February’s Prettiest Tree — ‘Okame’ Cherry

February 17, 2013 | By | Comments (7)
Okame cherry

The spectacular, deep-pink flowers often open by Valentine’s Day. Photo by Steve Bender.

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.

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.

Okame cherry

‘Okame’ cherry quickly grows to 20-25 feet tall — the perfect size for a small yard. Photo by Steve Bender.

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. I took these photos yesterday.

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.


  1. When Is Spring too Early? – Rambling in the GardenRambling in the Garden

    […] once their internal clock has been reset by the cold.  So you don’t have to worry about February’s prettiest cherry flowering in the mid-Atlantic like it does in the Carolinas, just enjoy the early appearance of […]

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  2. Shirley Long

    The trees are beautiful , and I have several in my yard !!

    February 28, 2013 at 11:36 am
  3. Steve Bender


    The roots of ‘Okame’ cherry are not invasive, but I would hesitate to plant any tree over a septic field.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:18 am
  4. Teri Foster

    What a beautiful tree! Does it have a large root system that goes way down in the soil? We have septic lines through half of our back yard and have to be careful with what we plant – I would love some trees or something to plant in this area. Any suggestions? Thank you for any advice you can provide.

    February 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm
  5. Steve Bender


    If the homemade stuff isn’t working, I would try a commercial repellent, like Liquid Fence. Here’s a link: http://www.liquidfence.com/deer-repellent.html?gclid=CMfrvtfwxbUCFYje4AoddDkAXA

    February 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm
  6. mgoodcar

    What a GREAT Tree to be Blooming on Valentine’s Day, would make for GREAT pictures of Love.

    February 17, 2013 at 11:36 am
  7. Gail Kerr

    My little tree keeps getting attacked by deer. They completely strip the leaves. We have had to do drastic pruning twice. I’ve sprayed a homemade deer repellent on it (made with rotten eggs and hot pepper) to no avail. It is even more yummy than my hostas apparently. HELP!

    February 17, 2013 at 11:02 am

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