This post was originally published in March 2018, towards the end of the harshest winter in London for years.

You may have noticed – possibly with some alarm – the delicate, yet persistent blooms of the winter-flowering cherry which have been flowering for months now. The snow and ice of last week hasn’t been kind to them and many trees in London previously in full flower are now sporting a wilted coat of brown petals, but look beyond these and more flower buds are on their way!

Flower power: Winter-flowering cherry of the ‘Autumnalis’ variety going for it in mid-December

A few years ago a trend began for planting early or late-flowering (depending on your point of view) Japanese cherries as street trees, and in some parts of town two closely related cultivars, like craft beer outlets, seem to be popping up on every street corner. Look out for the white flowered Prunus × subhirtella ‘Autumnalis*’ and the pink flowered Prunus × subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

Millennial: The pink blooms of ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ on a February afternoon

For the uninitiated, the sight of cherry blossom in the depths of winter has been known to elicit strong reactions, from concern for seasons going haywire, to global warming incarnate. But, although I wouldn’t want to deny these very real climate change phenomena for which overwhelming evidence exists, the winter-flowering cherry could not in itself be defined as an indicator. It’s supposed to flower in mild weather from November through to April. And this season, trees in London have been particularly good, blooming consistently since November despite the see-sawing of temperatures within the space of a few days. So, despite it feeling wintry out there, there has not, until last week been a sustained cold patch and this appears to have been exactly what this tree likes.

Frostbite: Wilting blooms mingle with new, unblemished pink flower buds on the ‘Autmnalis’ tree

Which leads us to the question: why does the winter-flowering cherry flower in winter? The short answer is it has been bred to, its flowers are not filling an environmental niche to take advantage of a winter flying bee, it’s flowering because humans wanted something to cheer them up during the gloomy winter months. Prunus × subhirtella is thought to have Japanese horticultural origins, but it has been around for so long, its provenance disappears into the mists of time. It is sometimes also called Prunus subhirtella – note: no ‘×’ denoting hybridity – it’s unclear (as with many other ornamental cherries) what parent species have hybridised to create our tree. Sometimes too, it is called Prunus pendula, an appellation most commonly ascribed to another cultivar, the spring-flowering weeping Higan cherry. This though seems to be sloppiness and it should properly be called Prunus × subhirtella ‘Pendula Rosea’. Something else to look out for in Winter Flowering cherries is the last flush of blooms appearing in April with the leaves. These flowers differ from those of previous waves in having stalks – winter blooms are stalkless (or sessile).

Interestingly one of the world’s oldest Cherries, the 1,000 year-old ‘Miharu Takizakura’ in Fukushima province, is a weeping Higan and is often claimed to be the ‘most beautiful cherry tree in Japan’. This is a cultivar unknown as a London street tree, but it may bode well for the longevity of the trees we do have, not to mention their long term potential for craggy good looks.

Dessert course: Delicate pink Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) flowers of the ‘Nigra’ cultivar appear in March

As spring approaches, Winter-flowering cherries will be competing with other early flowering Prunus species, particularly the widely planted purple cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) of either the ‘Pissardii’ (white blossom) and ‘Nigra’ (pink blossom) cultivars. If you’re lucky, you may see almond (Prunus dulcis) with big pink flowers, blireana plum (Prunus × blireana), with almost fluorescent pink blossom or another Japanese tree, Prunus × incamp ‘Okame’ again with pink blossom preceded by distinctive maroon coloured buds.

* The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden holds that ‘Autumnalis’ should actually be known by its Japanese cultivar name of ‘Jugatsu-zakura’

Prunus Autumnalis – Winter Flowering Cherry Tree

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Trees can bring a lot to a garden—shade, fruit, colour, fragrance, height and flowers—as well as attracting wildlife and offering wonderful environmental benefits. There are also a lot of things to consider when selecting a tree, and there are a very wide range of beautiful specimens to choose from.

Tree Size

1. Shrub

The main stem is only usually 10cm (4”) at most and will not grow further in height but the girth will grow. The head of the plant will continue to fill out with the overall size of the head varying dependent of plant type.

2. Quarter-standard (QS)

A tree with a single stem with clear trunk that is aproximatly 80-100cm is referred to as a quarter-standard.

3. Half-standard (HS)

A tree with a single stem with clear trunk approximatly 100-120cm is referred to as a half-standard.

