987 Prunus subhirtellaCommon Names: higan cherry, rosebud cherry Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
Higan cherry is an ornamental cherry most often encountered as a horticultural selection (or botanical variety - depending on which authority you want to go with). Common forms of the species in North America are weeping Higan cherry (cv. 'Pendula' or var. pendula); and cv. 'Autumnalis', a.k.a. var. autumnalis. There are many others as well. Higan cherry is a deciduous small tree, usually 20-30 ft (6.1-9.1 m) tall, with a spreading crown and slender, fuzzy twigs bearing 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) lance shaped leaves. The flowers, appearing before the leaves in early spring, are some shade of pink, about 0.75 in (1.9 cm) across, and borne in clusters of 2-5. The inedible cherry is black when ripe and about a 0.25 in (0.6 cm) long.
The foliage of most cultivars turns yellow in autumn. Cultivar 'Autumnalis' has semi-double flowers with 10 petals instead of the normal five, and is smaller, to 15 ft (4.6 m). Cultivar 'Yae-shidare-higan' is a weeping form that has double flowers with 20 petals. 'Pendula' is an extreme weeping form with branches that hang straight down. Prunus subhirtella var. ascendens is taller and has white flowers.
Like many of our ornamental cherries, Higan cherry, Prunus x subhirtella, is native to Japan.
CultureHigan cherry grows fast, but is usually rather short lived. Light: Does best in full sun. Moisture: Higan cherry likes a well drained soil with regular watering during dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. The variety 'Autumnalis' may be more cold hardy (to zone 4) than others; 'Pendula' less so (to zone 6). Propagation: The named cultivars usually are propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings in summer or bud-grafted on related seedlings. The weeping cultivars are sometimes grafted onto 6 ft (1.8 m) tall standards of other Prunus species. Grafted specimens may live longer than those started from cuttings.
The flowering cherries are among the most beautiful of ornamental trees. Higan cherry is no exception. Use in groups, along walkways, or as stand alone specimens. This is a graceful little tree that flowers profusely and dependably. Higan cherry, especially 'Autumnalis' sometimes blooms sporadically in August, but still puts on its main show in spring.
With more than 400 species worldwide, Prunus is one of our favorite genera when it comes to combining usefulness and beauty. Peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, almonds, apricots and sloes (to flavor gin, of course) are all very pretty to look at and their showy flowers would be reason enough to grow them. On the other hand, the late winter blooming Formosan cherry (Prunus campanulata) and Washington, D.C.'s famous Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) are among the most beautiful of all flowering trees.
Some authorities consider the Higan cherry to be of hybrid origin, with its parents being Prunus pendula from Honshu, and P. incisa, the Fuji cherry from Hondo which is why its name is sometimes seen written as Prunus x subhirtella (the "x" indicates it's a hybrid).
Steve Christman 2/4/04