Weeping cherry trees are a lovely addition to any landscape. They are often used as a focal tree and to bring seasonal interest with their bright blooms and weeping habit. They need concise and timely pruning in two areas, the root zone and the tips of blossom branches, to maintain their ornamental beauty and their health.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson suggests, "Do not try to over prune any weeping cherry, it will take away from its natural 'wild' shape."
Step 1 - Determine When to Prune
The optimum time to prune branches and foliage of the weeping cherry tree is late summer or early fall. The tree has finished the majority of its growth for the season and the sap will drip very little when pruned. Do not prune in the winter, because silver leaf disease spores can invade the tree. Only remove storm-damaged limbs and branches when the tree is dormant.
Step 2 - Use the Sharpest Pruning Shears
Use sharp pruning tools to make the smallest possible cut to remove the unwanted branches or twigs. Catch them early in their growth when they are slender. The weeping cherry tree, like most flowering trees, can heal a small wound to its bark and pith quickly. When cutting damaged, diseased, or dead branches, clean the shears between each cut with rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic such as Listerine oral rinse. Do not use chlorine bleach or pine-based antibacterial cleansers, as they will corrode the shear blades.
Step 3 - Prune Straight Branches From the Root Area
Prune new-growth straight branches emerging from the trunk at ground level as soon as you see them, at the latest after the blossoms fall in June. Often called water sprouts or suckers, they will drain water and nutrition from the leaves and blossoms. They grow because the weeping cherry tree is often grafted onto other cherry tree stock, and this growth is the tree's attempt to reproduce.
Step 4 - Prune to Manage the Weeping Foliage Growth
The weeping cherry tree's blossoms and leaves, to most people, appear most beautiful when they are trailing on the ground. If you wish your tree to look a little tidier, prune very carefully at the tips of the longest branches. This encourages leaf growth and bloom. Avoid pruning weeping cherry tree branches near the trunk. This will promote undesirable growth of straight, vertical branches.
TIP: Susan reminds you, "Take a step back from your pruning often to check on shape. it is easy to over prune when you are right on top of the tree."
The dwarf weeping cherry tree needs less pruning than its normal-sized counterpart because it grows neither as tall nor as broad. After several years, it too will drape its trailing boughs on or near the ground.
Prune out any diseased or dead branches in the fall. Set them aside for disposal rather than chopping them for compost. Add healthy branches to your compost pile after shredding them into small bits.
TIP: Susan advises, "Gather all limbs that you have trimmed from off of the ground and dispose of them. If burning is allowed in your areas, this is best."
The Snow Fountain varietal of the weeping cherry tree is a favorite with people who hate to prune. Its long weeping branches and twigs develop fast, and sweep the yard with snowy white blossoms every spring. Prune only to remove diseased or dead limbs. It flourishes best when watered, mulched at the roots, and left to grow wild.
Properly pruning your weeping willow tree will keep it thriving. You will be able to enjoy its beauty for years to come.