Flowering cherry trees are the geishas of the show garden. They aren't grown for fruit as they bear none, but are instead prized for their vibrant blossoms, which range in color from soft white to deep pink and can measure up to an inch across. In the fall, the tree's leaves turn red, orange, bronze, or gold. If you are the owner (or soon-to-be owner) of this beautiful ornamental specimen, however, it is essential to use the proper pruning techniques to keep your tree healthy and attractive. Read on for tips to give your ornamental cherry tree the best treatment possible and ensure that its blooms grace your yard year after year.
1. As with any pruning job, before you make the first cut, sanitize your tools by soaking them in a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water for five minutes and wiping them down with a clean rag. This will keep you from transferring any diseases from another plant to your cherry tree. This process should be repeated any time you move from pruning one tree to another.
2. Flowering cherry trees tend to bleed large amounts of sap once pruned, so the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommends pruning once the leaves have matured. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, ornamental cherry trees should be pruned in the autumn or winter, when the tree is dormant, which speeds healing.
3. One typical feature of ornamental cherry trees is copious amounts of shoots protruding from the base of the trunk and along the main branches. These shoots route a lot of nutrients away from the main tree and should be removed as soon as possible.
4. The most desirable shape for a flowering cherry tree is many long branches protruding from a central point of the tree's main frame. This allows for each long branch to be covered with blossoms each spring and summer. To achieve this, you must use a method known as "pollarding": each year, after the flowers have faded, cut each main branch back to the main frame. This will cause new shoots to sprout from the main frame, creating long, slender branches that will flower the coming year.
5. Use the correct tools. Hand shears work well for branches under 1/2 inch in diameter, while a pruning saw comes in handy for anything over 1 1/2 inches.
6. Once you've removed healthy branches to shape your tree, go after any diseased, damaged, or dead branches, cutting them all the way back to the branch collar and making sure to avoid damaging the bark.
For more information, contact Mead Tree & Turf Care Inc.