One of the most beautiful flowering trees that we believe is under-utilized in the landscape is the delightful cherry tree. There are a few different ways to use the genus, Prunus, here in Indiana. It can be used as a native tree for wildlife, as a small to medium flowering tree for spring color, or in a weeping form to serve as a specimen focal point or accent. Different species prove themselves better for these different uses, and there’s sure to be a great spot in your landscape for one of them.
The native black cherry, or Prunus serotina, is a great tree to use for a native habitat planting. This species is attractive to birds and other small wildlife, and will thrive with our natural weather patterns here. Black cherry trees also become extremely valuable in maturity, as the heart wood is used in woodworking and cabinetry for its beautiful dark, straight grain. Being a large tree, at 50-80 feet tall with a 30-60 foot spread, it will provide shade, slightly fragrant flowers in late April-May, and good yellow to rose fall color. While it is prone to some disease and pest problems, such as leaf spot, aphids, and scale, we recommend this tree to anyone with enough space, who likes the idea of restoring native wildlife habitat.
Along with the native species, we also recommend a Japanese cherry tree for anyone looking for a touch of color on the bright blue spring sky. One of the most ornamental flowering cherries, the Kwanzan or Kanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’), is a cultivar with showy, deep pink, double flowers blooming in April. This is a smaller tree, at a mature size of 25’ tall by 25’ wide, so it will fit nicely into many landscapes. It will grow well in full sun to part shade, and since it isn’t native, will need some supplemental watering. Other problems it can have include a short life span, cankers, leaf spot, root rot, aphids, and scales. Even though potentially needing some extra care, this tree’s brilliance in the spring and fall landscape is too great to leave behind.
A good landscape is often missing one element that will elevate it into a great landscape. Prunus ‘Snofozam’ or Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry will become the focal point in which the eyes will not want to leave. Its small size, heavily weeping form, and burst of white spring flowers set it apart, as the surrounding plants fade into the background. Growing well in full sun with medium water needs, it attracts the human eyes, along with birds and butterflies. It matures in height at 15’ and spread at 8’, which keeps it from sprawling out of its designed space. This tree deserves to be placed in the highest profile location for its year round beauty, as its bare weeping branches are great for winter interest, in addition to the spring flowers and bright gold and orange fall colors.
So when looking for shade, native wildlife habitat, big color, or a smaller specimen for the center of attention, Prunus offers many options. When cared for, cherries are some of the highest quality trees available here in Indiana, and we should be enjoying more of them in our landscapes.