Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 12, 2018

There's been steady progress, but with the continuing cool temperatures it has been slow. There are some flowers starting to come out on the so-called indicator tree, but it's not yet in full bloom. The vast majority still have some work to do before they're getting really close to blooming.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon, both the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang pushed their peak bloom predictions back. The NPS now predicts March 27-31. The Post now predicts March 30 to April 3. Find more details here.

DC Cherry Blossoms in 2021

It seems increasingly likely that DC will still be under COVID-19 restrictions in spring 2021 while the cherry blossoms are blooming. So it's shaping up to be a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.

There’s a lot in this update. You can find photos of how they’re looking this morning down below. In response to a number of people asking, I’ve included some thoughts on which weekend will be best to visit. There are also updates on the magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the draining of the Reflecting Pool, paddle boat reservations, and the closing of the parking lot next to the paddle boats.

There’s been steady progress, but with the continuing cool temperatures it has been slow. There are some flowers starting to come out on the so-called indicator tree, but it’s not yet in full bloom. Not every tree is on exactly the same schedule, but the vast majority still have some work to do before they’re close to blooming.

Looking ahead a week or two, the current National Weather Service 8-14 day prediction is for cool temperatures, with the warm area that was coming through moving off well to our south.

At the time of writing, National Park Service hasn’t yet updated their website to indicate that they judge that 70% buds have entered the florets visible stage (the second of the six stages of the bloom they track), but I’d expect them to make that call any day now. As you can see from the photos below, some of them are moving ahead of that.

Which Weekend?

UPDATE: Since I posted this, the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang pushed their peak bloom prediction back further, to March 30 to April 3. The NPS followed suit shortly after, now predicting March 27-31.

I’ve been getting questions about whether this weekend or next would be better. If I was planning my own trip and had to stick to weekends, I’d be inclined to choose next weekend (March 24-25).

There might be some early bloomers with flowers coming out this weekend, but most of them aren’t there yet and there won’t be much to see. And with cool temperatures expected through most of this week, there aren’t any very warm days expected that would really jolt the process along. It’s expected to warm up a bit next week, although not by an enormous amount. So we can likely expect more slow and steady progress. Of course, things can change quickly, especially if some warm temperatures roll in. I’ll be posting regular updates through the week, so be sure to check back in.

And even if peak bloom does end up falling in the middle of next week, there’s a good chance of there being plenty of flowers out on the weekend of 24-25. I have a separate post with some examples of how long the cherry blossoms stay out.

If you are coming in this weekend, I’d recommend a visit to the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle to see the saucer magnolias. There’s more on them below, along with some photos of how they’re looking this morning.

Photos taken this Morning

Here’s how things are looking this morning.

Indicator Tree

The so-called indicator tree is consistently ahead of the others. It’s starting to flower but isn’t yet in full bloom. Here’s how it’s looking this morning. If you’d like to find it yourself, here’s how.

Tidal Basin Logistics

The parking lot next to the paddle boats is now closed as they set up the Welcome Area for opening on Saturday.

The roads around West Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin still have normal traffic patterns.

Paddle Boats

Reservations for the Tidal Basin’s paddle boats are now open. You can reserve online here.

Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Gardens

The magnolias are close but aren’t quite fully out yet. Here are some photos taken this morning.

If you’re not familiar with this garden, it’s behind the Smithsonian Castle. They have a very impressive collection of flowering plants and flowers, but a real spring highlight is large number of saucer magnolias (or tulip magnolias). You can see an example of they look like in full bloom here.

For Photographers

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Reflecting Pool is current drained for repairs. I don’t know when they’re expecting to refill it.

As we come up to the equinox, that unfortunately means no beautiful reflection photos from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial of the sun rising behind the Washington Monument.

Also worth mentioning is that while the Lincoln Memorial remains open, the sides and back are barricaded off. You can still access the steps and the main chamber.

Sony Trade-In Offer at B&H Photo

Coinciding with the release of their new Sony A7III, Sony is putting an aggressive marketing push behind the other cameras in their Alpha range. That includes a trade-in deal where you can trade in your old non-Sony gear for one of their newer cameras (but not the brand-new A7III, it seems). You can get a quote immediately online as well as get a special trade-in bonus. You can find details at B&H Photo.

