cut the trunk itself and cut as close to the ground as possible.

Step 3

Remove any watersprouts completely, leaving no stub but not making an incision in the trunk or a healthy branch.

Step 4

Cut away crossing branches. If you are saving part of the branch, place the cut one-quarter inch above a bud. If you are pruning the branch from the trunk, locate the branch "collar" where it connects with the trunk, and cut just above that.

Step 5

Prune off dead branches on the weeping cherry. The tree forms its own barrier to dead wood and you should not disturb that when pruning. If the entire branch is dead, make your pruning cut just outside the raised "collar" where the branch joins the trunk. If a branch is healthy but has a dead side branch, remove the side branch, leaving 1/4 inch of dead wood.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune within three days before a rain or snow storm. Water-borne bacteria or fungi can enter fresh pruning cuts.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Pruners
  • Loppers
  • Pruning saw

References

  • Clemson University, Cooperative Extension, HGIC 1018 Ornamental Cherry, Plum, Apricot & Almond
  • South Dakota State University, Department of Agriculture, Forestry Publications, The Basics of Tree Pruning
  • University of Missouri Extension, MG8 Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs, August 2009

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida IFAS Extension, Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula': Weeping Higan Cherry
Keywords: pruning weeping cherry, weeping cherry tree, pruning tools

About this Author

Daffodil Planter's writing appears in the Chicago Sun-Times, and she is the Sacramento Gardening Scene Examiner for Examiner.com. A member of the Garden Writers Association, she has a bachelor's degree from Stanford, a law degree from the University of Virginia and studies horticulture at Sierra College.