How to Tell the Difference between Plum, Cherry and Peach Blossoms

sakura cherry blossom trees Cultural tips

‘Hanami season’ in Japan is when everyone gets the urge to spread a picnic blanket under the blooming trees to enjoy food and drinks with family, friends, or co-workers. 
Sakura, cherry blossom, is the most known and popular flower and every spring Japan attracts many tourists from all over the world for their beautiful pink and white flowers. 
But did you know that there are a variety of blooms that look quite similar to cherry blossoms but bloom at a slightly different time during spring? Let us introduce you to the three iconic flowers in spring – plum, cherry, and peach blossoms and how to tell the differences and the best spots to see!

Plum vs Sakura vs Peach 

Between early February and late April, Japan is a feast for the eyes with light to dark pink blossoms covering city streets, parks, riverbanks, and open orchards. Many people think they are all cherry blossoms, but did you know that they are actually one of 3 fruit-bearing trees? Throughout the Japanese spring, you can see plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, and peach blossoms, which all look quite similar. With all those different blossoms, how can you know which ones you are seeing when you are out and about in Japan? Let’s take a closer look at each flower’s features and the meaning behind these blossoms. 

sakura cherry blossom

Plum (Ume) blossom 

The earliest bloomers are plum blossoms (ume blossoms). The flower petals of the plum tree are usually evenly rounded. But as they are a product of nature, some plum blossoms don’t have a very neat round shape, while blossoms of other trees can mimic those of the plum blossoms. So the next thing you should look at is the way the flowers are joined to the tree branch. Plum blossoms individually grow straight from a tree branch without any stem. Then, if you really want to be sure what you are looking at, you look at the color of the flower. Plum blossoms are the only ones that can become very dark pink that almost looks red. They can, however, also be pinkish white like cherry blossoms.

Meaning 

Plum blossoms bloom early with the first blossoms opening up in February. When you see plum blossoms, it means that spring has arrived in Japan. They bloom until March, which is when the other blossoms start taking over. Because of this reason, ume blossoms are often mentioned in Japanese poetry as a symbol of spring. The flowers of the plum tree are also associated with the Japanese bush warbler (a bird) with whom they appear on one of the cards of a traditional Japanese card game. Plum blossoms are believed to ward off evil, so plum trees are often planted in the northeast direction of a garden which is the direction from where evil spirits are said to enter.

Peach (Momo) blossom

The second earliest bloomers of these three are peach blossoms. Peach petals are shaped like teardrops and their blossoms grow from stems in pairs.
Unlike cherry blossoms or plum blossoms, peach blossoms are always pink. The easiest way to recognize the peach blossom is oval shaped leaves growing together with blossoms. 

Meaning 

Peach blossoms start to bloom in March. This blooming period coincides with Hina Matsuri (Girl’s Day) on March 3rd. This day is also called Momo no Sekku,which means the day of peaches. It’s the day to pray for all girls’ healthy growth and fortune.  Peach is believed to ward off the evil spirits and provide the power of immortality and longevity for people who consumed it. There is also a very famous Japanese folk story about a boy named Momotaro, which means ‘peach boy’. In this story, the hero fights off all kinds of bad guys pointing at the evil-fighting powers of peaches.

Cherry (Sakura) blossom

Cherry blossoms, on the other hand, have a little indent on the top of their petals. Unlike plum blossoms, cherry blossoms grow from stems blooming from flower clusters. As for color, cherry blossoms can be white like plum blossoms. All three can be pink, though, so you can’t go from color alone if you want to identify the flowers correctly.

Meaning

Cherry blossoms bloom between late March and April, although exact blooming periods vary per year. Sakura are the most famous type of flowers in Japan, and Japanese people’s love for sakura goes way back and is steeped in symbolism. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of spring and renewal, and because of their short but beautiful blooming period they symbolize the fleeting beauty of life. People go out to enjoy their beauty and soak it all up while they can, which is why Japanese people are so enthusiastic about hanami picnics. It is a long-standing tradition that goes all the way back to the Heian period. Furthermore, April, when the flowers bloom, is also a period in which many people start a new life in a new job or school. This only adds to the already strong sentiments of the passage of time and the period of refreshment and renewal.

The best places to enjoy plum, peach and cherry blossoms 

Plum blossoms viewing spots 

During the blooming season, several places host plum blossom festivals throughout Japan. There you can enjoy beautiful scenery made of white and pink flowers.   

  • Kairakuen (Ibaraki)
  • Yushima Tenjin (Tokyo)
  • Atami Plum Garden (Shizuoka)
  • Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto)
  • Tsukigase Plum Valley (Nara)
  • Korakuen (Okayama)

Cherry blossoms viewing spots 

Popular cherry blossom viewing spots are also popular hanami picnic spots. During the peak season, many people flock to the park, which causes some people to wait to reserve the best spot on the night before the hanami party. Some famous spots can be very crowded, if you prefer quiet places, check out our hidden (but beautiful) viewing spots you can find in Tokyo. 

sakura cherry blossom
  • Nakameguro (Tokyo)
  • Ueno Park (Tokyo)
  • Hanamiyama Park (Fukushima)
  • Kawaguchiko (Mt. Fuji)
  • Mt. Yoshino (Nara)

Peach blossom viewing spots 

Togenkyo is a term meaning an utopia which comes from a Chinese fable The Peach Blossom Spring. And beautiful parks featuring peach blossoms are sometimes described as Togenkyo. 

  • Koga Park (Ibaraki)
  • Fuefuki City (Yamanashi)
  • Kaminaka, weeping peach blossoms (Aichi)

Travel to Japan in Spring

One of the most popular seasons to travel to Japan is during the spring, with the season’s largest draw being the various blossoms including the most famous sakura cherry blossoms. The spring’s mild temperatures are another reason to travel in spring; as the season progresses, temperatures become increasingly comfortable. And if you are looking to experience winter sports like skiing in Japan, early to mid-spring is still in season for Hokkaido’s slopes. If you want to find the best spots to enjoy seasonal blossoms or other flowers, hiring a private guide is a great idea. They can take you to not only the most famous places to enjoy the flowers, but you can also request the more hidden gems in the city they know like the back of their hand. We offer private tours with experienced, fun guides in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima.

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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.


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