This Is When Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Trees Are Predicted to Bloom This Year

“Peak bloom,” which typically falls in late March or early April, refers to the day when at least 70 percent of the trees have blossomed

Cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin
Cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. on March 22, 2023 Stefani Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

Every spring, Washington, D.C. becomes a pale-pink wonderland as thousands of cherry trees blossom around the Tidal Basin. But the exact timing of the annual bloom varies from year to year, which can make planning a trip to see the colorful flowers challenging.

Now, the National Park Service (NPS) has announced its best guess: Officials think this year’s peak bloom will occur between March 23 and March 26.

“Peak bloom” refers to the day when at least 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees have blossomed. Individual trees may bloom earlier or later than this date.

Peak bloom typically occurs in late March or early April, and this year’s dates fall squarely within that window. But there are certainly exceptions, typically due to unusual weather conditions: In 1958, for instance, peak bloom didn’t occur until April 18, per the NPS. In 1990, it fell on March 15.

Last year, the trees reached peak bloom on March 23.

The NPS has a dedicated group of arborists called the “Tree Crew.” These specialists take steps to help the trees thrive, such as aerating the soil and blanketing the ground around them with wood chips.

The Tree Crew is also responsible for keeping tabs on the cherry trees as winter gives way to spring. Cherry trees go through several distinct phases as they prepare to bloom—from green buds to puffy white blossoms that eventually open as flowers—and NPS experts use the timing of those phases to make their peak bloom prediction each year.

This year’s peak bloom dates align with the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which is scheduled to take place between March 20 and April 14. The annual event celebrates the longstanding friendship between the United States and Japan—and the role that cherry trees played in solidifying the two nations’ relationship more than a century ago.

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In 1912, Tokyo’s mayor, Yukio Ozaki, gifted the city of Washington, D.C. with 3,020 cherry trees of several varieties. Three years later, the United States reciprocated by sending flowering dogwood trees to Japan.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival will commemorate the 112th anniversary of Japan’s gift. Festivities include a kite festival on March 30, a parade on April 13 and a family celebration at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum on March 23, among other events. Restaurants are also rolling out cherry blossom-themed cocktails and tasting menus, as Eater’s Vinciane Ngomsi reports.

Today, roughly 3,800 cherry trees are located around the Tidal Basin and the Washington Monument. During peak bloom, the areas near the trees can become crowded, so the Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn recommends visiting early in the morning or around twilight.

Another way to ditch the crowds? Visit the National Arboretum instead. “We have such a diversity of flowering cherries that we have things in bloom from right now all the way through April,” Margaret Pooley, the arboretum’s director of research, told WTOP’s Kate Ryan this week. “The very early flowering cherries are just starting to come into bloom.”

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