Position: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Flowering period: Late spring
Eventual Height: 8m
Eventual Spread: 10m
Hardiness: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ is a deciduous tree with a spreading habit. It has large, oblong, dark green leaves which are bronze-red when young and orange-red in autumn. The inflorescence is in the form of clusters composed of 5 to 7 fragrant, white, double flowers that emerge from pink buds and become a pale pink before they fall.
The species Prunus serrulata, commonly know as the Japanese Cherry, is native to Japan, Korea and China. Although Asian descriptions date back to the 15th century Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ was introduced to the west in the early 1900s by the plant hunter Ernest Wilson. The plant features heavily in the traditions of Japan, with its blossoms symbolising the ephemerality of life among other things and the blossoms are even used to make tea called Sakurayu, prepared by pickling the petals in plum vinegar and salt, then drying them and adding boiling water.
The etymological root of the binomial name Prunus is from the classical Latin name of the plum tree. Serrulata being derived from the Latin meaning small toothed, referring to the leaf margins in this plant.
The landscape architect may find Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ is useful as a showy, scented specimen tree and will have a breathtaking impact when planted en-mass or in an avenue.
Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ prefers alkaline soil but will tolerate a wide pH range so long as the soil is free draining and will rarely require lime.
Ecologically, Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ will attract pollinating insects such as bees that will feed on its nectar. All parts of this plant are mildly toxic to humans.
The Royal Horticultural Society has given Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’ requires little pruning once established. Pruning should be carried out after flowering, from April to July to minimise the risk of Silver leaf infection. If planted in a lawn, the grass should be strimmed under the tree rather than mown as the mower may damage the roots causing the plant to send up new shoots.