And stay tuned for my upcoming hands-on reviews of the brand new Sony A7III as well as the Sony A7RIII.

Gear Rental Deals

If you’re looking to rent some gear, there are some deals worth knowing about:

  • BorrowLenses has 15% off any rental. Use coupon code TAKE15OFF. Offer expires 3/12 and orders must be delivered/picked up by/on 3/19. They’re also offering 20% off a selection of popular gear (use coupon code 20FOR20 and only applies to these lenses and cameras.
  • Lens Pro to Go currently has 15% to 25% off through March (must be delivered by March 30).

Locally, Ace Photo, District Camera, and f8 Rentals also offer rental gear, although their selections are often not as extensive as the big online places. And if you’re shooting video, DC Camera’s offerings have some interesting gear.

Last updated March 13, 2018

View Comments

  • Thanks for the updates! I was at the Smithsonian Castle on Saturday. Hope the cold temperature in the coming days won't kill the magnolias like last year...

  • It is a cold weather, I do not think the peak should be next week! I plan to go there at MAR 31 or April 8! Hoping I can reach the peak time

  • Thank you so much for your website. We are new to all this! We will be in DC beginning April 1 - past the predicted peak bloom. Any chance we will see any blossoms?

    • Thanks to the cool temperatures, there's a good chance. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has just pushed back their prediction to March 30 to April 3.

  • From your experience, does it make a difference between going on a weekend or weekday if it's before sunrise? If I go on a Sunday and get there by 6am is it already a sea of photographers compared to a weekday? I went on a random weekday last year at 6am and parking was wide open and the area was peaceful until at least 7:30am, but rush hour traffic was interesting. I've seen your photo of the dozens of photographers crammed together and I'm curious as to what time of day that is and if it's only on the peak day. Thanks!

    • It really depends when it is relative to the busy weekend. On the weekend closest to the peak bloom, it can be very crowded well before sunrise to the point where there can already be a lot of competition for parking at 6am. But there's no issues at that time on other days. The one at the top of this post was about 7am, but that's also a particularly popular stretch for photographers because it lines up with the sunrise behind the Jefferson Memorial.

      • I plan to go there at 6:30 on weekends, is that have lots of people there already? What time do you think the best of time to go there on weekends? I want to avoid so many people there. Thanks a lot!

        • It depends which weekend. Most times it will be quiet. On the weekend closest to peak bloom you might want to get there a little earlier than that to reduce the risk of getting caught in a traffic snarl with everyone else trying to turn up for sunrise.

  • I am so sorry to hear about the drained reflecting pool. I am going to visit next week, so hope it is refilled by then. Plzzzzz.

  • Please clarify. The parking lot next to the paddle boats will remain closed all days through the Parade?

    • The Welcome Area, as they call it, is scheduled to run March 17 to April 1. They'll presumably need some time after April 1 to take everything out again, but I'm not sure exactly how long that will take and when it will reopen.

  • Hello,
    We will flight there to have my pre-wedding photo shoot. We planned and bought tickets for this weekend to stay about 5 days. How possible will we a nice full peak bloom day if we changes our plan to next weekend(24-30)? I wouldn't mid to pay extra 400 bucks to changes the flight but it will be very sad if we still miss it after changing the plan. Any advise? Thanks

    • Both the National Park Service and Washington Post changed their peak bloom predictions late yesterday. They're not expecting peak bloom to fall sometime around March 27-April 3. More details here.

  • Hello,

    Im from Brazil, and I will arrive at Washington april/11.
    That means I will not see any cherry blossom???

    • The main ones will be done by then, but you might catch another variety that blooms later. There aren't as many of them, but they're very pretty. You can find more information about them here.

  • We are currently planning a trip around our school break, so we will be there 3/28 at the earliest. Does this cooler weather mean there is hope we will hit peak or very close? I'm hoping!

    • It's always hard to say for sure, but the cooler weather does mean that your chances have improved.