Don’t Cut Down This Cherry Tree!

March 16, 2010 | By | Comments (6)

If you’re snowbound, afflicted with cabin fever, can’t wait for spring to get here, or simply have two eyes and a brain, here’s the tree for you. It’s a vision of beauty even pinker than Richard Simmons’s underwear — ‘Okame’ cherry.


Okame cherry 001

Wonder how to pronounce the name? Just imagine you’re calling out to Joseph Stalin. “Oh, Commie!”

‘Okame’ is a hybrid between Taiwan flowering cherry (Prunus campanulata) and Fuji cherry (P. incisa). From the former, it inherited heat tolerance, low-chill requirement for blooming, early flowering, fast growth, and deep-pink flower color. From the latter, it got increased cold-hardiness. This makes it among the finest ornamental trees for the South. It blooms great in Kentucky. It blooms great in Florida.

You can always count on ‘Okame’ to be about the first tree to bloom every year. In my neighborhood in Alabama, it’s usually in full bloom by Valentine’s Day. But thanks to this year’s really weird, cold winter, it’s three weeks late. I took these photos yesterday.

Okame cherry 002

This tree eventually grows 20 to 25 feet tall and wide with a tidy, rounded or oval shape. This makes it a good candidate for lawn, street, patio, and courtyard planting. Plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Do any necessary pruning immediately after the flowers fade. In fall, you get an extra bonus — the leaves turn a nice orange-red. It’s also easy to force cut branches into early bloom indoors in winter.

‘Okame’ is easily grown by wholesalers, so it shouldn’t be hard to find at local garden centers and nurseries. But if you live in some benighted, little village where they don’t sell nuthin but redtips and “anonymous,” you can order the tree by mail from Greenwood Nursery, Woodlanders, and Forest Farm Nursery.


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  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    If I had room for only one flowering cherry, this would be it.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:59 am
  3. Dave

    Awesome! I’m a big fan of the cherries, Yoshino especially but I could sneak in an ‘Okame’ somewhere…

    March 16, 2010 at 10:48 pm
  4. Liza

    That tree’s such a showoff!

    March 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm
  5. helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence


    March 16, 2010 at 10:04 am
  6. Cameron (Defining Your Home)

    Gorgeous! I must confess having chopped down a cheery tree– but not Okame. Our landscaper planted a weeping cherry inside our cottage garden fence.
    It was quickly apparent — wrong plant in the wrong place — too big and the Japanese Beetles devoured it. I grow zinnias and salvias where it once stood!

    March 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

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