How to Grow Higan Cherry Trees

A Low Maintenance Cherry Tree With Attractive Blooms and Shapes

Close up of Higan cherry tree Blooms

Photo by David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

The ornamental, long-lived and deciduous hybrid Higan cherry tree (Prunus x subhirtella) will add attractive interest to your garden for most of the year. It's relatively easy to care for and doesn't require a great deal of maintenance.

The foliage displays a dark green canopy throughout the summer and then warm shades of red, yellow, and gold in the fall. Plus, of course, the blossoms provide a burst of delicate color in the spring. Even the shiny red-toned bark is attractive.

This medium-sized tree works as a specimen feature on large lawns and, typically, can grow up to 30 feet tall. There are a variety of cultivars. The two most popular are the upright 'Autumnalis' which is known for displaying double pink blooms, and 'Pendula' which is a smaller and distinctive weeping variety.

Botanical Name Prunus subhirtella
Common Name Higan Cherry, Rosebud Cherry, Spring Cherry
Plant Type Deciduous Tree
Mature Size Up to 60 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Partial Shade
Soil Type Loam, Clay, Sand, Well-drained
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink, White
Hardiness Zones 4 - 8, USDA
Native Area Japan
A blossoming Higan cherry tree growing in a garden
Famartin / Wikimedia commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Plant Care

The Higan cherry tree will do well in a variety of garden settings, seeing that it receives a decent amount of natural light and is planted in a well-drained and fertile soil.

Because the different cultivars can vary dramatically in their height and shape, make sure you do your research to ensure the one you opt for will be right for your garden size and space.

If you purchase a young tree, it's best to do this in the spring or early fall to allow the roots to establish without the danger of any frost hitting them.

Light

This species needs full sun or partial shade along with healthy air circulation to thrive. They shouldn't be placed in a crowded spot or one where they won't get at least four hours of direct sunlight a day.

The most impressive flowering will result in a full sun position.

Soil

Higan cherry trees prefer moist and fertile soils. They aren't terribly fussy, though, and providing it's well-drained, they'll cope in a variety of soil types. The one thing they'll struggle with is boggy conditions.

Water

After planting your Higan cherry tree, it should receive regular and deep waterings until the roots become fully established.

Once it has settled in, during dry spells, you should still water the tree often. Adding a layer of organic mulch will also help with moisture retention.

Temperature and Humidity

Known for being more cold and heat tolerant than most other flowering cherry trees, this species can be planted in regions that experience a wider range of temperatures.

If you live in a particularly hot region, selecting a partial shade area where they'll get some respite from blazing direct sun is recommended.

For regions with colder winter temperatures, mulching around the base of the tree can be beneficial.

Fertilizer

As with most cherry tree species, Higan cultivars won't require much feeding. If your tree is being grown in less fertile soil or you notice the foliage growth is particularly slow, then an annual treatment with a low-nitrogen mix in early spring can be worthwhile.

Higan Cherry Tree Varieties

The Higan cherry tree is a naturally occurring hybrid, but in its true form, Prunus x subhirtella, it isn't widely available commercially.

There are several cultivars that are, however, readily available. Some of the most popular varieties include:

  • Autumnalis: One of the most common cultivars, this upright variety produces light pink double blooms in the spring and then, sometimes, a smaller amount in the fall. There's also a Rosea variety, which displays a much deeper shade of pink blooms.
  • Pendula: The most popular and distinctive cultivar, which is usually considerably smaller than the Autumnalis. It's often formed by grafting on an upright understock. This then develops a weeping form with light pink single blooms that display in the spring.
  • Winter Sun: This weeping form is known for having an extended bloom time.

Propagating Higan Cherry Trees

It's possible to propagate Higan cherry tree cuttings from strong and healthy new growth during late spring or early summer.

A cutting around five inches long should be sufficient. Remove the leaves from the bottom, but keep a few leaves up top. Be sure to dip the base in rooting hormone to increase the chances of success and select a moist medium and a sunny location while you wait on new roots.

Pruning

Your Higan cherry tree shouldn't need a lot of pruning. It's always a good idea, however, to remove damaged, diseased, or dying growth. Any pruning for shape purposes or to thin out branches to encourage better air circulation should be done after the tree has bloomed.