Cherry Blossom Bonsai Tree

Pale pink blossoms on cherry blossom bonsai
Jeffrey Legitt/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sandy Porter

Updated: May 27, 2024

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Many bonsai species are largely chosen for their ornamental aesthetics. The cherry blossom bonsai is one of the most famous of these – a stunning tree that loads down each season with incredibly beautiful blooms of white or pink, with fragrant aromas that fill the air with heady floral notes. This is the famed species of tree that lines the boulevards of Washington D.C. and throughout Japan, visited all over by tourists and locals alike for their incredible beauty. Cherry blossom trees are an actual “industry” in many locations all over the world – so it’s no surprise that this incredible tree has been selected as a favorite among bonsai growers.

So, let’s find out what makes them great for this – apart from their beauty – and discover if they might be a good option for you in your bonsai hobby.

Sakura or cherry blossom bonsai tree

The beautiful cherry blossom bonsai thrives as both indoor and outdoor trees.

What Makes a Cherry Blossom Good for Bonsai?

Cherry blossom trees make excellent bonsai trees for anyone interested in the art form. They’re not the easiest bonsai to care for, but they are a good option for dedicate beginners.

  • The aesthetics of the tree make them a favored species among bonsai enthusiasts.
  • They are reasonably fast growers that develop strength and hardiness as they age.
  • Cherry blossoms may be shaped into any bonsai style.
  • They are deciduous and their leaves turn colors in the autumn, adding another layer to the aesthetics.
  • They’re sturdy and durable, making them hardy and reasonably easy to grow.
  • They bear fruit, adding another lovely stage of growth each season.
  • They grow in nearly any climate, making them suitable for almost any enthusiast, particularly since they do well as indoor bonsai as well.

Cherry Blossom Bonsai Classification

Pale pink blossoms on cherry blossom bonsai

A mature cherry blossom bonsai tree in full bloom.

The first thing to note is that cherry blossom trees are not the familiar fruiting species we refer to when we think of cherries. These are both fruiting, flowering trees, technically in the same family, but the cherry blossom tree is an ornamental tree, while the cherry tree is a fruiting tree raised for its fruits. Basically, the difference is the cherry blossom is known as such because the blossoms are spectacular, and the cherry is known as such because the fruit is the spectacular in this case. Clear as mud, right?

Put differently, both species grow flowers that produce fruit, but the cherry blossom tree has less flavorful fruit and more vibrant flowers and the cherry tree has tastier fruit and less visually exciting blossoms.

The cherry blossom is scientifically referred to as Prunus serrulate. They are common species in China, Korea, and particularly Japan. This is the ornamental species, belonging to the Prunas cerasus family. The flowering cherry blossom tree is the national flower of Japan.

Cherry Blossom Description

The cherry blossom is a single-trunked, deciduous trees that bloom in springtime with vibrant pink or white flowers. The flowers are usually dense and cover the tree heavily, offering the tree the intense aesthetic appeal that has made the tree so famous the world over.

The leaves grow alternately in bright green shades, with chestnut brown trunk. The tree produces dark red-black fruit after blossoming season ends. The leaves change colors in autumn, turning crimson, red, orange, or yellow.

Origins and History of Cherry Blossom

A tiny cherry blossom bonsai loaded in large blooms

The cherry blossom bonsai may have large blooms or small.

The Nara period of Japan, between 710 and 794 AD was the birth period of the Sakura watching, that is cherry blossoms as an attraction. The brief blooming period is an event even to this day, wherever the trees grow in large numbers. They are native to Asia but have been spread widely across the world where others grow the blooming trees for their ornamental value.

Varieties of Cherry Blossom

There are several varieties of cherry blossom trees, though the most commonly used is the Japanese cherry, the Prunus serrulata. Additional cultivars include:

  • Prunus incisa
  • Prunus kurilensis
  • Prunus subhirtella
  • Fuji cherry
  • Weeping cherry

How to Care for Your Cherry Blossom Bonsai

Rows of cherry blossom bonsai on a table

Cherry blossom bonsai are one of the most popular flowering bonsai in the world, so you may find them reasonably easy.

Each type of bonsai tree requires specific care, from soil to watering schedule, to fertilizer type. Before choosing any species, it’s best to consider these.

Soil Needs

Ideally, you’ll want to use commercially made bonsai soil for your cherry blossom bonsai. You may make your own potting mix instead, if you prefer, mainly using akadama, pumice, or small lava rocks combined with inert grit.

