Planting a cherry blossom tree in my front lawn

(Question)

I would like to plant a cherry blossom tree in my front lawn–just adjacent to an edged bed that already contains some flowering bushes, tulips and a fruit tree of some kind that produces white flowers. Could you give me any advice on the best time of year to plant a sapling, any estimate of price, and basic care tips? We are across the street from a highway barricade, and the tree would be about 5-6 feet from the edge of the lawn, so would there be issues of salt damage from snow ploughs to the growing tree? Should it be wrapped in burlap once the cold starts to protect from both the weather and the salt? Thank you very much for any advice you can give me!

(Answer)

By “cherry blossom tree”, I’m assuming you mean a Japanese Cherry tree (Prunus serrulata).  Here’s a good overview of the flowering tree, Ohio State University’s “Prunus serrulata – Japanese Flowering Cherry or Oriental Cherry (Rosaceae)”, which discusses sun and soil needs, provides some cultivars that you might be interested in, and highlights diseases and pests that may be a concern.

Japanese cherry trees prefer full sun, and it is recommended they be planted in an open spot that gets lots of air (but not strong winds); this helps ensure the tree dries quickly following rain, so that it is less likely to be exposed to pests or diseases.  The best time to plant the trees is early spring, once the ground can be worked or in the late fall, between the time the leaves begin to fall until the ground freezes.  A very good resource that advises when to plant different types of plants, including trees, is the Belle River & District Horticultural Society’s “When to dig and plant”.

The Japanese cherry has some tolerance for salt, which means that it may do well near streets/areas where winter salting must be used.  However it is difficult to say how well your tree will do if a significant amount of salt remains in your soil.  The fact that you already have a fruit tree flourishing close to where you want to plant the cherry sounds encouraging — salt may not be a concern.  The University of Massachusetts has a good article, “Road salt and trees” that discusses what salt damage on trees looks like and suggest several more salt-tolerant trees. You may want to ask your local garden centre about cultivars they would recommend, as well as for prices for the trees.

If you are interested in fruit-bearing trees, Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food has an excellent article, “Fruit trees in the home garden”,   which provides information on siting the tree, how to choose cultivars, fertilizer and pollination issues as well as details on when best to plant the tree.

As for price, it depends on the cultivar you choose and the size of the sapling. Once you have decided which one you’re interested in, contact nurseries in your area to get an idea of availability and cost.