4. Standard (Std)

A tree with a single stem with clear trunk at least 1.8m is referred to as a Standard. Some standard trees may have 4m+ trunks such as those that line roadsides, depending on the type of tree these may have been pruned or may naturally drop their lower branches as they grow.

5. Feathered (Fth)

A tree with single stem that has branches breaking from just above the bottom of the main trunk is referred to as feathered.

Planting and Conditions

The planting of trees is best done between October and April. Specimens that are grown in containers can be planted at any time of the year, but are much easier to care for in the long run if they are planted in the autumn or winter months.

Most trees will not grow in places where there is not enough air in the soil, or there are insufficient nutrients available. If the soil is too moist or too dry, trees will not flourish and may have establishment problems.

If your soil is waterlogged, especially over winter, consider installing drainage—or plant on a slight mound. Excess moisture can easily kill fine roots, so good drainage is paramount.

Improve fertility of the soil by incorporating fertiliser and organic matter into the soil prior to planting.

To plant trees, remove the plant from its container or fabric wrapping (unless the guarantee states that this should be left on!) and tease the roots out, spreading them gently. This is to help you get an idea of their spread. The hole that you use to plant your tree should be no deeper than the roots are, but it needs to be around three times the diameter of the root system.

Top heavy or larger specimen trees should be staked. Refill the planting hole carefully, and place soil around all the roots to eliminate air pockets. Don’t fill the hole with fertiliser or organic matter, as this can decompose and cause your tree to sink.

Avoid firming the soil too heavy-handedly so that it doesn’t compact into a solid mass.

You must practice caution when planting trees near buildings, as over a long period of time they can cause subsidence, drain damage or even pose a physical threat from falling branches.

If you are planting a larger specimen tree, it should be soaked prior to planting. If the roots look moist, soak for around half an hour. If the roots look dry, soak for up to two hours.

Aftercare and Pruning

Correct aftercare is of higher importance for specimen trees as the establishment phase can be much longer than that of smaller trees. This involves properly watering the specimen, and mulching the area around the tree properly.

There is no need to apply fertiliser to a tree during the first growing season. Lack of feeding encourages the roots to grow to the surrounding soil in search of moisture and nutrients, and this helps them to establish a healthy root system.

If the soil is infertile, feeding the year after planting may be beneficial. A balanced, general purpose feed spread over the whole root area will work best when applied in the spring time.

Newly planted trees require thorough watering to give them the best start. The amount of watering required will depend on your soil type. If you are planting in heavy clay soil, or soil with poor drainage, then watering should not be undertaken too frequently.

Grasses and weeds can compete with younger trees for nutrients light and moisture. Some climbing plants can also compete for these valuable resources, so should not be planted near trees when they are young. Some gardeners wish to have a climber growing on their tree, and this can look very beautiful—but should only be attempted when the tree is fully established.

All trees, but especially young and newly planted ones, benefit from mulching. This helps to supress weeds, conserve vital moisture and provide the nutrients that the tree desperately needs.

Some trees may show signs of reverted growth or ‘sporting’. This is where random shoots of different leaves associated with the plant’s parentage begin to appear. Most commonly this is where plants with variegated leaves sprout pure green growths instead of variegated ones.

To control reversion, remove reverted shoots promptly to discourage them. Reverted shoots are usually much more vigorous than the variegated ones, and thus should be completely pruned out and cut back into wood containing variegated foliage.

Suckers should also be promptly removed. Do this by tearing the shoot away from the root, removing most of the dormant basal buds and thus reducing the possibility of regrowth. Keep an eye out for returning suckers.

Most trees will benefit from occasional pruning. Pruning can make trees slightly smaller than they would be without it, but it rarely keeps a tree that is supposed to be big, small.

Deciduous trees should be pruned in autumn and winter, but some trees such as magnoliaand walnut trees should be pruned in late summer, as this allows for faster healing.

Trees that are prone to silver leaf disease should be pruned from April to July, when there are no disease spores on the wind, and the sap of the tree is rising (pushing out) rather than falling (pulling in). This will aid in pushing infection, if any, out of the tree. Some trees can bleed sap if pruned at the wrong time. This can weaken the tree, so try to prune at a time of year that is best for the tree.

Evergreen trees rarely need pruning, but dead or diseased branches should be removed in late summer.

Potential Issues

Trees are large and slow growing, and are thus difficult to replace in gardens should you need to. Most trees have evolved over time and can withstand disease, but ill health in a tree is still a worry. Brown or yellow leaves can indicate drought stress, a soil problem or a nutrient deficiency.

