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4 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Cherry Blossom

choosing perfect cherry blossom tree
by Ally North Ally North

Cherry blossoms are the must-have tree of the spring, with clouds of pink or white scented flowers that eventually cascade to the ground like confetti - but they’re not just a one season wonder! Their stunning autumn colour, bright foliage and graceful form make them a stand-out tree for any size of garden. The only problem with cherry blossoms is figuring out which tree to choose - the Flower Association of Japan, where they originate, recognises over 300 species, varieties and hybrids! There are huge variations in size, form, colour, shape and even leaf colour, but with so much choice, how do you pick the perfect cherry blossom for you? Don’t worry - we’ve done the work for you, with this handy guide to help you choose.

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1. Size

Firstly, how big do you want your tree to grow? The size of the cherry blossom you choose is dependent on how much space you have, and where you’d like to plant it. You might want tall cherry blossoms for a long rear garden, a compact tree to brighten a border or a small feature tree for the front of your house.

Large (up to 8m)

If space is no object, go for a large, upright variety like Kanzan, Accolade or Tai-Haku - these trees will reach a height between 5-8m metres but can be pruned to fit smaller spaces.

Medium (3-5m)

Coming in at a more compact 3-5m, Pink Perfection and The Bride are ideal for the medium sized garden.

yoshino cherry

Small (up to 3m)

For smaller gardens we would recommend Single Pink or Snow Showers - These trees reach a mature height of around 2.5-3m and can easily be kept smaller with pruning.

For pots (up to 2.5m)

For pots or smaller spaces choose a dwarf cherry blossom like Prunus Kiku Shidare Zakura or Ivensii which will both grow to a very compact maximum size of 2.5m.

small cherry tree

2. Shape

You should also take into consideration what form of tree suits your garden - whether that’s an upright, columnar, spreading or weeping shape.

Upright or vase shaped trees

Vase shaped trees have a central trunk with branches that sweep into an upright, arching shape that is widest at the top. Pandora, a small tree with pale pink blossom - is a good example of this. Vase shaped trees are perfect for gardens and walkways because they allow headroom to walk or sit under them, or for underplanting, while still providing shade. Upright trees such as Kanzan have a less formal looking crown, with dense, spreading branches which are often hidden under clouds of blossom in the spring!

upright cherry kanzan

Columnar or fastigate trees

If you’re looking to fill a narrow space, you need a columnar tree. These are tall and slender, with upright branches - for example, Amanogawa (‘Flagpole’) and Spire have a mature height of 3-5m with a width of under 1m, allowing you to plant several of them close together.

columnar cherry

Bushy or spreading trees

This is the classic cherry blossom shape, with high branches spreading to form a canopy - perfect for the Japanese custom of Hanami, in which people gather beneath the trees with friends, food and drink to admire the blossom. Pink Shell, Shirofugen, Accolade and Tai-Haku are classic spreading trees.

accolade cherry

Weeping trees

Weeping trees have long, flexible branches that hang downwards - some reaching the ground. There are some beautiful weeping varieties of cherry blossom, like Kiku Shidare Zakura, Single Pink Weeping and Ivensii, which will retain a compact form, making them easy to prune.

weeping cherry tree

3. Flower colour

Ornamental cherries have arguably the best blossom of any flowering tree, so you really can’t choose badly. Their flowers have a wide range of tones from snow white to bright pink and everything in between, often changing throughout their flowering period. Many cherry blossom flowers start off dark pink when they’re in bud, open to a lighter pink, then turn to pale pink or white as they mature. The Shirofugen variety even changes completely from white to pink throughout the season! That’s great if you can’t decide, but if you’ve definitely chosen a colour, these are the best varieties to go for.

White flowers

Great White or The Bride.

white flowered cherry blossom

Pale pink flowers

Pink Perfection or Flagpole.

pale pink cherry blossom

Deep pink flowers

Kanzan or Royal Burgundy.

dark pink cherry blossom

4. Flower shape

There are four types of cherry blossom flowers, based on the number of petals they have. A cherry blossom flower can have anything from 5-300 petals in a single bloom! In Japan, the simpler forms are preferred, and the most popular cherry blossom variety is Yoshino, which has five petals per bloom. Whether you prefer the more delicate single blooms, showy doubles and chrysanthemums or something in between, these are our top picks.

Single flowers (5-8 petals)

Ivensii or Kojo-no-mai.

single flowers

Semi double flowers (10-20 petals)

Accolade or Amanogawa.

semi double flowers

Double flowers (25-50 petals)

Kanzan or Royal Burgundy.

double flowers

Chrysanthemums (100+ petals)

Kiku Shidare Zakura.

chrysanthemum flowers


Best for purple leaf colour

Royal Burgundy’s foliage is a sumptuous, deep wine purple, turning scarlet and orange in autumn. Perfect for showing off against a light coloured background or providing contrast in a garden with a lot of green foliage. Prunus cerasifera is not strictly a cherry blossom but a wild plum, but its foliage, emerging bronze and maturing to deep purple, and pale pink flowers certainly give cherry blossoms a run for their money!

Royal Burgundy cherry

Image source: Wikimedia.

Best for scent

Prunus matsumae shizuka is also known as Fragrant Cloud, for its rich, sweet perfume. All cherry blossom has a subtle almond scent, but this one really ramps it up! A great choice for a seating area, where you can fully appreciate the beautifully scented, ruffled white flowers.

Autumn flowering cherry blossoms

If you’re usually away in spring when the cherries blossom - or just want two bites of the proverbial cherry - why not grow an autumn flowering variety? They flower from November to March, providing much needed colour during the darker months of the year.

Autumnalis Rosea or Autumnalis are your best choices.

prunus autumnalis

Whichever cherry blossom tree you choose, plant it in a sheltered spot with plenty of sunlight. Your cherry tree should produce its first blossom the spring after you plant it, and the display will get more and more impressive each year!

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