by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser
(Mountain Grove) – It is cherry blossom time! This reminds us that ornamental cherries are great additions to the landscape with lovely flowers, satiny bark, fruit that attracts and attractive foliage. They make nice specimen trees and are attractive in groups as well. Our group of cherry trees was planted at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station in 1999 and includes the Yoshino cherry, the Higan or Autumnalis cherry, the Okame cherry, and the Kwanzan or Kanzan cherry.
The Yoshino cherry, Prunus X yedoensis is the earliest blossoming of our group and is the cherry that is the most widely planted in Washington DC. It is winter cold hardy in zones 5 – 8 (Mountain Grove is in zone 6) and is native to Japan. It grows from 30 to 40 feet tall and wide. Its flowers are showy and fragrant and the leaves have good fall color.
The Higan or Autumalis cherry, Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis, is winter hardy in zones 4 – 8 and grows 20 -35 feet tall and 15 – 30 feet wide. It bears semi-double pink flowers in spring with another small show in fall – which is (you guessed it) why it is named Autumnalis. The Higan cherry is considered to be relatively more disease resistant.
The Okame cherry Prunus X incamp Okame bears rose-pink flowers in spring. It grows from 15 – 20 feet high and up to 20 feet wide. This tree is more commonly planted in the south and is reported to be winter cold hardy in the warmer parts of zone 6 (so we have been lucky that it has survived our winters so far).
The Kwanzan cherry, Prunus serrulata Kwanzan or Kwanzan (Kanzan) cherry usually blossoms 1 to 2 weeks later than the Yoshino cherry and therefore has a better chance of avoiding late spring freezes. Kwanzan grows to a height and spread of 25 to 30 feet. It bears deep pink double flowers. Of the four that we have planted at the experiment station, Kwanzan or Kanzan cherry is recommended for planting in Missouri by the Cooperative Extension Service as the hardiest and most reliable.
Cherry trees do best in full sun but some can tolerate part shade. They have medium moisture requirements but will not tolerate wet soils. They also may have insect and disease problems so they are not considered to be low maintenance. I am thinking of planting some in front of some evergreens in my yard – so the lovely blossoms will contrast with the dark green background.
For information for other flowering trees in Missouri, as well as a list of four ornamental cherries recommended for Missouri, see the online UMC Cooperative Extension guide “Selecting Landscape Plants: Flowering Trees” by Dr. Chris Starbuck at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6805
Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our Web site at http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu.