Yoshino Cherry Tree: History, Lifespan, Growth Rate, Problems & Care Guide

The Yoshino Cherry (Prunus × yedoensis), also known as the Tokyo Cherry Blossom or the Japanese Flowering Cherry, is a hybrid cherry tree. It is one of the most popular and widely planted cherry cultivars in temperate regions around the world today.

The Yoshino cherry tree’s history can be traced back to the Edo period (1603-1867) in Japan. It is a hybrid between Prunus lannesiana (Oshima cherry) as the paternal species and Prunus pendula f. ascendens (Edo higan) as the maternal species, which were both native to Japan.

The Yoshino cherry was first cultivated in Japan, where it was named after the Yoshino hamlet in Nara Prefecture. It was brought to the United States in the early 1900s and has since become a beloved ornamental tree in many countries. The first of these trees in the United States were planted in 1912 as a gift of friendship from Japan to the United States, with two Yoshino cherry blossom trees (Prunus yedoensis) being planted on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, Washington D.C. These trees still survive near the John Paul Jones Memorial.

It is a deciduous tree that typically grows to a height of 30 to 40 feet, with a spreading, broad-rounded, open crown. The tree produces fragrant white (sometimes tinged pink) flowers in clusters that bloom before or simultaneous to the emergence of the foliage in early spring. The flowers are followed by small black cherries that are bitter to humans but loved by birds. The tree’s dark green leaves turn yellow in the fall.

The Yoshino Cherry can be grown in gardens and parks. It can also be planted as a specimen or along walks and patios for shade, and its arching branches create a beautiful canopy. It is a fast-growing and beautiful tree with a relatively short lifespan of 15 to 20 years. However, with proper care and maintenance, it can live up to 80 to 100.

General Characteristics of Yoshino Cherry

  • Yoshino cherry trees have an upright branching habit when young, which becomes more horizontal with age.
  • Grows to a height of 20-30 feet (6-9 meters) and a spread of 10-20 feet (3-6 meters) within 10-20 years.
  • The trees have a fast growth rate, adding about 1 to 2 feet per year under ideal conditions.
  • The leaves are ovate to elliptical, glossy, and dark green. They measure 2 to 4 inches long and 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide. In the fall, the foliage turns yellow with orange highlights.
  • Produce abundant, fragrant, pale pink to white, five-petaled flowers in early spring (March-April) before leaves emerge.
  • Produces small, round, black cherries (1/2 inch diameter) that are bitter to humans but attractive to bird.
  • These trees have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for 15 to 20 years, but they can live up to 80 to 100 years with proper care.
  • Has extensive and deep taproot system. Can be invasive in some situations.
  • They are hardy to USDA zones 5-8, which means they can tolerate cold temperatures down to -20°F (-29°C).
  • Prefers well-drained, moist but not soggy, slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0 to 7.0). Benefits from adding compost or manure before planting.
  • Full sun (6-8 hours) is ideal for optimal flowering and growth. Can tolerate partial shade but may have reduced blooms.
  • During the first two years after planting, Yoshino cherry trees require weekly watering (once every two weeks once established). Adequate moisture is crucial for their health, especially in the first couple of years.
  • They are relatively low-maintenance trees, but they may need to be pruned occasionally to remove dead or diseased branches.

Yoshino Cherry Tree Problems (Diseases and Pests)


  • Black Knot (Dibotryon morbosum): This disease appears as hard, black swellings or knots on the branches, which can range from 1 to 6 inches in size. It can limit the production of cherries and negatively impact the aesthetic appeal of ornamental cherry trees.
  • Brown Rot (Monilinia fructicola): Brown rot is a significant problem for some cherry tree cultivars, including the Kwanzan flowering cherry. It can cause infected blossoms to turn brown and decay, with the infection potentially spreading to the neighboring twig if the affected blossoms do not drop off.
  • Cherry Leaf Spot (Blumeriella jaapii): This disease affects the leaves of cherry trees, including tart, sweet, and English Morello varieties. Small purple spots develop on the upper side of the leaf, which can enlarge up to 1/4-inch in diameter. These spots may turn reddish-brown and the centers may dry up and fall out, creating small holes.
  • Canker Diseases: These diseases cause cankers on the branches and twigs of the Yoshino cherry. Cankers are areas of dead tissue that can spread and eventually girdle the limb, leading to parts of the tree dying.
  • Powdery Mildew: This disease can affect Yoshino cherry trees, causing a white or gray powdery growth on the leaves, stems, and flowers. It can lead to leaf yellowing, distortion, and premature leaf drop.


  • Aphids: These are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on the sap of the tree, often clustering on the undersides of leaves and on new growth. They can cause leaves to wilt, discolor, and fall off. Aphids also excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to the growth of sooty mold.
  • Scales: These are small, sap-sucking insects that attach themselves to the branches and leaves of the Yoshino Cherry tree. They can cause stunted growth and yellowing of the tree. Scales are often protected by a waxy or hard shell, making them difficult to control.
  • Spider mites: These are tiny arachnids that feed on the sap of the tree, particularly targeting the leaves. Spider mites can cause leaves to become yellow or bronze and may fall off prematurely. Infestations are often detected by the presence of fine webbing on the tree.
  • Borers: These are insects, typically beetles or moths, that bore into the wood of the tree, causing damage to the trunk and branches. Borers can weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to other pests and diseases.
  • Japanese beetles: These are destructive insects that feed on the foliage of the Yoshino Cherry tree, skeletonizing the leaves. Adult beetles are metallic green with bronze wing covers and are about 1/2 inch long. They can cause significant damage to the tree if their populations are not controlled.

Disadvantages of Growing Yoshino Cherry Tree

  • Yoshino Cherry trees have a relatively short lifespan compared to many other trees, living for 15 to 20 years. This means they may not be a long-term investment for some landscapes, and property owners may need to consider replacing them sooner than other trees.
  • The abundant blossoms of the Yoshino cherry are undeniably beautiful, but they also create a significant mess once they fall. The fallen petals can blanket the ground, creating a layer of pink or white that requires raking and cleaning.
  • While beautiful, Yoshino cherry trees are susceptible to several fungal diseases, including canker diseases and botrytis blight. These diseases can damage the tree’s health and appearance, requiring fungicide application and potentially reducing flower production.
  • Yoshino cherry trees develop a large and deep taproot system. This can be beneficial for anchoring the tree in well-drained soils, but it can also cause problems in some landscapes. The roots can damage sidewalks, driveways, and foundations if planted too close to structures.
  • Unlike some trees that boast vibrant fall foliage, Yoshino cherry trees offer minimal visual interest in the autumn months. Their leaves turn a simple yellow with bronze tints before dropping, providing a less dramatic display compared to trees with fiery reds or oranges.