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 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.
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.
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 at some point.
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”
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