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I purchased my Mother two 'Weeping Cherry' trees this year. I've planted them out and they've actually shown a large amount of new growth. I've had new whips growing 2'+ off of them. The plants are roughly 5' tall from the ground. There are no limbs all the way up and the trunk is ~2" in diameter. All the growth is on the top and it's all coming out of the top 4". I know it was probably cut and encouraged to do this at the nursery, since many people will buy them as a container plant or as a decorative plant for a small yard.

However, she has a large yard and would like to grow this tree much larger. I know they do grow to be large and I would love something that grew to look like this: Weeping Cherry

I will add pictures of what mine currently look like soon, but my question is about how to encourage them to grow bigger. With a regular tree, they'd tend to put branches straight up and I could choose a leader to encourage it to grow. However, these all hang down. Will they just keep building up higher, will it eventually put out a leader, do I need to pick one that's close to the top and splint it up till it thickens and stays pointing up? What do I do in this situation. Thank you.

Edit: Here are the pictures I promised. Also, the back of the plant tag said it would get roughly 34-40' tall and have a 20-30' spread. I did see that it was grafted. When I say it has whips growing out, you'll see them in the pick, they don't grow straight out. It appears there were branches on the grafted section that were pruned back and the new whips are growing horizontally and down from near these joints. Because of the tag, I wasn't really worried about the height, but more about if I needed to do anything to encourage it to grow upwards, since the branches all droop. I didn't know if a leader would eventually grow upright.

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If it is Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula', you don't need to do anything at all other than keep it watered during dry spells. Ultimate height and spread of this particular variety is around 2.5-4.00 metres (up to 13 feet) wide and high, and that height and spread will be achieved after ten-twenty years, but if you've got the plant tag, it should tell you the height and spread on there. Over time, some specimens may achieve a greater ultimate size than others - there's one in Virginia that's 35 years old and is about 20 feet high with a spread of around 40 feet. Usually, these trees are grafted on top of a straight stem - the height of the stem varies usually between 6 and 8 feet. When you say you've got '2 foot whips', does that mean you've got stems growing straight up into the air from the top of the plant? A photo would be useful.

Fertilising in spring with a balanced fertiliser would be good, but isn't critical. It's programmed to grow at a particular speed (slightly variable depending on conditions) and to achieve a particular height and spread; this process cannot be hurried or persuaded to go faster. This variety is considered a small tree - according to the link below, there are others that get larger, so you will need to purchase a different variety to get the size you want, see here (I'm not convinced they're much larger, really and to some extent, its dependent on the height of the stem and graft union)

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/pink-weeping-ornamental-cherry-tree-zones-growing-information-55894.html

The tree you've actually got is in Prune Group 1, meaning it doesn't really require any, but if you want to see what that means, here's a link:-

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=549

I'm afraid all you can do is provide optimum growing conditions and let it do its thing - this is why gardeners are always thought to be patient people with a long term vision, sometimes planting trees which they know they may not see mature because they'll be long gone...

UPDATE:

Now you've posted photos, its not going to change my answer - it looks healthy, so just needs to be kept well watered during dry spells in the next two years, and it'll grow on, no pruning/training interference necessary! I just wanted to check that the '2 foot whips' you mention weren't growing straight up into the air, which they're not, so it's fine.

  • It's good to think it will probably grow taller with little interference from me. I also know what you mean by planning ahead and waiting for results. I've become the default gardener for my mother since I enjoy it and she has a black thumb (kills cacti regularly). I constantly have to tell her that it's not a good idea to put two trees 15' apart, because while it looks like a big spread now, they'll end up growing their branches together, and lots of similar situations. I try to look at my pruning the same way and see where I want the tree to go and if a branch will or wont get me there. – Dalton Aug 5 '15 at 19:43
  • @Dalton - see update in answer... – Bamboo Aug 6 '15 at 10:44
  • I've only just noticed your 'black thumb' comment, made me smile... – Bamboo Aug 6 '15 at 11:25
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I don't believe it's just a matter of pruning - the weeping cherry I've seen has remained just about 5 feet tall for 15-20 years, and as such would appear to be a genetic dwarf.

Not knowing the details, I can't say if rooting a branch cutting might give you a non-dwarf or not (with apples, it would, since the dwarfing is from the rootstock.)

  • Its possible that it is a genetic dwarf, though it doesn't say that on the tag and the species listed shows on the internet as growing to a large size. Also, the trunk looks fairly substantial. It looks more like someone took a regular tree and just topped it. Then branches started growing out where it was topped off. I'll have to check the tag when I get there, but I think the plant is: Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' – Dalton Aug 4 '15 at 19:43
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I respectfully disagree with other answers that claim that pruning is essentially irrelevant for achieving your goal. (However, their advice to focus on healthy growth is nevertheless good.)

I am not an expert, so take this answer with grain of salt, and do your own research, but still I want to pass my understanding and knowledge to you.

The thing is, Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' can achieve the look as it is on the label (and you want such look). Let's call it "fireworks" look. However, most, if not 90% people, once they buy the tree, would like the tree to be in much more regular, neater, smaller shape, like an umbrella - and let's call such shape "umbrella" look. The consequence of this is that the vast majority of online advice, you tube instructional pruning video, etc. describe techniques for achieving "umbrella" look - and this is exactly opposite to what you want to achieve.

However, there are pruning and other methods for achieving "fireworks" look. They are usually, but not always opposite to what is advised for "umbrella" look.

For example, pruning for umbrella would involve removing branches that don't weep (go upwards from the center), while pruning for fireworks certainly would not.

Next example, sometimes it is advised that one should connect weeping branches to the trunk using strings (to achieve desired umbrella shape). For fireworks shape, an opposite measure may be taken: some weeping branches may be forced to grow horizontally, or even closer to the vertical direction, by using stalks (and strings too, if possible).

Just do the research, you have plenty of time, since this is a slow, decades-long process. (but still incredibly enjoyable) Good luck!

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For what it is worth I will add my two cents as well. I am a home gardener and bought a weeping cherry three years ago. I have to agree with the last commenter. I have never liked the "umbrella" look that so many residents in the neighborhood have achieved with their weeping cherries. Instead I have since the first year (with the hope of achieving that fireworks look) taken the copper wire from a strand of Romex house wire and have wrapped my whips each year to get them to stand straight up just as they wrap a bonsai tree to achieve the desired direction. The new shoots do cascade down from those, but by the end of one year's growth cycle I have found my 1 year shoots to be strong enough to stand on their own. Then I take the new shoots from that year and do the same. I am hoping that by the time I have to reach from the top of my 8' step ladder that I won't have to continue to do this but I am not sure.

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