Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree: Pruning Tips and Steps for More Flowers

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | January 5, 2024

Man with pruners begins trimming a weeping cherry tree after learning how to prune weeping cherry trees for more blooms, tools to cut cherry branches, how to trim weeping cherry limbs.

Did you know that trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree promotes flowering and fruiting?

The gracefully cascading branches covered in clusters of delicate spring blossoms make Weeping Cherry Trees a truly breathtaking addition to any landscape, and they are incredibly attractive to pollinators.1 Their delicate pink or white flowers herald the arrival of spring with stunning floral displays.

Regularly trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree helps maintain its elegant umbrella form, removes diseased limbs, opens up the canopy, and encourages more abundant spring flowering.

In this comprehensive Cherry tree trimming guide, you will learn everything you need to know about effectively trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree including the reasons for pruning, when to trim Cherry branches, the tools needed, and step-by-step instructions for pruning based on tree size.

It also explains mistakes to avoid as well as when you should try hiring a professional arborist or tree trimming service, along with the results of proper trimming.

Graphic that shows the signs a weeping cherry tree needs pruning.
With the right approach, tools, and techniques, you can prune your Weeping Cherry Tree for improved vigor, form, and flower production.

Step-By-Step Guide for Pruning Weeping Cherry Trees Based on Type and Size

The pruning process depends on whether you are trimming a young, newly planted weeping cherry or an established mature tree.

It also differs based on whether the tree is grafted or non-grafted.4

Identifying Different Types of Weeping Cherry Trees

Weeping Cherry Trees generally fall into one of two categories – grafted or non-grafted.7 Identifying what types of trees you have determines how you’ll approach pruning and trimming.

Grafted Weeping Cherry Trees

Many commercially grown Weeping Cherry Trees are actually two trees grafted together.

A desired weeping branch is joined onto the straight trunk of a stronger upright Cherry Tree via grafting.

Graphic that shows the Types of Weeping Cherry Trees such as Grafted and Non-Grafted.

You can identify grafted weeping cherries by:8

  • Visible Graft Union: Look for a visible “knot” on the trunk where the weeping canopy was grafted onto the upright base. This is usually 4-5 feet above ground.
  • Non-Weeping Growth: Branches emerging below the graft union grow straight up since they originate from the upright rootstock, not the weeping scion wood.

Non-Grafted or “Natural” Weeping Cherries

Alternatively, non-grafted Weeping Cherry Trees have a natural genetic tendency to weep.8 Their branches intrinsically grow into the sought-after cascading form.

You’ll know you have a natural weeping cherry if:

  • No Visible Graft: The trunk grows smoothly into the weeping canopy with no swelling or scarring.
  • All Weeping Growth: Branches emerge from the trunk already angled downwards with no upright shoots.
  • Wider, More Irregular Form: Natural weeping cherries have wider, more irregular outlines than pruned grafted trees.

Correctly identifying your type of weeping cherry will guide your pruning approach.

How To Trim Young/Small Weeping Cherry Trees

For young trees under 10 feet tall, hand-pruning tools are usually sufficient for maintaining shape and vigor.9 Never break branches off by hand.

Here is the step-by-step process of trimming a young/small Weeping Cherry Tree:

  1. Sterilize your hand pruners or loppers with disinfectant spray or wipes before pruning to prevent disease spread.
  2. Locate the main central leader branch which will form the trunk. Remove any narrow, upright shoots growing from the sides of the trunk.
  3. Find any small branches crossing each other and cut out the weaker of the two branches where they intersect.
  4. Trim back the whippy ends of branches to encourage an outward, umbrella-like form. Aim for just above buds angled away from the center.
  5. Selectively remove congested interior branches shading the center of the tree for better light exposure.
  6. Periodically step back to assess the overall shape as you prune. Make sure you maintain a balanced outline.

