Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season At Home

What Would You like to Learn About Today?

With the Spring Equinox’s arrival on March 20th, 2021, we welcome the official (or more specifically, the astronomical) start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the first day of spring also coincides with the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Ornamental cherries are beloved worldwide for their blooms and beauty. Whether you celebrate it by attending a festival (physically or virtually) or you celebrate it in your very own garden, with spring upon us, it’s time to ring in cherry blossom season.

Close up on an arching cherry blossom shrub branch filled with powderpuff pink flowers

Pictured above: Zuzu Flowering Cherry Shrub

What Is The National Cherry Blossom Festival?

While there are many festivals and celebrations honoring cherry blossoms around the country and the world, one of the largest in the United States is the National Cherry Blossom Festival held in Washington D.C. This spring festival is a celebration to honor and commemorate the gift of 3,020 cherry trees gifted from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City to the city in 1912 as a way to enhance relations and growing friendship between the U.S and Japan. Each spring, the trees around the tidal basin in West Potomac Park and the National Mall come to life with fragrant pink blooms drawing the attention of over a million visitors from around the world each year.

This year, the festival is set to start on March 20th and go through April 11th. While we may not be able to attend in person, there are many online activities available to participate in the celebration and witness the true beauty of the season and view the blooms from your own home. If you head to the official website for The National Cherry Blossom Festival, you’ll be able to watch the opening ceremony, access virtual tours of the Tidal Basin, and watch the blooms 24/7 with the bloom cam.

The Meaning and Significance of the Cherry Blossom

Not only are cherry blossoms beautiful, but they have deep meaning in Japanese Culture. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree blooms represent a time of renewal and the temporary nature of life. A cherry blossom’s life is short; with their blooms peaking after around two weeks, their blooms begin to fall. In Japan, cherry blossoms also signify a sign of good fortune and a symbol of love and affection. Cherry blossom or “sakura” season in Japan typically, starts around Mid-March; during this time people participate in the traditional custom of “hanami”. Hanami means “flower viewing,” but it commonly only refers to cherry blossom viewing. This tradition can be traced back at least a thousand years. Hanami during the night is called “yozakura.”

Close up of the powder-pink blooms of a cherry blossom shrub

When Do Cherry Blossoms Bloom?

Depending on what part of the country or world you’re in, you can expect cherry blossoms to appear at different times. Overall, spring is when you can expect your first blooms to appear. Peak bloom dates are typically in March or April but can appear as early as February in some cities or as late as Mid-May in areas such as Michigan, depending on the weather.

Are you trying to predict Spring bloom times for cherry blossoms near you?

When it comes to predicting cherry blossom bloom time, the best way to predict is using a measure called growing degree days (GDD), which is the number of days above a certain temperature. This is not a fool-proof way of prediction though, as we are limited by how precisely and accurately we can predict the weather in advance.

If you’re ready to watch cherries bloom, be sure to keep an eye on the weather. We’re looking for a nice stretch of warm (above 60 degrees) weather for buds to start to open.

How Long Do Cherry Blossoms Last?

Good things can’t last forever, and unfortunately for cherry blossom lovers everywhere, the blooms have a short lifespan. Cherry blossoms will typically come into full bloom (mankai) within a week after the first blossoms flower (kaika); typically, you can experience the cherry blossoms at peak bloom (when at least 70% of the flowers are in open) for about one week. From the period leading up to peak bloom to the period when the flowers begin to fall, can last up to two weeks. If the weather is cooler after the first bloom, you can expect the flower display to extend longer than warm days during this period, as warm weather will cause the flowers to drop off quickly. While sakura season may be short-lived, it’s memorable enough to continue to look forward to year after year!

Types of Ornamental Cherry Trees

There are over 400 species of ornamental Cherry trees today. To identify them, they’re classified by the genus Prunus or Prunus subg. Cerasus. 12 of these 400 varieties were gifted to Washington D.C. back in 1812; two of these varieties are now the most common type in there and ones you may recognize most.

Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoenis) makes up approximately 70% of the trees in the park in D.C. and circles the Tidal Basin. These trees produce bright white blooms that create a cloud-like effect when in full bloom. This variety is known as Somei-yoshino in Japan and is one of the most popular cultivated flowering cherry trees.

Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan”) makes up 13% of the cherry trees in the park. They boast stunning pink double blooms and grow in a lovely vase shape.

Are you looking to add your very own ornamental cherry to your garden?

Close up on a cluster of soft pink powderpuff blooms on a branch of a Zuzu Flowering Cherry Shrub
Shop This

Zuzu®Flowering Cherry Shrub

Zuzu® Flowering Cherry Shrub (Prunus incisa) features all the beauty of a cherry tree in a compact flowering shrub! This springtime icon takes up only a fraction of the space compared to traditional cherry trees but still boasts all the large powderpuff flowers you love. Growing naturally in a columnar habit, any garden or landscape can find a spot for this springtime herald.

Create A Similar Look With:

Yuki Cherry Blossom® Deutzia

Perfect for mass plantings, Yuki Cherry Blossom® deutzia (Deutzia x) transforms landscapes with a pink cloud of blooms each spring. While it may appear delicate, this shrub is durable, a great problem solver, and low-maintenance. It’s the perfect low-growing shrub to use as a groundcover or to create a stunning pink display. The beauty doesn’t stop once bloom time is over; in fall, this deutzia’s foliage takes on rich purple hues, adding interest to your garden all season long.

How To Grow Ornamental Cherries:

When it comes to growing ornamental cherry plants like Zuzu®, they’re relatively easy and simple to care for gardeners of any skill level. Ornamental cherries can typically be grown in USDA zones 5-8 as it goes for any plant, be sure to consider a plant’s hardiness zone before selecting it for your garden.

How to care for Zuzu® Flowering Cherry Shrub:

Soil: Not fussy about soil type or pH; any well-drained spot will do.

Light: Best grown in full sun (> 6 hours sun) but will do well in part sun (4-6 hours sun).

Water: Average

Spacing: 2-3 feet

Fertilizing: Little needed; if desired, apply a granular rose fertilizer in early spring.

Winterizing: A 2-3″ layer of shredded bark mulch is recommended all year long, especially in winter. Branches can be cut for forcing starting in mid-February in most areas.

Maintenance & pruning: Thanks to its naturally dense, narrow habit, little pruning is needed. If desired, prune immediately after flowering since it blooms on old wood.

Where To View Cherry Blossoms:

Haven’t planted Zuzu® Flowering Cherry Shrub in your garden quite yet and wanting to see some cherry blossoms? There are festivals celebrated the blooms nationwide for you to attend physically and virtually. Here are a few of the festivals and locations listed below:

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden 
    • While their annual even Sakura Masuri may not be happening this year, you can still visit the garden to see their collection of 26 species and cultivars.
  • Macon Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival 
    • Discover what 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees look like in bloom! While D.C. might be known as the home of cherry blossoms in the United States, Macon, Georgia holds the title of Cherry Blossom Capital of the World, having 90 times the trees D.C. has.
  • The Washington DC National Cherry Blossom Festival 
    • This festival is one of the most well-known cherry blossom festivals nationwide, welcoming millions of people each year.
  • Traverse City, Michigan 
    • If you’re looking for something a little different, head up to Traverse City during mid-may to catch fruit-bearing cherry trees in action. The best way to see these cherry blossoms is by driving along the Old Mission Peninsula via M-37.
  • Your own garden!
    • With space-saving and low-maintenance plants like Zuzu® Flowering Cherry Shrub, any gardener can view cherry blossoms right in their own backyard!

While we wish cherry blossom season could last forever, its fleeting beauty is a part of what makes this time of year so special. Celebrate via a festival or create your very own cherry blossom festival in your own garden; there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy the season! Ornamental cherries are a great plant to welcome in spring, but they’re not the only ones! If you’re looking for more spring bloomers to fill your garden with, read our Top 10 Spring Blooming Flowers blog to see what other blooms you can enjoy this time of year.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.