How To Trim An Ornamental Cherry Tree

How to Trim an Ornamental Cherry Tree

Trimming an ornamental cherry tree is a task many gardeners take on annually, whether they are novice or experienced. Generally, pruning ornamental cherry trees is a straightforward and low maintenance job, but there are certain methods that should be employed to ensure that the tree’s natural shape, as well as its health, are preserved. This article will guide you step by step through the basic trimming process of an ornamental cherry tree.

What to Look For When Pruning

When carrying out a trim there are important points to bear in mind. Firstly, be aware of the age of the tree. It is not advisable to cut off too much of trees which are younger than 5 years old and conversely, if it is much older than this, be sure not to prune too vigorously as you could cause permanent damage. Secondly, look to remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches. If there are signs of rot on the tree it is important to ensure that these branches are removed and disposed of correctly, however healthy branches which are just in the way should not be cut back as this could damage the tree.

When is the Best Time to Prune?

The best time to prune an ornamental cherry tree is during the dormant season (late winter/early spring) as the tree isn’t actively utilizing the branches at this time. The growing season is when the tree is actively growing and struggling to produce healthy new branches and so, should not be interfered with. If any pruning has to be done during the growing season, it should only target dead and diseased branches.

Tools Needed

In terms of tools and equipment, the following is recommended: pruning shears/secateurs, lopping shears, and pruning saw (for branches too thick for the shears). Also, it is advantageous to wear protective clothing, including gloves and eye wear to protect against any debris which may be thrown off during the cutting process, and a ladder may be necessary for reaching high branches.

The Pruning Process

Firstly, begin by clearing away any dead and diseased branches from the tree. Next, look up at the tree and observe the general structure and shape of the whole tree. Any large limbs should be cut back using the pruning saw, and then move on to removing secondary branches using either the lopping shears or pruning shears (depending on their thickness). Remove any that are too narrow, weak or crossing and competing with each other.

It is important to consider which branches are healthy and provide a good framework for the tree and which should be cut back to maintain the form of the tree. It is also useful to note that you should not prune more than a third of a tree’s total foliage as this can damage the tree. Finally, as a rule of thumb, look to make cuts at a forty-five degree angle, close to branch collar if possible.


Post pruning, you should look to add some fertilizer or compost to the soil, as this will aid in the tree’s recovery. If there is standing foliage, or leaf litter around the base of the tree, this should be cleared away too. After pruning, your ornamental cherry tree should be good to go for the summer and provide gorgeous flowers for the springtime.

Branches Overhanging Houses or Other Objects

When branches overhang houses or other buildings, it can be a tricky situation. If you underestimated the height of any branches when pruning, they can cause a nuisance, if they are too low. It is best to wait until after the flowers have appeared before continuing with any more pruning. This will cause the least amount of disruption to the tree’s display, as the flowers will not have time to bloom again before the year is out. If, however, the branch is large, and poses a risk to anyone beneath it, such as a conservatory with a large glass roof, it is best to contact a tree surgeon to assist with the cutting and removal of the branch.

Improperly Trimmed Trees

If a tree has been improperly trimmed in the past it can sometimes be difficult to undo the damage and restore the tree to its natural form. If possible, look to clear away any branches that have been overcut, as this will reduce the trees stress and give it a better chance of growing healthily again. If a branch has been dislodged from the tree, it’s best to leave this and let the tree naturally heal itself.

Over Trimming

Whilst pruning your tree it is important not to remove too many of its branches as this can damage and weaken the tree. When pruning it is wise to focus on branches which grow towards the inside of the tree, as these impede the sunlight entering the centre of the tree, reducing the amount of flowers produced.

Companion Planting

When planting your ornamental cherry tree, it is a good idea to select companion plants that will work well together. Choose shrubs and trees which bloom at different times of the year to create a varied and colourful display. Plants such as rose bushes and forget-me-nots are great companions. Be mindful of trees and other taller plants as they can offer shade to your ornamental cherry; too much shade can reduce the potency of its flowers.

Creative Pruning and Thinking Outside the Box

For the more creative gardeners amongst us who want to put their touch on the tree, it is possible to prune in various exciting shapes. Care must be taken when shaping trees and the less drastic the better. Be sure to consider the direction of growth and look to enhance it with the pruning, rather than impede on its natural growth pattern. However, if you do want to experiment with your tree, it can be beneficial to enlist the help of an expert.

Good Maintenance Practices

When pruning your ornamental cherry tree, it is important to ensure that the cuts you make are clean and concise. Dull blades or those that become jammed can cause the cuts to be jagged and can lead to disease entering the tree. Either take the time to sharpen your blades or invest in some good quality ones.

Diseases and Pests

It is worth keeping an eye out for any signs of disease and pest infestation, as some can cause significant damage to your tree. Generally, ornamental cherry trees are relatively resistant to disease and pests, but can still succumb in certain areas. Be sure to keep any fallen foliage and debris cleared away, as this can attract unwanted guests. Be extra vigilant when it’s mating season as this is when pests come out in force.

Gordon Wesson is an environmentalist and author who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He has been writing for many years about topics related to trees, the environment, and sustainability. In particular, he is passionate about educating people on the importance of living in harmony with the environment and preserving natural spaces. He often speaks at conferences and events around the country to share his knowledge with others. His dedication to protecting our planet makes him one of the leading voices in his field today.

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