The stunning blossoms and delicate foliage of the cherry tree make it a favorite among bonsai enthusiasts and amateur growers alike. Beyond their alluring appearance, cherry trees lend themselves well to the art of bonsai. They adapt well to pruning and training.
There are many different varieties of cherry trees that can be used for bonsai, although the variety that is most associated with the stunning cherry blossoms of Japan is the Japanese flowering cherry. Cherry tree bonsai is planted in the spring so it has all growing season to adapt to its pot.
The leaves, stems, and seeds of cherry trees are toxic to humans and pets.
|Common Name||Japanese flowering cherry bonsai|
|Botanical Name||Prunus serrulata|
|Mature Size||10-15 inches tall|
|Flower Color||Pink, white|
|Hardiness zones||5-8 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, toxic to pets|
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.
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.
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
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 should be 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.
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.
In addition to Japanese flowering cherry, other popular varieties of cherry trees suitable for bonsai include:
- Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis)
- Japanese flowering cherry 'Kanzan' (Prunus ‘Kanzan’)
- Japanese alpine cherry (Prunus kurilensis)
- Fuji cherry (Prunus incisa)
- Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella)
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.
You can grow a cherry tree bonsai from a cutting in the spring or summer:
- Using sharp pruners, cut a 2- to 4-inch stem from a healthy, vigorous cherry tree bonsai.
- Add a layer of well-draining lava rock or grit to a bonsai pot.
- Cover it with a layer of bonsai soil.
- Insert the cutting about 1 inch deep into the soil.
- Keep the cutting moist at all times. When you see new growth, and the cutting does not wiggle when you gently tug on it, roots have formed.
Growing from Seeds
Most Japanese flowering cherry tree cultivars are sterile and produce no fruit. Thus, propagation from seed is not an option
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 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.
Japanese flowering cherries are hardy ad require no winter protection but since cherry tree bonsai are grown in pots, their root systems are more exposed to the cold than in garden soil. To winterize the container, wrap in in burlap and bubble wrap, or place it in an insulating silo for the winter.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Like regular-size Japanese cherry, bonsai are susceptible to several pests and diseases. You might find scale insects, spider mites, and aphids on your tree, which you can often just remove with a strong spray from your garden hose. Also keep an eye out for tent caterpillars and Japanese beetles.
The diseases that can affect Japanese cherry include leaf spots, dieback, leaf curl, powdery mildew, root rot, and fireblight.
How to Get Cherry Tree Bonsai to Bloom
Assuming that your trees has been properly fertilized, and is getting the right amount of sun, if it does not bloom, or only has few blooms, it might be due to over-pruning and you accidentally removed too many of the flower buds. To make sure that you get flowers, go easy on the pruning.
Common Problems with Cherry Tree Bonsai
While a regular size Japanese flowering cherry is somewhat notorious for its problems, such as bark splitting and peach tree borers, because the bonsai is very small, it is much easier to keep a close eye on it so you'll notice any issues right away. As always, the healthier the tree, the less issues it will have.
Can a cherry tree bonsai be grown indoors?
Cherry trees aren't indoor plants, they needs outdoor sunlight and they are hardy enough to remain outdoors year-round. If you keep the tree indoors, it will likely not flower.
How long does it take for a cherry tree bonsai to bloom?
A bonsai grown from a cutting should bloom in two to three years.
Is it easy to grow a cherry tree bonsai?
It is not the easiest bonsai because you need to find the right balance between shaping the tree with wiring and pruning, and leave enough flower buds on the tree so you can enjoy the bloom.