How To Trim Mature, Large Weeping Cherry Trees

Mature Weeping Cherry Trees over 10 feet tall require the use of pole saws, chainsaws, or a professional arborist for high branches.5

Here is the step-by-step process of trimming an established Weeping Cherry Tree

  1. Disinfect all pruning tools with a diluted bleach solution beforehand. For pole saws, wipe down the blade between each branch.
  2. Begin by removing all dead, broken, or diseased wood, cutting back to lateral shoots.
  3. Head back any long branches above outward angled buds using loppers and pole saws for upper branches. This maintains a layered shape.
  4. Thin out congested interior branches shading the center using bypass pruners, loppers, or saws as needed based on branch size.
  5. Prune lower branches obstructing walkways and structures for clearance beneath the cascading canopy.
  6. In spring, use a pole pruner to pinch back new candle growth when accessible.
  7. Monitor for water sprouts and dense interior regrowth in summer. Trim additional branches as needed before leaf needles expand fully.
  8. Periodically step back to assess the overall shape as you prune. Make sure you maintain a balanced outline.

Pruning Grafted Weeping Cherry Trees (Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree)

Grafted Weeping Cherry Trees require some specialized pruning practices:

  1. Check above the graft union for straight shoots emerging from the rootstock below the graft. Remove these shoots entirely as they will not weep.
  2. Prune off any vigorous vertical shoots arising from the interior canopy above the graft. Leaving these will compromise the sought-after weeping shape.
  3. Remove the vigorous upright shoots called water sprouts that often emerge near the graft union.
  4. Monitor for continued non-weeping growth during summer and remove promptly to preserve the graceful form.
  5. Always maintain at least 5-6 inches of clear trunk between the ground and graft union when pruning suckers.

Follow these extra steps above when pruning grafted Weeping Cherry Trees to preserve their cascading oriental look.4

Reasons for Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree

There are several important reasons why trimming and pruning a Weeping Cherry Tree is beneficial:2

Promote Flowering and Fruiting

The number one reason for trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree is to maximize their beloved spring blooms. Selective pruning opens up the tree’s canopy to increase sunlight exposure to the interior branches.

This boosts flowering on existing wood and also stimulates new growth and more flowering buds to form, that will then flower the following spring. Without thinning out the interior, the lack of light limits flower production and eventual fruiting.

Maintain a Graceful Shape

Weeping Cherry Trees are highly prized for their elegant, umbrella-like form with branches that cascade downwards.

Trimming maintains this classic shape by removing any vertical branches growing upwards as well as shortening extending branches. This restores symmetry and structural balance and showcases the tree’s graceful silhouette.

Improve Health

Pruning out dead, damaged, or infected branches helps improve the overall health of Weeping Cherry Trees by eliminating entry points for infections and pests.

Left unattended, diseased limbs can spread decay to other areas of the tree. Proper pruning halts the spread of disease in its tracks.

Additionally, Thinning the interior allows more air circulation and light which reduces fungal disease risk.

Prevent Overcrowding

Selective thinning of interior branches opens up the canopy and allows more sunlight and air circulation to penetrate the tree’s canopy.

This is especially important for the lower inner branches which can become shaded out as the tree grows. More light exposure allows these areas to actively grow and flower.

Reduce the Risk of Disease

Opening up dense canopies through pruning decreases moisture retention and humidity. This helps reduce the risk of fungal diseases like canker which thrive in damp conditions with poor air flow.3 Active air circulation keeps the tree dry.

Rejuvenate Old Trees

Weeping Cherry Trees that have been neglected for many years often become overgrown with dense, congested growth.

Light to moderate pruning can help stimulate new growth which restores vigor and beauty to such trees. However, never remove more than 25% of branches.

Remove Hazards

Pruning eliminates dead, damaged, or hanging branches that could break off and cause injury to people beneath. It also reduces strain from wind, snow, and ice loads.

Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree: When To Trim a Weeping Cherry Tree

Pruning at the right time of year is critical for the health and rejuvenation of your Weeping Cherry Tree.

This complements their natural growth cycle.

Graphic that shows When To Trim a Weeping Cherry Tree.

