The best cherry trees for early blossom

Val Bourne

Read gardening expert Val Bourne on the best cherry trees to grow for early colour, including a look at the award-wining Prunus 'Kursar'.



Cherry blossom is such a welcome addition to the spring garden. Blossom can vary from a sprinkling of delicate, single flowers on bare branches to clusters of full-skirted frilly flowers that almost weigh down the branches. Whichever style you prefer, many flowering cherries make good ornamental trees for smaller gardens due to their modest size.

Read our guide to planting a tree.

The best cherry trees for early blossom

Prunus 'Kursar'

One of the finest cherry trees for early colour is the award-winning Prunus 'Kursar', a Japanese cherry that flowers in March or April producing rounded clusters of bright-pink flowers on bare branches. However the pink buds, which hang down in clusters, are often highly prominent in January and February too. So this cherry provides three months of spring interest and the foliage also colours up well in autumn, turning a warm-orange.

'Kursar' was bred by a famous raiser of cherries, Captain Collingwood Ingram, and he gave it the name because it was thought to be a hybrid between Prunus nipponica var. kurilensis and Prunus sargentii. Hence kur-sar. But Ingram discovered that it had Prunus campanulata blood, not Prunus sargentii - although the original name stayed. 

Given time it will make a dome-shaped tree and reach 5m (16 -18 ft) in height. Like many cherries it will probably live an average of forty years.

These are easily grown, hardy trees. However all deciduous cherries prefer well-drained soil even growing happily on chalk and in limy soil. Ornamental cherries perform in semi-shade, but they do best in a sunny position. Damp, heavy soil makes them look miserable.

Use those bright-pink flowers above pink and maroon Oriental hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) or surround the base of the tree with deep-pink spring-flowering Cyclamen coum. The silver-leaved, Pulmonaria 'Majest', deep-pink hyacinths like 'Woodstock', the silver-leaved Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'. 

Or use a dainty brunnera like 'Jack Frost' - they would all flatter the blossom.

Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis'

(a natural hybrid between Prunus incisa and Prunus pendula)

The so-called Autumn flowering cherry rations out its blush-white, slightly double flowers throughout winter. lt sprinkles them lightly through dark, spidery branches.

Prunus mume 'Beni-chidore'

This is the best Japanese apricot and it produces rose-madder flowers along its dark branches in February.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'

The low-growing Fuji Cherry graces every garden centre in winter. Its almond-pink flowers smother every twisted twig 'Mikinori' (named after a famous Japanese plant hunter) is a newish double white.

Prunus serrula

The Tibetan Cherry produces simple white flowers in April or May on airy branches. But in winter it’s the shiny, mahogany bark that catches the eye.

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