Zuzu Flowering CherryPrunus incisa 'Rinpo'
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Prunus incisa 'Rinpo'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Zuzu Flowering Cherry blooms in early spring in profusion, with exciting double blooms like pink pom-poms. This variety of the Fuji cherry is unique for its slender, column-like form, which is ideal for smaller spaces, small gardens and Asian-style courtyards. It can be grown for years in a large pot, or turned into bonsai, as it often is in Japan. The deep-green leaves are attractive and clean all summer, and can turn brilliant red in fall, depending on the climate. It grows no more than 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Plant the Zuzu Flowering Cherry in full sun, or with a little afternoon shade. Grow it in any well-drained soil, including alkaline soils – it will thrive anywhere. For pot growing use a 15-inch pot, with drainage holes and a compost blended for outdoor trees. It rarely suffers from pests or diseases and no special care is needed. If needed, prune in mid-summer.
Early spring is a magic time in the garden, and we savor every moment of that first appearance of new life after the long sleep of winter. Nothing beats cherry blossoms, but the trees are large, and you need a large garden to grow them. Or so we usually think. There is a much smaller cherry tree, the Fuji cherry, but even that plant forms a rounded bush about 8 feet across, so in a tiny garden – perhaps in your Japanese-inspired courtyard – that is still too large. Well now, with the Zuzu Flowering Cherry, everyone can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring, even in the smallest space. This tree grows naturally into a narrow column of many branches, reaching perhaps 8 feet tall, but often only 3 feet wide, or perhaps a little more. Tucked into the corner of a bed – or that courtyard – it will fill your heart with joy in spring and then take back-stage for the summer, without filling your garden with a big mass of plain green. Plus, the fabulous bush has flamboyant double flowers in glowing pink – much more striking than the usual varieties of Fuji cherry, that have pretty bell-shaped flowers that are much less showy, with only 5 petals. As a great bonus, this plant is healthy and generally disease-free, without the serious problems that can plague Japanese cherry trees.
The Zuzu Flowering Cherry is a small deciduous bush, with many slender branches rising from the ground, and then branching in a characteristic zig-zag fashion. It grows 5 to 8 feet tall in time, with a width between 3 and 5 feet, like a broad column. The young bark is brown, turning reddish-brown to gray on older stems, which often become gnarled, with lots of character. The small leaves are an inch or so long, shaped like pointed ovals, tapering to a narrow tip. The edges have noticeable serrations along them, making an attractive effect. The leaves sprout from the branches while the blossoms are still on the bush, and new leaves often have a coppery-pink tone, turning deep green when they mature, and staying attractive all summer. In fall they may turn gold or red, depending on your local climate, and the weather of the particular year.
Flowering comes early, often in April, and even young plants bloom profusely. The flowers are carried in clusters of up to 5 blooms, each one on a long stalk rising from buds all along the stems. The blossoms are about 1-inch across, like gorgeous powder puffs of pink, made up of as many as 50 petals in each one. As they open fully darker pink tones appear in the center, and sometimes you get a glimpse of golden stamens too. This variety of cherry does not produce fruit.
With its natural narrow form, this bush is perfect for smaller gardens, or for mixed shrub beds in larger ones. It obviously has a place in any Asian-themed gardens, but it looks just as charming in any garden style. Use it at the back of small beds, or in corners, or plant it between windows around your home. It also grows well in pots and planters, and in Japan it is a favorite choice for bonsai, or simply to grow for years in a pot, where it will be perfectly happy, stay small and bloom prolifically every spring.
The Zuzu Flowering Cherry tree is perfectly hardy from zone 5 to zone 8. It can be left outdoors in a pot all winter in zones 7 and 8, and probably in warmer parts of zone 6. In colder areas bury the pot in the ground for the winter, or store it in a cold shed – light is not needed, but cold is. By February a potted tree could be brought indoors and it will bloom beautifully.
Full sun is best for the Zuzu Flowering Cherry, but it will take a couple of hours of shade each day – afternoon shade is fine, especially in hot zones. It grows well in ordinary well-drained garden soil, including alkaline soils. It has some drought resistance, but grows best with regular watering. Do not plant in wet locations.
The beauty of the Zuzu Flowering Cherry won’t be damaged by pests or diseases – this cherry species is generally not bothered by the problems other cherry trees can suffer from. Plants in the garden don’t need fancy pruning, but you can trim it back a little in mid-summer if you want to keep it neat. This plant responds well to being turned into a miniature tree, in the ground or in a large pot – it will live for many years in a 15-inch pot. You can remove central branches and keep a permanent framework, shortening back new growth as needed. It can also be trained into a full-blown bonsai – it is very popular in Japan for this.
The Fuji cherry, Prunus incisa, is a cherry tree much-loved in Japan for its dainty but profuse flowering. Wild trees can be as much as 30 feet tall, but are usually more likely to mature at around 18 feet. It was first described for Western botanists in 1776 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Thunberg, and introduced by the Arnold Arboretum at the beginning of the 20th century. In Japan it is often grown as a dwarf tree or a bonsai. The most common variety grown in America is ‘Kojo-no-mai’, which is a bush reaching about 8 feet tall and wide, with clusters of single pink flowers.
We have Brian Upchurch, from Fletcher, North Carolina, to thank for the variety called Rinpo. Brian has been a plant propagator all his life, and has extensive contacts in Japan. It is likely he found this variety there, because Rinpo in Japanese means neighbor. It is currently not patented in the US, but it has been released by Spring Meadow Nursery, Grand Haven, Michigan, under their Proven Winners® brand, part of their ColorChoice® range of shrubs. They have given it the registered trademark name of Zuzu®.
If you love flowering shrubs you will adore the special beauty of the Zuzu Flowering Cherry. It’s extraordinary beauty in bloom is something you will wait for with eager anticipation, and love when it comes. This new shrub is going to be a big hit, especially in smaller gardens, so order yours now, because out stock is rapidly shrinking and it will soon be all gone.