The ideal times to prune are:

Early Spring Before Growth

The optimal time for pruning weeping cherries is late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant before any flower buds start swelling – generally from February to March depending on your climate.4 Cuts tend to heal quickly as spring growth commences and energy flows into developing buds. Deadwood removal, shaping, and preventive thinning are also ideal at this time.

Spring After Flowering

Once flowering ends in mid to late spring, you can perform a light prune to shape the canopy, contain excessively long branches and remove spent blooms. However, avoid heavy pruning during this period to limit stress.

Early Summer During Candling

As new shoots appear in early summer, you can pinch back 1/3 to 1/2 of the delicate new “candle” shoots by hand once needles emerge to encourage branching. Shearing should cease once the shoots harden off.

Avoid pruning Weeping Cherry Trees during and immediately after flowering in spring when you risk removing flower buds. Additionally, avoid pruning from mid to late summer when cuts could force new growth before properly hardening off. Note that the sequence of flower emergence on Weeping Cherry Trees also determines the ideal pruning timing.

Tools and Supplies for Pruning Weeping Cherry Trees

Which tools will you need for the job?

Having the right pruning tools on hand makes properly trimming your weeping cherry much easier.5 Here are the essentials:

Bypass Pruners

Bypass pruners offer clean cuts through smaller branches, typically up to 1⁄2 inch in diameter. Look for ergonomic, easy-to-use pruners with high-quality steel blades that retain sharp edges.


Loppers have long handles for extended reach and compound levers that increase cutting power. They tackle thicker branches around 1 1⁄2 inches in diameter. Curved lopper blades easily access awkward spots.

Curved Pruning Saw

A hand pruning saw quickly cuts through large, mature weeping cherry branches that bypass pruners and loppers can’t handle. Curved blades provide better access for precision cuts.

Pole Saw/Pruner

Pole saws and pruners allow you to safely trim high weeping cherry branches from the ground. Shop for telescopic poles that extend up to 16 feet. Chainsaw-style poles make quick work of bigger limbs.

Disinfectant Spray

Prevent the spread of disease between branches by thoroughly disinfecting tools before and after each cut. Spray down tools with 70% alcohol, diluted bleach, or other disinfectant solutions.

Pruning Tar or Sealant

Sealing larger pruning wounds over 2 inches across speeds healing. Use an all-natural, non-toxic pruning sealer or wound paint. Avoid old petroleum-based sealers.

Collection Tarps/Bags

Safely collect and dispose of debris as you work by laying tarps or bags beneath trees. Prevent pests and disease inoculum from remaining below the canopy.

Safety Equipment

Protect yourself with goggles, hearing protection, long sleeves and pants, and sturdy gloves when operating saws and power pruners. A hard hat, respirator, and steel-toed boots add further protection.

How To Make Proper Pruning Cuts on Weeping Cherry Branches

Learning where and how to make proper pruning cuts is critical to protecting the health of your Weeping Cherry Trees.10 Here are the cuts you can make and how to execute them:

  • Collar Cuts: When removing entire branches, make the cut just outside the swollen branch collar, angle down and away. Avoid leaving stubs.
  • Heading Cuts: Make heading cuts on upright shoots above an outward-facing bud to force new growth in the desired direction. Cut at a 45-degree angle.
  • Thinning Cuts: Thinning cuts remove whole branches back to the trunk or larger limb to reduce crown density. Make cuts flush with the collar.

Avoid making flush cuts in line with the remaining branch. Also, take care not to injure the branch bark collar when pruning.

Graphic that shows the Pruning Cuts on Weeping Cherry Branches.

For large branches, use the three-cut method to prevent bark ripping:11

3-Step Cut for Large Branches (Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree)

  1. Make an undercut 12 to 15 inches from the trunk to avoid tear-out when weight is released.
  2. Make a top cut directly above to remove most of the weight.
  3. Make the final collar cut just outside the branch bark ridge to remove the stub.

If the wound is over 2 inches wide, seal it with non-toxic tree paint or shellac to protect it from insects and disease while healing.

Follow these guidelines and your pruning cuts will promote rapid healing and long-term tree health.

