Oh No! My Cherry Trees are Brown

March 29 2017 RHR 016Cherry and magnolia trees are blooming throughout the Delaware Valley but you may be asking why your flowers are brown and not pink. Some early blooming cultivars of cherries and magnolias have succumbed to frost damage and turned brown.  As a result, they have no blooms this spring, just browned flowers.

Most of the Prunus 'Okame' blooms were destroyed by frost. photo credit: R. Robert

Most of the Prunus ‘Okame’ blooms were destroyed by frost. photo credit: R. Robert

No need to panic. Your tree is not dead. It is just a victim of unseasonably warm temperatures in February and then a return to cold temperatures in March. The warm temperatures caused early blooming cultivars like Prunus ‘Okame’ and Magnolia  x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ to bloom or almost come into full bloom.

The flower of Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' was burnt by frost. The other two buds were not open during the cold snap and thus have bloomed beautifully. photo credit: R. Robert

The middle flower of Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ was burnt by frost. The other two buds were not open during the cold snap and thus have bloomed beautifully. photo credit: R. Robert

Closed buds can handle the freezing temperatures but open flowers are susceptible. Unlike some plants such as witchhazels and crocus whose blooms can withstand a cold snap and dip below freezing, the open flowers of most cherries and magnolias are not as resilient. The frost has destroyed their seasonal display.

Later blooming cherries are looking wonderful in the garden right now. photo credit: R. Robert

Later blooming cherries are looking wonderful in the garden right now. photo credit: R. Robert

The good news is your tree is fine and will leaf out in another week or two. Barring another late winter/early spring major temperature swing, you will enjoy another “pink” spring with your cherry tree next year.

Prunus x yedoensis typically opens mid-season thus was not affected by the cold snap. photo credit: R. R.obert

Prunus x yedoensis typically opens mid-season thus was not affected by the cold snap. photo credit: R. R.obert

If you have planted early and late bloomers in your garden, you can enjoy a show no matter the volatility in temperature.  While the Arboretum will not experience a show from Prunus ‘Okame’ this year, other varieties like Prunus x yedoensis are looking stunning right now in the Cherry Border. The season typically ends with the wonderful double-pink flower from Prunus ‘Royal Burgundy’. To explore all the flowering times of cherries, download the Cherry Collection brochure.

These magnolias flowers were in full bloom before the frost. Now they are just brown. photo credit: R. Robert

These magnolias flowers were in full bloom before the frost. Now they are just brown. photo credit: R. Robert

If you are looking for later blooming magnolias, consider yellow selections like: Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’, M. ‘Butterflies’, and M. ‘Golden Endeavor’.

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