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How to Prune Ornamental Cherry Trees

cherry tree in blossom image by PHOTOFLY from

Ornamental cherry trees (Prunus serrulata) bear ruffled pink blossoms in the spring, making them an attractive landscape tree. While elegant, these trees are short-lived, primarily due to pest and disease damage. Excess pruning stresses the ornamental cherry, rendering it more susceptible to diseases. Prune your ornamental cherry sparingly and with the goal of removing unhealthy wood. The best time to prune is in the late spring or early summer, after your ornamental cherry finishes blooming for the season.

Mix a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water in a bucket. Place your pruning tools in the bucket.

Prune off the dead, diseased and damaged wood at its base, cutting off the limb without cutting into the trunk. Dip the pruning tools into the bleach solution to sanitize them between cuts to prevent spreading disease to healthy parts of the tree.

Cut off branches that cross against each other, since their rubbing will lead to wood damage. Cut low-growing branches that impede movement under the tree or branches that slope downward.

Trim back long branches using anvil pruners to control the size of the cherry tree, if desired.

Life Expectancy Of Ornamental Cherry Trees

Most ornamental cherry trees are considered fast-growing plants, with a height increase of more than 25 inches per year. Some types of ornamental cherry tree are remain quite small, such as the Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa), which reaches only about 10 feet tall. These plants need regular pruning to remove dead or diseased wood and don't tolerate salty soil. They can suffer heavily from mites, scale insects, leaf rollers, boring insects and aphids. You can increase the expected lifespan of your ornamental cherry tree by planting it in a well-ventilated area with well-draining soil to prevent wet roots. Remove pests by hand and destroy any diseased or infested wood as soon as you notice it to keep these problems from spreading.


Dead branches feel brittle. Diseased and damaged branches are wounded, broken, scarred, discolored or physically deformed. Use anvil pruners for small cuts and lopping shears for those larger than 3/4-inch in diameter.

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