Common Pruning Mistakes To Avoid When Pruning Your Weeping Cherry Trees

Although trimming is fairly straightforward, it is easy to make pruning mistakes that may damage your Weeping Cherry Trees. Here are some common pruning mistakes to avoid:12

  • Never top trees by removing the leader and upper canopy. This destroys the graceful form.
  • Over-thinning starves the tree of needed foliage for growth and energy production.
  • Excessive heading causes dense congestion – use thinning cuts instead for open structure.
  • Don’t make flush cuts parallel and close to the trunk which damages protective bark.
  • Avoid pruning into significantly older wood that won’t generate new growth.
  • Never apply paint to pruning wounds – trees naturally compartmentalize wounds if cuts are proper.
  • Prevent over-pruning by removing no more than 25% of living branches which can stress trees.

Knowing what not to do when pruning is just as important as using proper pruning techniques for a healthy Weeping Cherry Tree. By being aware of these common pruning errors, you can avoid potentially irreparable damage to your Weeping Cherry Tree. Additionally, remember that you can always call in tree-trimming experts if the process looks too intimidating.

Signs Your Weeping Cherry Tree Needs Pruning

  • Dead, dying, or damaged branches
  • Mushrooms or fungus growing on bark
  • Gum or sap leaking from branches
  • Crossing, rubbing, or crowded branches
  • Lopsided, asymmetrical shape
  • Lack of flowers or leaf density

These symptoms indicate it’s time to trim your Weeping Cherry to improve health, structure, and flowering.6 Monitor closely for issues and prune as needed.

Tips for Preventing Disease When Pruning Weeping Cherry Trees

The process of pruning, when not done correctly, can expose the tree to diseases and infections. Here are some tips to help you employ proper practices that prevent the introduction or spreading of diseases:2

  • Sterilize Pruning Tools: Disinfect all tools before use and between each branch or tree using 70% rubbing alcohol.
  • Prune in Dry Weather: Avoid pruning just after rain/heavy dews which can spread fungal spores.
  • Seal Larger Wound Cuts: While wounds can naturally heal on their own, sealing large wounds with a natural, non-toxic material limits entry points for moisture, insects, and contamination while healing occurs.
  • Remove all Debris: Don’t allow lopped branches to lie around the base of the tree. Collect and destroy diseased debris promptly.
  • Monitor Tree Health: Watch for signs of fungal infections like cytospora canker and prune out infections immediately.
  • Avoid Over-Pruning: Removing more than 25% of the live canopy in one season risks tree stress and disease susceptibility.
  •  Apply Fertilizer: Applying fertilizer or compost and irrigating in dry periods while wounds are closing aids in recovery.

By adhering to sterile practices and limiting stressors, your pruning regimen will help keep your weeping cherry robust and resilient.

When To Call a Professional Weeping Cherry Arborist

While it is possible to handle regular pruning by yourself, some situations call for professional expertise including:13

  • Mature trees over 15 feet tall require a ladder, bucket truck, or crane access.
  • Severe pruning jobs such as extensive deadwood removal, storm damage, or correcting years of neglect.
  • The presence of disease requires reliable identification, treatment, and preventive pruning.
  • Multi-stemmed trunks and other complex structures are dangerous for non-professionals to prune.
  • Lack of proper training, safety equipment, insurance coverage, and experience needed.
  • High-traffic areas where pruning debris could impact pedestrians, vehicles, or buildings.

Benefits of Professional Weeping Cherry Tree Pruning

Professional arborists offer many benefits including:13

  • Proper tree and disease identification to make informed pruning decisions.
  • Risk assessment of defects and structure to determine priority pruning needs.
  • Ability to access high branches safely with bucket trucks and cranes.
  • Extensive training and expertise in proper techniques like the three-cut method.
  • Liability and workers’ compensation coverage for your protection.
  • Guidance on post-pruning care and monitoring for disease prevention.

