I am learning a lot about caring for weeping cherry trees…a little late though, since I recently lost one.
Weeping cherry trees are a lot more temperamental than I realized. I am certainly not a horticulturist by any means…just a homeowner learning the hard way. As I showed you on my Instagram, we HAD two beautiful weeping cherry trees.
As with so many things in life, we learn through misfortune after having lost something – then we focus our attention to learning and caring for that thing like plants, trees, or anything else you can imagine.
As a Homeowner – Due Diligence is so Important
Being a homeowner forces us to learn about all kinds of house related topics we never cared about before like roofs, plumbing, septic systems, masonry, sump pumps…the list is endless. I usually learn about a new topic…when something goes wrong, until that point I don’t really focus or care about it, but I am learning to change that way of thinking.
For instance, do we regularly check our sump pump to ensure it’s working properly? Finding out the sump pump has failed when the basement floods is a bit too late. Check out How to Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Sump Pump.
Having a nice garden and taking pride in our home’s landscaping is something I post about often. I have shared tips like When to Plant, Cut and Store Your Peony Flowers for Later Use and “Pruning” and “Limbing Up” Crape Myrtle Trees. I have also discussed The Importance of Limbing Up Trees in Your Yard and How to Protect Sensitive Boxwoods During the Winter Months.
I learned about these topics by researching them when an issue came up. I may have also relied a bit too heavily on my landscaper and not enough due diligence on my part which led to an unfortunate event with a beautiful weeping cherry tree on our property.
Last Spring 2018 these two cherry trees bloomed beautifully.
The limbs were hanging on the ground and the trees were a bit sparse in areas, so I decided to have them pruned.
The look of a “weeping” cherry tree is stunning! The graceful branches bending over the fence is a sight to see. When I had them pruned last year I had hopes of the branches filling out even more and producing hundreds and hundreds of blooms this year.
That didn’t happen. One tree died completely and the other one only produced blooms on the lower section of the tree! How could this happen!?
How to Unintentionally Kill a Cherry Tree
As the about picture shows in the background, the tree on the right has died and the one on the left has survived.
Mistake number one. Choosing the incorrect time to prune a tree. Before deciding to prune any tree, research the proper time of year to prune. I made the mistake of pruning our cherry trees in the summer. The correct time to prune a weeping cherry tree is early spring or late fall when the tree is still dormant. There should be no flowers or leaves open on the tree when you start the pruning process.
Mistake number two. Trimming weeping branches. Weeping cherries are grown for their long, graceful branches and these branches should never be shortened unless they are diseased, damaged, or otherwise problematic. Remove diseased and damaged branches as soon as you discover them, regardless of the time of year.
When branches cross each other and rub together, the friction creates a wound that serves as an entry point for insects and disease. You should wait until winter when the tree is dormant to remove one of the branches.
Use the Proper Tool to Prune
If you do decide to shorten branches, prune the weeping cherry tree by trimming back the tips of any branches that touch the ground. You want them to be at least 6 inches above the ground. We purchase one of these to help us trim branches off our trees. It is very easy to use and extends for higher branches.
How to Damage your Weeping Cherry Tree so It No longer Weeps
This is really interesting information that I never knew. Improper pruning can damage the “weeping” branches where they will no longer hang down but start to grow straight upward.
There are two kinds of weeping cherry trees and it’s important to know what kind you have before you begin to prune. Weeping cherry trees are either “grafted” or “natural”. If they are grafted this means the cherry top has been grafted into another tree to get it to weep. This is manually done by someone to produce the weeping look.
To determine if you have a grafted tree, look at the trunk directly below the crown to determine if it is a naturally weeping cherry, or if the cherry top has been grafted onto another tree. This will determine how the crown is pruned. If the tree is grafted, there will be an obvious “break” or swelling on the trunk, approximately one inch or so below the crown.
