The weeping cherry tree (Prunus subhirtella), with its pink or white blossoms, will be a showpiece in your landscaped yard or garden. Weeping cherries produce a beautiful fragrance and can grow up to 40 feet tall. They grow in a pendulous manner, much like a weeping willow, with their wispy branches arching towards the ground. Maintain it and prevent pests and disease with these helpful hints.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein adds, "There are several popular varieties of weeping cherry. The 'Pendula' Weeping Higan (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula') grows to 40 feet tall and wide with peeling shiny brown bark, profuse pink blooms on sweeping branches, and small black cherries in the fall. 'Autumnalis' Weeping Higan (Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis') is known for its dark pink semi-double flowers that appear in the spring and again in the fall if the weather is warm. The Snow Fountain (Prunus snofazam) only grows to 12 feet and is covered with white flowers. The leaves turn yellow and bright bronze in the fall."
Care and Maintenance of the Weeping Cherry Tree
This tree loves sunlight and well-watered and drained soil. Plant it in an area that receives six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Weeping cherries thrive in a place on a stream or river's edge if you live near moving water. They can adapt to most soil conditions, but need plenty of moisture for the roots. However, they cannot tolerate soggy soil, so avoid spots that puddle or retain water. Avoid overly windy spots that could damage the delicate branches. Choose a spot far enough away from structures or other trees to accommodate its mature spread, which can reach 20 feet in width.
TIP: Rachel advises, "The weeping cherry grows best in USDA zones four through eight."
For a young tree, use a combined nitrogen-phosphorus fertilizer via a soil injector every month, and water whenever the soil is dry. After the first year of growth, cut fertilizing back to one application of slow release granules in the spring. Work the granules into the soil using a garden claw. Ideally, use fertilizer formulated especially for cherry trees. A two-inch layer of compost is an organic alternative to commercial fertilizer.
Establish a watering routine. Water the equivalent of one inch of rainfall per week for your tree's first year. Cut watering back to a deep soak every two to three weeks after the first year. Wash the leaves at least once a week with high pressure from your water hose, to keep them clean and free of aphids and spider mites. Be sure to wash the undersides of the leaves as well.
TIP: Rachel notes, "Dwarf weeping cherries trees are available and only grow to 15 feet as opposed to 40 or so. They need the same level of care as full-sized weeping trees."
Pruning and Trimming
As many weeping cherry trees are grown from grafts, on rare occasions a new main leader branch will emerge at root level. Prune these back immediately to retain nutrients for the foliage, using well-sharpened shears. In addition, the stock tree may begin growing branches of its own in addition to cherry branches. You will be able to distinguish these branches because they will grow straight up as opposed to arching like the rest. Prune stock branches back immediately while they are young and tender. Make the smallest possible cut into the bark to avoid pest and fungal infestations.
The foliage boughs will arch, then bend downward all the way to ground level. Trim the tips sparingly, keeping them just a few inches above the ground. Prune the branches in varying lengths for a more natural look or uniformly for a formal appearance. Conduct pruning in the late winter or early spring. Mulch the lawn out to the edge of the tree's shade patch, to prevent weeds and grass from competing for the tree's water supply. Remember to keep the mulch a few inches from the tree's trunk to prevent mold and pests.
Prune and trim a dwarf weeping cherry tree in the same manner, and apply a thick layer of mulch around its trunk.
Pest and Disease Control
TIP: Rachel suggests, "Pests and disease thrive in messy, debris-filled areas. Because of this, always make sure to keep the areas around your tree clean and free of debris. Rake and pull weeds often."
A healthy, fertile weeping cherry tree in well-dampened soil will not attract pests and fungus infections. But aphids, borers and spider mites will attack if the tree begins to suffer the least bit of drought. Examine the leaves for yellow spots to detect the presence of spider mites. Leaves that look chewed or distorted reveal an insect infestation. For an organic method of insect removal, use predator insects like pirate bugs, thrips and lady beetles to control all three of these pests. Predatory bugs can be bought online or can simply be found in nature and relocated. Avoid sprayed pesticides once you have imported these predator insects to your garden.
When watering, dampen the roots and leaves with a high-pressure stream from your garden hose. Wet down any sand or dirt pathways near the weeping cherry tree, to avoid airborne dust on the leaves. Spider mites cling more effectively to dusty leaves and prefer hot temperatures above 90 degrees F (32 C).
Remove tent caterpillars as soon as you see their first wisps of tent fiber. Prune the branches where their nests are attached. Use an insecticide only if they have achieved a good hold on the tree.
Cherry leaf spot is a common fungal infection for weeping cherries. The first symptom of cherry leaf spot is tiny purple spots on the leaf surface. Then, you will notice black and yellow spots on the leaves that expand until the leaf falls off. They appear as if they have bullet holes in them. As soon as you notice the first sign of cherry leaf spot, treat your weeping cherry with a fungicide. An effective preventative method is spraying your tree with a mixture of neem oil and water. Neem oil is an organic oil that prevents pests and fungal infections and can be bought in garden supply stores or ordered online. Mix two tablespoons of neem oil with one gallon of water and a few drops of dish soap and liberally spray your tree every three weeks or so, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well.
Powdery mildew and red spot are two more fungal infections that your tree could be susceptible to. Red spot manifests as holes in the leaves and powdery mildew leaves powdery white deposits on the leaves or twigs. If detected early, these infections can be stopped from spreading by careful pruning above the infection line. Remember to immediately dispose of all pruned infected material.
Twig canker is a bacteria-based disease that can damage weeping cherry trees. Check the leaves for black or brown spots, and the newest branches for dull brown spots instead of the usual smooth bronze bark. Prune back infected branches and dispose of the infected material.
Weeping cherry tree care and pest control is integral to its survival. Follow these hints and tips, and yours could live to be 70 years old!