Planting Location

Cherry blossom bonsai are sun lovers, so you’ve got to be sure to plant and place them where they will get plenty of direct sunlight during their growing season (spring). They need that full light from morning until afternoon. They do need a cool season, as well, for three months, for dormancy, in which they will still need plenty of light, but not as warm and direct. Most folks put them in an unheated garage, green house, or similar, when the weather cools off. They should not be placed where they will freeze, though they are frost-hardy and capable of handling mild winters. They should be protected against extreme temperatures, though, either extremely hot or cold.

Lighting

Cherry blossom bonsai in vibrant light

They cherry blossom requires a fair amount of light and moderate temperatures to thrive.

Cherry blossoms need a minimum of partial light to survive, but for thriving, they should have full-bright light, receiving light both morning and afternoon. The light should not be extremely hot, though, so if you live in a warmer climate, the bonsai should have afternoon shade. The delicate flowers will be burned if they are kept in high, bright, hot lights in summer.

Temperature

The cherry blossom bonsai thrives in temperatures between 32- and 64-degrees F. They survive in cooler temperatures (into frosts, but not hard freezes) and up to fairly warm temperatures (80s, 90s), but need to be protected from extreme temperatures.

Watering

Cherry blossom bonsai trees should not dry out between waterings. They love full sun and will dry out quickly, so they need to receive water frequently. Check the soil daily to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out. Use a soil moisture meter to ensure they don’t get too much moisture, though, as they may experience water logging otherwise.

When you water the bonsai, pour water into the pot until the water starts to seep out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

It’s particularly important to make sure the plant doesn’t dry out during flowering and fruiting season.

Feeding

Pink cherry blossom bonsai

The tree may produce darker pink to pale pink or white blossoms.

The season and age of the cherry blossom bonsai will determine how frequently they need to be fed. During the growing season, they should be fed with solid organic fertilizer once a month or liquid fertilizer once a week. Avoid high nitrogen content fertilizers when you want the (mature) bonsai to flower.

Older trees don’t need to be fed as frequently as young trees, needing only to be fertilized once in the autumn and once in the winter.

Pruning, Shaping, and Wiring

You should do most of the pruning and wiring activities with your cherry blossom bonsai in the springtime. However, you should skip pruning in the years you want to produce flowers. The tree is moderately easy to grow, but the challenging part is the shaping.

Post-flowering, the older branches should be selected and shortened, leaving behind leaf buds on the branches you want to keep alive and thriving. The new shoots should be allowed to grow for a while, letting them develop a bit before being trimmed. If you trim too soon, they will die off.

Flower buds for the next growing season develop in late summer, so keep an eye on these as you trim. The long shoots in autumn can be shortened down to two or five nodes.

In early spring, even late winter, you can prune the larger branches. This is the time to do wiring, before leaves have come out.

Re-potting

unusual cherry bonsai

The tree may be grown in any bonsai style, even unusual shapes.

Young cherry blossom bonsai should be re-potted every 2 years, while older bonsai may be re-potted every 3 to 5 years. When you see the roots starting to peep out of the drainage holes, you know it’s time to re-pot.

When you repot, make sure it’s springtime before new flowers start to sprout. Trim the roots fairly heavily on young cherry blossom bonsai (up to 25% of the roots), after gently raking them out with a root rake. Mature cherry blossom bonsai have, surprisingly, more delicate roots that should be pruned less aggressively and treated with tenderness. Do not cut woody roots on older cherry blossoms – this could kill the tree.

Replace the potting mix completely with new, well-draining soil or mix, with pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Common Problems of Cherry Blossom

Pink cherry blossom bonsai

It takes many years for the species to mature into flowering, but when they do, they’re incredibly worth it!

Cherry blossom bonsai trees are, unfortunately, susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. They need to be regularly cared for and prevention methods may need to be taken if you notice any of the infestations are frequent in your area. Some of the issues include:

  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Meal bugs
  • Gall mites
  • Spide mites
  • Powdery mildew
  • Scale
  • Leaf spot
  • Rust
  • Crown rot
  • Root rot
  • Verticillium wilt
  • Canker
  • Black knot
  • Cherry rasp leaf

Most of the conditions may be treated by general pesticides or fungicides, though the cherry rasp leaf should be treated with a specific fungicide meant for that condition. Additionally, look for pesticides and fungicides that target whatever your issue is.

