If you've ever wanted your own cherry blossom tree with flowers that rival the pink and white blossoms in D.C. each spring, then you probably have your work cut out for you.
These trees, also known as sakura trees, can be temperamental and require a specific climate to thrive. There's no denying, however, their beauty.
The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. celebrates those famous blossoms each spring and commemorates the original trees that were a gift from Japan in 1912.
The grove of trees along Washington's tidal basin has grown into a thriving orchard that attracts thousands of tourists who gather each spring, although the exact date of the short blooming season is hard to pin down.
Orchards of cherry blossoms have also been adopted in other parts of the country, including San Diego, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. It also has become popular to grow the trees in private homes and gardens.
If you choose the right type of tree, the right place to plant it and the right professional to tend to it, you can have a beautiful column of cherry blossoms for your garden. The trees’ dark color and angular branches can lend a stark elegance to your lawn.
If properly cared for, they also ensure you have your own springtime display of gorgeous pink and white blossoms.
The warmer your climate, however, the earlier your blossoms. That fact has made D.C.'s peak blossom time earlier than normal in recent years.
"The minimum temperature [in D.C.] has been going up over these years and the early arrival of the cherry blossoms appears to be one
of the results," says Stanwyn Shetler, a botanist with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
So, if you are up for the challenge (and perhaps an early blooming period) here are some suggestions for growing your own cherry blossom tree.
1. Consult a professional landscaper or arborist
Don’t attempt to grow a cherry blossom tree if you are inexperienced. The tree is notoriously delicate and finicky.
Expert gardeners, including professional landscapers. can determine the right planting conditions and care required to protect the tree from disease and damage.
2. Make sure you have the right planting conditions
The most common forms of the sakura tree, such as the yoshino species planted in Washington, can grow up to 40 feet wide. Sakura are also self-pollinating, meaning that their blooms are most beautiful when they are grouped together.
It is ideal to plant at least two of the trees 10 to 20 feet apart with plenty of room to expand. Sakura trees also require full sun, so do not plant them too close to the shade of buildings or other trees.
3. Shelter trees from extreme heat or cold
4. Use the right soil
Sakura trees require soil that is nutritious and moist but well-drained. They do best in soil that is deep and acidic. They are also sensitive to gaps in the soil that could let cold air seep in during the winter.
If your lawn is shallow, basic, nutrient-poor, and has poor drainage, it will be hard for even the most skilled gardener to grow a sakura tree for you.
5. Regularly check for disease