Considerations When Hiring an Arborist or Tree Service for Weeping Cherry Pruning (Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree)

Be sure to:

  • Select certified arborists licensed in your state to ensure proper qualifications and training
  • Check for membership in professional organizations like ISA or TCIA
  • Verify current insurance certificates (liability, workers compensation, etc.)
  • Read online reviews and ask neighbors for trusted local tree company referrals
  • Get multiple bids and ask questions about methods, timing, cleanup, and aftercare recommendations
  • Inspect past pruning work to evaluate the quality of cuts, tree health, and aesthetics
  • Communicate your goals for pruning and expectations for preserving the natural weeping form
  • Get all bids, contracts, timelines, and payment terms in writing, avoiding making full upfront payments
  • Ask about follow-up monitoring for disease and any needed post-pruning fertilization

Take the time to carefully assess arborists’ qualifications, expertise, and reputation to ensure your weeping cherry receives proper pruning care.14

Desired Outcomes of Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree

Pruning weeping cherries with specific goals in mind leads to targeted results.15 Here are some outcomes you can aim for:

  • Improved Tree Health: More vigorous growth by reducing congestion diseases like cytospora canker through increased airflow.
  • Enhanced Natural Form: Improved structure, balance, and aesthetics by removing or heading errant branches and conforming to the tree’s natural umbrella habit.
  • Prolific Flowering: Increased light penetration and stimulated bloom buds lead to greater floral displays.
  • Easier Maintenance: Pruning for equipment access, walkway clearance, and landscape stewardship.
  • Reduced Risk: Removing weak, defective limbs prone to breakage minimizes safety hazards.
  • Rejuvenated Appearance: Restoring a youthful form by reducing overgrown, excess limbs.
  • Greater Longevity: Extending the functional lifespan by resolving structural issues and improving vigor.
  • Easier Maintenance: Pruning for equipment access, walkway clearance, and landscape stewardship.

By pruning with care and using proper techniques at the right times, your mature Weeping Cherry Tree will thrive for decades to come.

Weeping cherry trees in full bloom with white flowers, standing in a green lawn.

(Image: Daderot17)

Weeping Cherry Trees are renowned for their elegantly drooping branches laden with white and pink flowers. But proper care, including occasional pruning, is key to ensuring your Weeping Cherry Tree maintains its signature graceful form and prolific blossoms. Follow these guidelines to prune your Weeping Cherry Tree for health, beauty, and plentiful flowers.

With the right approach for trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree, your Weeping Cherry Trees can become an enthralling focal point and springtime show-stopper in your landscape for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trimming a Weeping Cherry Tree

How Often Should You Prune a Weeping Cherry Tree?

Weeping Cherry Trees only need occasional pruning. While young trees may need frequent shaping in the early years, mature trees can be pruned every 2 to 4 years or yearly to remove deadwood, maintain form, and encourage flowering.4 Monitor for potential hazards, diseases, or overcrowding in between that may require immediate attention.

Should You Prune Weeping Cherry Branches That Touch the Ground?

Allowing weeping cherry branches to touch the ground is an aesthetic choice. That said, it is advisable to prune back branches that hazardously obstruct walkways or that could get damaged. Additionally, check ends touching damp soil for potential rot. Overall, ensure branches are long enough to maintain the signature weeping form but maintained well enough not to cause issues.

What Is the Lifespan of a Weeping Cherry Tree?

In ideal conditions, Weeping Cherry Trees can live for 50 years or longer.16 Grafted weeping cherries may live for 30 to 40 years. Taking steps to properly prune and care for your Weeping Cherry Tree can maximize its lifespan and flowering.

How Tall Do Weeping Cherry Trees Grow?

A mature Weeping Cherry Tree typically grows 20 to 25 feet tall at its maximum height.16 However, weeping habit and pruning impact their height. Also, ensure you have adequate space for your weeping cherry to reach its natural potential height.

Should I Use Wound Dressing on My Weeping Cherry After Pruning?

Weeping Cherry Trees readily compartmentalize wounds themselves, so wound dressings are typically not necessary in most cases. The exceptions are large pruning cuts over 2 inches in diameter on older wood where a non-toxic tree wound dressing can help prevent dieback.


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