Trees can also suffer from the fatal honey fungus, silver leaf, bacterial canker, root rot and verticillium wilt. Many of these can be treated or reduced with proper pruning or chemical sprays, but some are fatal. Once honey fungus takes hold, the only proper solution is extraction and burning of the infected material.

Severe sap bleeding can also be enough to kill a tree. Do not prune during the wrong season, and do not bind or wrap wounds from incorrect pruning. Instead, use a protective wound paint to seal the wound. Some gardeners claim that protective seals can increase the chances of infection because they can trap excess water. Always use your better judgement.

Pruning during summer months, as long as suitable for the specific plant, tends to reduce the chances of infection from sap bleeding.

Winter Flowering Cherry Tree 5-6ft Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea

  • Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea | Winter Flowering Cherry Tree | 5-6ft

    As autumn approaches, The tree grows to a classic ese cheery blossom shape and requires minimal maintenance, It is also perfect for urban gardens as it tolerates pollution very well, Hardiness and Best Position: Fully hardy, attracting birds, Characteristics: Small tree with dark green leaves and bell shaped pale pink flowers through autumn and winter and glossy fruits in spring, Plant in full sun to get the best colours out of the autumn show, These bell-shaped delicate and frilly flowers look stunning in a snow-filled or frosty garden and will remain on the branches throughout the cold winter months, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ | Winter Flowering Cherry Tree | 5-6ft: Garden & Outdoors, grey winter, glossy fruits, Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea | Winter Flowering Cherry Tree | 5-6ft, 5-6ft Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea Winter Flowering Cherry Tree, butterflies and bees into your garden, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ offers a unique attraction for any garden – it flowers through autumn and winter, Autumn Cherry trees offer ovate, or leave it alone to create its own look

    They grow in most soil types but do less well in wet or shallow chalky areas, Great prices on your favourite Gardening brands, a period when other plants are bare and uninteresting, Show off your gardening skills and delight guests who visit in the middle of a cold, making it ideal for smaller spaces, Flowering: Pale pink semi-double flowers in autumn and winter, dark-green leaves that mature to vibrant, the Autumn Cherry tree bursts forth in masses of pale-pink, Full sun, red and yellow before falling, As the weather warms, you can trim branches to maintain an evenly canopied shape, Winter Flowering Cherry Tree 5-6ft Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea

    Winter Flowering Cherry Tree 5-6ft Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea, semi-double flowers that open up from dark pink buds, The tree will reach heights of around m with a spread of around m in a 0 year period, the flowers turn to small, to find your garden bursting with a magnificent display of coconut-ice cherry blossoms, In the early years, and free delivery on eligible orders, Height and Spread in 20 years: 4m / 4m, Soil: Tolerates most soil types, This is must-have for a gardener who wants to create all-year round colour interest in a smaller space, bold tones of orange, Winter Flowering Cherry Tree 5-6ft Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea




Autumnalis Higan Cherry in bloom

Autumnalis Higan Cherry in bloom

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Autumnalis Higan Cherry flowers

Autumnalis Higan Cherry flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Autumnalis Higan Cherry bark

Autumnalis Higan Cherry bark

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Height: 30 feet

Spread: 20 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Other Names: Spring Cherry, Rosebud Cherry

Description:

A truly beautiful accent tree, with clouds of showy double light pink flowers in spring before the leaves, colorful bark, good fall color and an artistic upright habit; needs full sun and well-drained soil, but quite adaptable for a cherry

Ornamental Features

Autumnalis Higan Cherry is clothed in stunning clusters of fragrant shell pink flowers along the branches in early spring, which emerge from distinctive pink flower buds before the leaves. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. The pointy leaves turn yellow in fall. The fruits are showy black drupes displayed in early fall. The smooth dark red bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

Autumnalis Higan Cherry is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It is a good choice for attracting birds to your yard. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Autumnalis Higan Cherry is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Autumnalis Higan Cherry will grow to be about 30 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 4 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 60 years or more.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Weeping Cherry Tree, Weeping Higan Cherry ‘Autumnalis’

Category:

Trees

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Foliage:

Deciduous

Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us

Height:

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Spacing:

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Danger:

Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Pink

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By grafting

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Roslindale, Massachusetts

Cincinnati, Ohio

Strongsville, Ohio

Texas City, Texas

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