It's still too early to guess with any confidence when DC's cherry blossoms will bloom in 2020, and no peak bloom forecasts have been issued yet. Stay tuned for the first peak bloom forecasts to be announced around the beginning of March.
The winter so far has been much warmer than normal. January and February have both tracked well above average. If that continues--and that's always a big "if"--it points to an earlier-than-average bloom, more late-March than early-April. But there's still plenty of time for cold weather to arrive and settle in, so it's still too early to predict with confidence.
If you head down to the Tidal Basin this weekend you won’t have any trouble whatsoever finding cherry blossoms out–there’s no need to go hunting anymore. The warm weather of the past few days has worked its magic in bringing more flowers out. The magnolias are well and truly open now, even the area’s daffodils are now coming out properly, and there’s even the odd early tulip flowering.
Nearly all the trees have at least some flowers on them, and many have quite a lot. But they’re not in full bloom yet. Over the coming week or so or more flowers will keep coming out.
At this point next weekend is shaping up nicely. Cooler temperatures will slow things down some but won’t stop things.
Keep reading below for suggestions on which weekends are looking good and how the magnolias at the Smithsonian Castle are doing.
Obviously, the trees don’t care what day of the week it is, but the reality is that many people can only visit on weekend. So I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers asking about which weekend is best. Here’s a quick state of play. As usual, the further ahead we look the more uncertainty there is.
This weekend (March 31-April 1). You’ll find many flowers out but they’re not yet in full bloom. There’s no need to hunt in specific places–they’re all the way around the Tidal Basin. Take a look at the photos below for some shots from this morning to give an idea of what you can expect to see.
Next weekend (April 7-8). It’s shaping up to be the prime viewing weekend. Whether or not the cherry blossoms have reached their technical bloom by then, they’ll be looking lovely. Expect crowds (and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler). Right now, the weather forecast isn’t great, although that might change.
Weekend after (April 14-15). It’s looking likely that the cherry blossoms will have reached peak bloom by then. After peak bloom, they can last a week or more in the right conditions (cool, dry, calm) but can be hurried out in as little as 3-5 days in the wrong weather conditions (windy, rainy, warm, stormy). (Take a look at the photo timeline for some examples.) And springtime in this area can be a real mixed bag, potentially with all of those weather conditions. So the upshot is that it’s entirely possible that the cherry blossoms will still be looking beautiful that weekend, but there’s also risk that they’ll be chased out by adverse weather.
After a lovely few days, it’s going to cool down a bit again. Current weather forecasts suggest there might even be a little snow Sunday night. It won’t cause a problem for the cherry blossoms. While they’re in advanced stages and many are potentially in their vulnerable to frost stage, it would need to get much colder than expected to cause any problems.
How Things Look This Morning
Here are some more photos taken this morning to give a sense of what you can expect to see this weekend.
The magnolias are looking magnificent. Here are some shots of the ones at the Smithsonian Castle this morning but are just starting move past their prime. They’re looking wonderful now, but if you plan to see them I’d recommend sooner rather than later. For now there’s only the occasional petal on the ground, but more of them will come off in coming days.
The Maine Ave parking lot (near the paddle boats) is still closed for parking to make way for the Welcome Area. It’s scheduled to remain closed until April 1, but given the late bloom I’d expect the Welcome Area’s residency to be extended.
The special one-way traffic restrictions are in place along Ohio Drive, so you can’t enter down by the John Ericsson Memorial (the Lincoln Memorial end). Instead, you’ll have to do the circuit around the Jefferson Memorial. You can still park there, although during the day midweek you’ll be battling for spaces with all the tour buses bring school groups on spring break and during the weekend there’s a lot of competition for spots. Which makes an argument for using alternative transportation, especially on weekends.
I’ve been tracking this specific cluster of buds/flowers for a couple of weeks now. Here’s the latest shot. This tree is by the FDR Memorial. You can see it standing out in one of the wider shots above.
Want to Help Support DC's Cherry Trees?
If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.
The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the history National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.