How to Grow Cherry Tree Bonsai

Bring home a piece of Japan with the cherry tree bonsai!

Cherry tree bonsai in bloom against a light blue wall.

 rocksunderwater / Getty Images

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art form of growing ornamental miniature or artificially dwarfed trees in containers using cultivation techniques to mimic the shape and scale of full-sized trees.

The stunning blossoms and delicate foliage of the cherry tree make it a favorite among bonsai enthusiasts and amateur growers alike.

While cherry trees are technically native to China, their blossoms have become a symbol of Japan and it is generally believed that cherry trees symbolize friendship.

Beyond their alluring appearance, cherry trees lend themselves well to the art of bonsai. They adapt well to pruning and training and are generally low-maintenance specimens. !

Botanical Name Prunus Bonsai
Common Name Cherry tree bonsai
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 10-15 inches tall
Sun Exposure Partial sun
Soil Type Well-draining, bonsai soil
Soil pH 5.5 - 6.5
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink, white
Native Area China
A cherry bonsai tree with white cherry blossoms sits in front of green trees in thebackground.
 Carlo A / Getty Images

Cherry Tree Bonsai Care

Compared to other bonsai specimens, cherry tree bonsai require less light, and they adapt very well to training and shaping. An important part of growing and shaping a healthy pine bonsai tree is proper wiring. Wiring is the practice of wrapping a wire around the branches of the bonsai tree in order to reposition the branches to achieve a desired shape. 

Cherry tree bonsai can be wired at any time of the year, although it is best done in the fall or winter months so as to not damage the delicate buds and new growth in the spring or summer months. The wiring should never be left on for more than six months at a time.

Light

Cherry tree bonsai appreciate partial sun and cannot tolerate full sun conditions as the delicate blooms and leaves can be easily burnt. A location that receives dappled morning and evening light, but is protected from the afternoon sun is best. 

Soil

When it comes to the soil for cherry tree bonsai, above all else, adequate drainage is of the utmost importance. Using a commercially available bonsai soil is usually best as these potting mixtures are formulated especially for bonsai trees. Cherry tree bonsai appreciate soil that is slightly acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5

Water

Cherry tree bonsai require consistently moist and humid conditions and benefit from being watered with distilled water rather than hard tap water. The soil should be kept evenly moist but never waterlogged. As a general rule, allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

These trees will need to be watered more frequently during the spring and summer months when they are in their active growing period. Never allow a cherry tree bonsai to dry out completely.

Temperature and Humidity

Generally, cherry tree bonsai appreciate warm spring and summer temperatures, humidity, and cool winter temperatures. For that reason, as with most bonsai species, they are best grown outdoors throughout the year.

While they are considered moderately frost-tolerant and can tolerate short periods of freezing conditions, these trees should be protected from intense frost and harsh winter climates. 

Fertilizer

Feed your cherry tree bonsai every two weeks throughout the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced fertilizer. Older trees may require less frequent fertilizing than younger trees that are still developing. In the fall and winter, they will only need to be fertilized once throughout each season.

Pruning

Regular pruning and shaping are extremely important for the health and overall aesthetic of the cherry tree bonsai. Wait until the tree has finished blooming to begin pruning - usually in the summer months.

Pinch back any fresh shoots to shape and encourage branching, and reserve any heavy pruning of main branches or stems for the winter months.

While you want to prune the new growth, be careful that you aren’t removing all of it. Some of the new shoots should always be left to ensure that the tree can continue growing. Keep in mind that heavy pruning may cause the following year’s bloom to suffer. 

Potting and Repotting

Cherry tree bonsai should be repotted every two years, although older trees can be repotted every three to five years. Repotting is best done in the spring months before the tree has bloomed. 

When choosing a new pot for your cherry tree bonsai, there are several things to consider. Bonsai pots are designed to complement the appearance of the tree, provide adequate drainage, restrict root growth, and they even have wiring holes to aid in wiring the branches.

Keep in mind that, according to the rules of bonsai, a pot's height and width should not be more than ⅔ that of the tree, both for function (root restriction) and for aesthetic and design.

After you have repotted a cherry tree bonsai, ensure that it is kept in a partially sheltered location until the tree has become established. Freshly repotted cherry tree bonsai are especially susceptible to over-exposure.

Varieties of Cherry Trees for Bonsai

There are many different varieties of cherry trees that can be used for bonsai, although the most famous variety that is most associated with the stunning cherry blossoms of Japan is the Prunus serrulata (commonly called sakura). Other popular varieties include:

  • Prunus x yedoensis (Yoshino cherry)
  • Prunus ‘Kanzan’

Common Pests/Diseases

Healthy cherry tree bonsai are not susceptible to many common pests or diseases. However, keep an eye out for aphids and caterpillars, which may travel to the tree from other plants in your garden. Although they are rare, watch for diseases such as peach leaf curl, blossom wilt, and taphrina wiesneri.