Kwanzan Cherry Tree: Lifespan, Growth Rate And Other Cultural Characteristics

Kwanzan cherry is a flowering cherry cultivar. Developed in the Edo period (1603-1868) of Japan, the Kwanzan cherry isn’t a single species but a cultivar. It’s believed to be the result of multiple interspecific hybridizations involving the Oshima cherry (Prunus serrulata). The original name of the tree is ‘Sekiyama,’ but it is rarely used. Sekiyama is a mountain in Japan.

Kwanzan is scientifically referred to as Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’. The Kwanzan cherry tree was introduced to the United States in 1903 and became a significant part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., where it was planted along the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial all the way to East Potomac Park. The original trees were a gift from Japan, specifically from Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki, as a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States. This gift included 3,000 cherry trees, which were planted in various locations around the city, including the White House grounds.

It is a deciduous tree that grows to between 1 and 9 metres high with an 8-metre spread. Young trees have a vase-shaped habit that becomes more spreading into maturity. In winter they produce red buds, opening to 5-centimetre (2 in) diameter deep-pink double flowers. The trees, which are usually propagated by chip budding or grafting, prefer a well-drained location in full sun.

‘Kanzan’ is the most popular Japanese cherry tree cultivar for cherry blossom viewing in Europe and North America. Compared with Yoshino cherry, a representative Japanese cultivar, it is popular because it grows well even in cold regions, is small and easy to plant in the garden, and has large flowers and deep pink petals. In the city of Bonn, Germany, there is a row of cherry trees where 300 ‘kanzan’ trees were planted in the late 1980s. In Western countries, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Royal Burgundy’ originating from Kanzan have been created.

Characteristics of Kwanzan Cherry

  • They are a popular symbol of spring in Japan.
  • ‘Kanzan’ has pink petals, which are thought to have unexpectedly inherited the characteristics of the white Oshima cherry. 
  • The trees have an upright-spreading form and can grow up to 25 feet tall.
  • The trees have an attractive vase-shaped crown, which can spread 15 to 25 feet wide.
  • These trees have a moderate growth rate of 12-24 inches per year.
  • The leaves are ovate to elliptic leaves with serrated margins. The leaves emerge bronze or coppery in spring, mature to a glossy dark green in summer, and turn yellow-orange to bronze in fall before dropping.
  • The flowers are double-petaled and pink in color, and they appear in clusters in early to mid-spring before the leaves emerge.
  • The bark is smooth and shiny when young, turning to a dark gray with horizontal lenticels as it matures.
  • Trees have a shallow root system, which can sometimes be invasive and compete with nearby plants for nutrients and water.
  • They have a lifespan of 15-30 years under normal conditions.
  • Produce small black fruits (cherries) after flowering, these fruits are typically ornamental and not cultivated for consumption.
  • The leaves, stems, and seeds of cherry trees are toxic to pets and humans.
  • These trees are suitable for growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.
  • Prefer full sun exposure to thrive and produce abundant flowers.
  • Kwanzan Cherry trees prefer well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil. They can tolerate loamy, sandy, or clay soils, as long as they are not waterlogged.
  • While generally resilient, they can be susceptible to certain diseases and pests, including fungal infections such as cherry leaf spot and powdery mildew, as well as pests like aphids and caterpillars.
  • These trees are cold hardy to temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Other than landscaping use. They are used in traditional Japanese flower arranging (ikebana).

Variations or hybrids related to Kwanzan Cherry

NameSimilarities to KwanzanDifferences from Kwanzan
Shirofugen Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’)Double white flowersWeeping growth habit (drooping branches)
Akebono Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Akebono’)Double pink flowersDeeper rose-pink color with a white center
Ukon Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Ukon’)Double flowersLighter, more pale pink blossoms
Kanzan Weeping Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan Weeping’)Double pink flowersWeeping growth habit (drooping branches)

Kwanzan Cherry tree vs Cherry Blossom

The Kwanzan cherry tree (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’) is a specific cultivar, a cultivated variety, developed in Japan. It’s a descendant of the wild Oshima cherry (Prunus serrulata). It is characterized by double pink blossoms. Each flower boasts 5-10 petals, and they bloom in clusters of 3-5, in mid to late spring.

“Cherry blossom” is a broader term encompassing the flowering phase of various cherry tree species and cultivars, including the Kwanzan. It refers to the beautiful blossoms produced by these trees in spring. Cherry blossoms can be in different colors than just pink. Species like the Yoshino cherry (Prunus × yedoensis) boast delicate, single white blossoms, while the Sargent cherry (Prunus sargentii) has deep rose-pink, single flowers.

Pros and Cons of Kwanzan Cherry Trees


  • Its showy flowers that bloom in the spring, create a stunning display against the sky.
  • The tree provides a good amount of shade during the summer due to its broad canopy.
  • These trees are not particularly fussy and require full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. They are also tolerant of a variety of soil conditions.
  • Kwanzan cherry trees are fast-growing, reaching up to 25 feet tall in a medium growth rate.
  • In the fall, the leaves of Kwanzan cherry trees turn a bright yellow-orange, adding another season of interest.


  • These trees have a lifespan of about 15 to 25 years, which is relatively short compared to other trees.
  • These trees are susceptible to common cherry tree issues like fireblight, root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf curl.
  • Kwanzan cherry trees require regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • The roots of Kwanzan cherry trees are moderately aggressive and grow near to the surface, which may compete with grass and other plants for nutrients and space.
  • These trees do not produce edible fruits, which may be a disadvantage for those looking for a tree that offers both ornamental value and edible fruits.