Try using rainwater or distilled water to help prevent issues like chlorosis, which is caused by tap water contaminants.

How to Propagate Cherry Blossom

You may technically propagate from cuttings, seeds, air-layering, or grafting. However, the most successful options will be seeds and cuttings. Seeds will not necessarily inherit the mother plant’s characteristics, so most folks opt to use cutting instead.

Growing from Seeds

Dark pink cherry bonsai

The cherry bonsai blooms come in many shades, including dark pink.

Cherry blossom bonsai propagation from seeds will take patience and time, but if you’re set for it, you’ll be rewarded with some interesting and beautiful results. However, the seed may literally take up to a decade to produce the flowering bonsai.

If you want the challenge, some tips include:

  • Not all seeds will survive for the years to maturity, so it’s best to start with planting multiple seeds to improve the chances of successfully growing a bonsai.
  • Soak the seeds in 10% hydrogen peroxide solution for 10 minutes before attempting to germinate the seeds. This helps prevent molding on the seeds.
  • To figure out which seeds are viable, drop them into water and see which ones sink. The floaters are dead and will not produce plants.
  • When you have seeds that are viable, plant them in a shallow pot with seed sowing mix, which is typically peat.
  • Place the seeds on top of the growing medium, a few inches between each seed.
  • Immediately water and keep the seeds and soil moist, in full sunlight. Use grow lights to enhance light exposure while indoors.
  • You can wrap the seeds in moist paper towels instead and place them in a zipper seal bag and place them in the crisper of the fridge. Check the seeds weekly and change out the paper as needed, to keep them moist and prevent them from getting moldy. They should sprout within several weeks to two months.
  • Once the seeds open, plant them in a small, shallow container, keeping the seedlings in warm, moist soil.

Growing from Cuttings

The easier and faster way to grow cherry blossom bonsai is using cuttings from mature, healthy trees. These will also produce bonsai trees with the same characteristics of the mother plant.

  • Choose the healthy mother plant that you favor.
  • Trim healthy stems or branches from the mother tree, ensuring it is a vigorous branch.
  • Cut the branch on the diagonal with sharp scissors or shears.\
  • Place the cut end immediately in water and the cutting soak until noticeable roots begin to grow. Keep the water level consistent.
  • When the roots are several inches long, plant them in the appropriate growing medium and water immediately.
  • Keep the plant watered and cared for as needed. Make sure you don’t over water, though!

Cherry Blossom Bonsai Fun Facts

cherry blossom bonsai

Cherry blossom bonsai in full bloom

  • Cherry blossom trees, known as Sakura in Japan, are the national flower of Japan. The cherry blossom trees are held close in the nation’s culture, since the time when Japanese farmers noted the time of the blooms and used this as the ideal time to plant their rice crops in the springtime.
  • Hanami is the tradition of watching/viewing and celebrating the cherry blossom trees when they bloom. This tradition began about 1000 years ago in the imperial court of Japan.
  • Cherry blossoms symbolize the divine nature of life mingled with the impermanence thereof. This is a key tenant in the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi.

Cherry Blossom Bonsai FAQs

How long do cherry blossom bonsai take to grow?

Growing a cherry blossom tree from a cutting will typically take 2 to 3 years. Growing them from seeds into maturity for flowering may take up to 10 years. Because of this, most folks opt to use cuttings for the propagation of their cherry blossom bonsai.

Can you grow cherry blossom bonsai indoors?

Technically, you may grow cherry blossom bonsai trees indoors. However, most folks have difficulty growing the tree properly indoors due to the lack of significant direct light needed to keep the tree healthy. You may use grow lights to help them thrive when kept indoors.

Can I buy a cherry blossom bonsai that’s already established?

The easiest way to grow a cherry blossom bonsai is, indeed, to purchase an established tree. You’ll likely find them in nurseries when they’re young trees. You may also find established, older bonsai that from specialists in the bonsai field.

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About the Author

Sandy Porter is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering house garden plants, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Sandy has been writing professionally since 2017, has a Bachelor’s degree and is currently seeking her Masters. She has had lifelong experience with home gardens, cats, dogs, horses, lizards, frogs, and turtles and has written about these plants and animals professionally since 2017. She spent many years volunteering with horses and looks forward to extending that volunteer work into equine therapy in the near future. Sandy lives in Chicago, where she enjoys spotting wildlife such as foxes, rabbits, owls, hawks, and skunks on her patio and micro-garden.

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