With grafted trees, prune branches that are growing straight up into the air — but only do this with a grafted weeping cherry tree. With grafted trees, these branches will continue to grow upward, ruining the desired look of the tree.
If you have a natural “non grafting tree” do not touch any branches growing straight up, leave these in place. Do not prune these branches because on naturally weeping cherry trees, the upward growing branches will eventually arch down. If you prune these off, the tree will lose its weeping shape.
So I believe improper pruning led to the loss of the “weeping” shape on the surviving tree and pruning during the wrong time of year lead to the death of our other tree.
I am very saddened by the loss of our weeping tree. We had it cut down and will hopefully replace it with another, like this beautiful weeping cherry tree.
I hope you find this information useful and it can help prevent the loss of your cherry tree. Had I known what I know now…done my due diligence…I would have been more on top of this issue and hopefully prevented it…but as you know “hindsight is 20/20”.
April 2020 Update
For an update on these cherry trees, check out this article HERE.
July 2022 Update
For a final update on our cherry trees, check out Update on Our Weeping Cherry Trees.
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18 thoughts on “Learning the Hard Way – How to Care for a Weeping Cherry Tree”
I lost mine also, but it died from the inside out. It was defoliated 3 years in a row from moths and it had splits in the bark where it showed stress. There is a worm/bug that destroys some and since it was stressed from being defoliated it never had a chance against it. Pretty tree, never my favorite but glorious when in bloom.
Sorry to hear that. Yes they are magnificent when they bloom, even though it’s only for a short while. It’s so sad when a mature tree gets infested and dies, our neighborhood has lost many.
What a sad story Denise! I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble – I know that pruning trees isn’t for the faint of heart! I’m going to read one more cherry tree post, then I promise I’ll get back to work! ❤️
You’re right. I think we as homeowners must do our due diligence and proper research beforehand because there are a lot of gardeners out there pruning incorrectly…I have noticed several trees that look mangled in our neighborhood lately from gardeners who don’t know what they are doing!
We bought a perfectly health young tree, about March or April, planted it, watered it regularly. Had a wet spring, then, a heat wave. Tree is exfoliating, and leaves are turning brown. Is it dying or dead? Weather here in Maryland has been weird this spring!
sorry to hear your tree isn’t doing well. If all the leaves have fallen off, it may be dying or diseased? My landscaper told me to water new trees every day for a couple months. Your tree should still be under warranty, maybe you can exchange it?
Thank you for this information! We just bought our beauty last year and I am doing my due diligence early! This information is super helpful and I’m hoping for a long life on my guy. They really are such beautiful trees 🌸
Hi Tara, so glad you found the information helpful. I wish you all the luck on your beautiful trees.
I’m glad I read this, I have a weeping cherry out front that I just planted last tear an my wife wants me to prune it, it’s July and we are in the midst of a 10 day 90 plus degree a day, so after reading this I convinced her to wait till fall after the tree goes dormant, thanks for the info
So glad I could help you figure that out. Best of luck with your tree, they are so beautiful!
We just bought the weeping cherry tree and after planting some of the branches are like on the ground. Wondering do we prune them out so that the branches do not touch the ground or wait till mid winter to prune them. Worried that the leaves laying on the ground could induce disease or something. Any advice please
Hi Saby, based on my experience I would wait until the Fall to prune any branches touching the ground. These weeping trees are very delicate but worth the time and patience.
I just cut mine way back, it looks like a palm tree. Now shoots are growing up. Should I let them go or should I trim them?it is late July. I don’t want it to die.
Hi William, I would not touch it when it’s so hot outside. If limbs are growing back, that’s a good sign 🙂
I trimmed my weeping cherry tree last year about 1/2 off too much now where I cut branches growth on each side of brandy like a wish bone is it a gonner
I certainly hope not! Depending on the time of year you trimmed could have a lot to do with it. I would watch it carefully, hopefully a disease has not attached itself to the open wound.
You are very welcome!