Pruning Weeping Cherry Tree

sparkleANDsplatMarch 29, 2013


I recently purchased and planted a bare-root double flowered weeping higan cherry tree (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' - Double bare) which was grafted above the root ball. Most information I can find about this type of tree is for those grafted at a 4' or 6' height. The label for this tree says the tree will only grow 7-9' high with an 8-10' spread. The label reads, "thin and tip prune to shape."

The tree is already over 8' tall but the spread is very minimal at this point.

In not finding much information about this type of graft on this type of tree, I'm not 100% certain on how to prune or train going forward. I know I should prune after flowering, and from the buds, it looks like I'll be getting some flowers this spring despite just having planted the tree.

To start with, I'm thinking I should prune off lower branches to create a clear trunk. However, with so many branches in the low to mid range of the trunk, I may only do the lowest branches this season after flowering and continue clearing up the trunk next pruning season. Does this sound like a good plan? I thought it would minimize too much shock at once.

I know branches will thicken and spread over time, but do I need to stake any of the branches from a young age to create a pleasing, spreading shape? Or do I just let the tree do its thing? I'm inclined to let the branches develop this year and then take a look at shaping next year, but I also know the branches can get pretty thick and hard to train in a singular growing season, so waiting might limit my options for shaping.

I'm probably being overcautious, but as we're starting fresh with young trees in our smallish city yard, I'd like to make sure I get the shaping right from a young age. I've had to work with older, poorly pruned trees, and I'd like to avoid creating issues for myself as this tree matures.

Thank you for your time and expertise!

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I don't know how to post all three photos in just one post, so here's the second photo of the base/graft.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 4:00PM
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And here's the third photo of the top of the tree (sorry for the power lines, there wasn't a good clear angle to shoot). You can see it was already topped before purchase and has a nice weeping shape. I'm not sure what this tree will turn into shape-wise. I do not like the weeping snow fountain trees, but as this was grafted low, I don't think this will look like one of those. I'm hoping it can look something more like the photo at the link below, but I'm not sure how that is achieved without training some branches.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 4:09PM
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The low graft just means it will never get to be a very large tree at all. And you don't want to do any pruning at this time. Let the tree establish and develop. You should remove any shoots that appear below the graft and any top shoots that are growing in an unusual, outward or non-weeping pattern. But leave the lower branches/shoots in place for the time being as they help with establishment and trunk development. After a few years in the ground, you can gradually remove them from the the lowest point up to where the canopy really starts to develop.

Not to rain on your parade but you should be aware that weeping flowering cherries - in fact, most flowering cherries - tend to be problematic trees in the PNW. Our climate seems to generate a lot of disease issues and weeping cherries/flowering cherries tend to have the lion's share. Keep on top of any problems, watch for rootstock shoots and enjoy your little tree for as long as it looks good and remains in good health.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 5:20PM
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I agree with GG. When my friends in Seattle had one, we went so far as to do a dormant spray to keep the goop at bay and some Neem just before bud break. It worked for a time, but now that they live on the dry side of Cascades don't know how it's doing presently.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Specimen shown is one structured as though deliberately trained to have many branches at different heights, to produce a nice fountain-like appearance later. So it would be at cross purposes to purchase one grown in this style and then limb it up. That said, some people are bothered when the lowest branches of weeping cherry trees start to grow across the ground. However, this can be controlled by simply tipping those particular branches back as needed. I definitely would not recommend the too-common, dominant approach of giving these trees a regular salad bowl haircut. This removes the gracefulness that is the whole point of planting a weeping variant, makes them look trite and silly.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 9:11PM
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I have a weeping cherry tree that was planted last year. It had wonderful blooms on it this spring. I notice that the branches have grown to the point they are touching the ground. Can I trim them at this time or do I have to wait until the tree goes into winter sleep?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 11:27PM
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I planted a Snowflake Weeping Cherry on Memorial Day 2011 that was just a tad bit larger overall than your tree. I didn't do a thing to it other than water it and feed the bed it was planted in organic fertilizer the first two years. This year there were about a dozen branches nearly touching the ground, but the tree canopy had really not got much wider like I'd hoped. About one month ago today (about 2 weeks after the tree had dropped it's flowers), I trimmed all the branches about 4ft. up from the ground. Today the tree canopy is about 1-2ft. wider than it was a month ago.

If I were you, I wouldn't mess with that tree for at least one year... probably two, but that's just me.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 1:59AM
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ajmartin(z6 TN)

Please, where did you buy this tree? I have been looking for one for years.
BTW prune spring flowering trees and shrubs right after they bloom as they bloom on last years wood.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 3:44PM
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