Cherry blossom trees are iconic centrepieces to gardens and therefore need to be cared for correctly. This definitive guide will tell you everything you need to know about when and how to prune your cherry blossom tree.

Cherry Blossom Trees

Why Should I Prune My Cherry Blossom Tree?

The first question you might ask is why should I even be pruning my cherry blossom tree? There are several key advantages to pruning your tree. The first and possibly most important one is health. Pruning diseased or damaged branches can maintain the health of your cherry tree. The second reason is aesthetics. A well pruned cherry tree will flower more and will look less tangled and overgrown.

When to Prune

Trees should be pruned at the start of spring for larger pruning with smaller pruning done after it has bloomed. The following is a list of reasons and things you should look for when deciding what to prune:

  • Are branches crossing and rubbing against each other? This can cause damage to the branches that makes the vulnerable to disease
  • Is the tree overcrowded? Cherry blossom trees often grow thicker than is optimal. Pruning this unnecessary growth will promote flowering and stronger growth.
  • Are there any diseased branches? There are two main diseases that affect cherry trees: Black Knot and Silver Leaf Fungus. These can be identified by large black swellings on the branches and grey/silvery leaves respectively.
Cherry Blossom Trees

How to Prune

The first step to pruning is to have a plan. Examine the tree and identify the areas that need to be removed as described above. You should also consider the shape of your tree, is it weeping or bushy or columnar? This should help direct how you prune it to keep it in this shape. 


Next, prepare your tools. Remove smaller branches with shears or secateurs. For larger branches that need removing, use a pruning saw to give the cleanest cut possible. Clean these tools in bleach and water both before and after pruning and even in between cuts especially when dealing with diseased branches to avoid spreading the disease to healthy areas of the tree. 


Diseased branches that are pruned should be dealt with very carefully. Cut them back to the next healthy shoot without leaving a stub. When removing a whole branch, sever it cleanly at the base of the branch. The cleaner the cut, the easier it will be for the tree to heal itself. Do not allow them to drop to the ground and dispose of them. 


The next stage is to remove dead or damaged branches. Follow the same principles as removing diseased branches. 


Now you have dealt with the dead, diseased and damaged branches, review the tree again before thinning it out. It might be that at this stage you have already cleared out enough space for the branches that are left. Over pruning should always be avoided. Now you can thin out the canopy and shape the tree as you desire. Be careful with young trees to not take too much off the top as this can stunt its growth and affect its lifespan. When pruning older trees you can take off older branches more. 


Always make sure to regularly stand back and analyse your pruning. This is the key to effective and efficient pruning.