The Yoshino Cherry tree, or Prunus x yedoensis, is an ornamental hybrid cherry tree from Tokyo that is now a recognizable staple in the Washington, D.C. area. The tree develops gorgeous white flowers with tinges of pink in the spring, followed by small black cherries that are unfortunately inedible for humans because they are so bitter, but are well-loved by a variety of birds. The Yoshino Cherry has an interesting political history, bonding U.S. presidents to Japanese leaders since the early 1900s through several exchanges of the trees as gifts to bridge international relations. With proper planting and care, you can enjoy the Yoshino Cherry tree’s beautiful blooms every spring.
Select a location in full sunlight to plant your Yoshino Cherry trees. The Yoshino Cherry makes a striking landscaping feature to line lawns, decks and patios. Just be sure that your location is large enough to accommodate these fast-growing trees that can reach 40 to 50 feet in height with a 25- to 40-foot spread.
Till an area that is 4 to 5 feet in diameter for each tree. The Yoshino Cherry needs to be planted in large, wide beds for strong root growth. Make sure the soil pH is around 6.5 to 7.0. If your soil is more acidic, till in 10 pounds of dolomitic lime to help adjust the pH. Be sure that your soil is well-drained.
Dig a hole for each tree that is as deep as its pot. Loosen with a pitchfork as you dig. Place the Yoshino Cherry tree into the hole and backfill the soil. Firm the soil around the roots. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the tree.
Water immediately after planting your Yoshino Cherry trees, moistening the soil thoroughly to a depth of 12 inches so that the lower roots receive adequate water. You should water again the next day. Water in this same fashion regularly thereafter for the first year whenever the soil is dry 2 inches deep.
Prune your Yoshino Cherry trees in late winter. Cut back developing branches so that you have approximately 2 feet between the levels of branches to maintain the “scaffold” shape. Prune any branches or stems that develop from the trunk that are below 2 to 3 feet from the soil surface. Cut back any diseased or dead stems or branches.
Watch out for Bot canker. Although cherry trees are susceptible to few diseases, Bot canker is one disease that is common to these trees. If your trees have Bot canker, you’ll see browning under the bark and cankers developing on the stems. No spray or true “cure” exists for Bot canker, so cut back all the dead wood regularly to control this disease. Be sure to disinfect your pruning tools after each use with a solution of 3 parts water and 1 part bleach.
Look out for ambrosia beetles, which are one of the few pests that harm cherry trees. Unfortunately, there is no way to save the tree after it’s infected, but you can prevent the beetles from spreading to your other Yoshino Cherry trees by spraying the stems of the surrounding trees with Permethrin. If your tree has small holes in its stems and branches with tiny toothpick-like projections of sawdust along the stems, you likely have an ambrosia beetle infestation.