2023 Peak Bloom
The NPS judged that the Yoshino cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin reached peak bloom on March 23, 2023. They're now done for the year..
On average, DC's cherry blossoms bloom around the last week of March into the first week of April. But it varies from year to year based on weather conditions, so it can also be a little before or after that period.
This page tracks the latest information on the coming DC cherry blossom bloom and is updated on a rolling basis as new information becomes available.
You can find the latest detailed updates from the Tidal Basin here.
Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Predictions for 2023
The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin reached peak bloom on March 23. The information below refers to the predictions that were issued prior to that.
National Park Service
Current prediction: March 22 – 25
On March 14, the National Park Service posted an update without actually revising their prediction: “Easing towards warmer weather, the cherry blossoms will feel the effects. With many of the Yoshino trees beginning to reveal their petals, we're expecting peak bloom to arrive at the early side of our prediction (March 22-25) or a few days before.”
The National Park Service arborists announced their prediction on March 1. They predict that the blossoms will hit peak bloom sometime between March 22 and 25. They're pointing to cooler temperatures coming in March but also that the very warm start to the year has scrambled the regular development of the cherry buds, with them never actually reaching their winter dormancy.
Washington Post Capital Weather Gang
Current prediction: March 19 – 23
They published their initial prediction on February 28. They forecast the cherry blossoms to hit peak bloom sometime between March 25 and 29. They emphasize particularly the cooler temperatures expected in March to slow the process down significantly. But on March 7, with the buds reaching the Extension of Florets stage in near record time, they said that “it's becoming likely our initial peak bloom forecast of March 25 to 29 is too late, as predicted temperatures are no longer as cold as they once were. Once the buds reach Stage 4 – known as peduncle elongation – we'll revise our peak bloom forecast if needed.” On March 14, they revised their forecast by bringing it forward, conceding that the forecast models they initially relied on had temperatures that were too cool.
NBC Storm Team 4
Current prediction: March 15 – 20
This weather team from the local NBC station is the earliest among them, expecting peak bloom to hit sometime between March 15 and 20. That would make it an extraordinarily early bloom–the earliest on record is March 15 in 1990.
When Do Washington DC's Cherry Blossoms Bloom?
Warmer temperatures in the late winter into early spring bring the blossoms out earlier. Cooler temperatures push them later. The flowers generally last a week or two–but again, just how long they stay around depends on the weather.
In recent decades, the bloom has been trending earlier. (Of course, there are always exceptions.)
Need a Hotel?
I’ve put together some suggestions on where to stay near the Tidal Basin and cherry blossoms.
Winter 2022-23 in Washington DC
The most notable thing about the DC area's winter so far has been that it has been much warmer than normal. But that's not to say there haven't been some cold snaps. In fact, there have been a couple of very cold blasts, but neither of them lasted long.
An unusually frigid cold spell in late December was followed by much warmer-than-normal January. Only one day in January saw an average below normal.
The start of February brought a short, sharp cold spike again, but temperatures again climbed, making February much warmer than normal. Many early spring flowers, from fruit blossoms to daffodils to the saucer magnolias to the cherry blossom indicator tree, started blooming early.
The beginning of March was also much warmer than normal and brought out the saucer magnolias. But then cooler temperatures arrived, slowing things down.
You can see how temperatures so far this winter are tracking in the tables and graphs below.
This first table shows the monthly averages leading up to the peak bloom for the past decade or so. The most important columns are March and February–the temperatures in those months closest to the bloom have the heaviest influence on the timing of the blossoms opening. A very warm early March can bring the bloom forward considerably (conversely, a much colder early March can slow things to a crawl).
|December||January||February||March||Peak Bloom Date|
ˤ = partial month, in progress
* = up until peak bloom
And here's how we're tracking on a day-by-day basis this winter. The red line represents the historical average temperature. The blue line represents the corresponding daily averages for this winter. In other words, above the red line is warmer than normal; below the red line is below average. The data used in this graph are taken from the National Weather Service's recordings from National Airport, which you can see just across the Potomac from the Tidal Basin.
And here's a similar but yet slightly different way of looking at it. This shows more directly how far each day has departed from the historical average. The horizontal 0 line represents the historical average. Each vertical bar represents a day. A bar above the 0 line represents warmer than the historical average. A bar below the 0 line represents cooler than the historical average. As you can see, there are many more days above the average–and by a good margin–than there are below the average.
2023 National Cherry Blossom Festival
The 2023 National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled to run from March 18 to April 16. (It was originally scheduled to begin March 20, but they moved that forward by a couple of days in light of the early bloom.)
Here are the announced dates for some of the key events:
- Opening Ceremony: Saturday, March 25, 2023
- Kite Festival: Saturday, March 25, 2023
- PetalPalooza: Saturday, April 8, 2023
- Parade: Saturday, April 15, 2023
- McClellan, Ann (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- Hardcover Book
- Nakahara, Mari (Author)
How Long Do the Flowers Stay Out? What if I Miss Peak Bloom?
The day the cherry blossoms reach peak bloom is not, of course, the only day you can see the flowers. At a minimum, you can expect a beautiful sight for at least a few days before the peak bloom date and at least a few days after. Sometimes they can be out for a couple of weeks.
How long they remain out depends heavily on weather conditions. In ideal conditions (cool, dry, calm), there can still be flowers to see a week or even more after the peak bloom date. So there might be a period of two weeks or more when the flowers look beautiful. In less-than-ideal conditions (wet, windy, hot, stormy), the flowers disappear more quickly, perhaps a week or less. I've put together a timeline with photos from previous years to give an idea of what you can expect to see during the different stages of the bloom.
The crucial point is that you don't have to be there precisely on peak bloom day to be greeted with a beautiful sight. There are still flowers to see in the days before and after that.
If you're too early for the main cherry blossoms, your timing might be good for saucer magnolias. There's a particularly beautiful collection of them in the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle, but there are plenty of others scattered around the city, including a small grove at the George Mason Memorial next to the Tidal Basin. Another good spot for them is Rawlins Park in Foggy Bottom (across the other side of the National Mall).
And if you're too late for the Yoshino peak bloom by two or three weeks, you might be in luck with a different variety that is also very pretty: the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. Tulips are another spring highlight around the area, and you can find them at a number of places around the National Mall as well as further afield.
Common Questions About the Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Forecasts
Here are some answers to some of the common questions I get asked.
Do the Peak Bloom Predictions Change?
Yes. It's common for them to be revised as we get closer to the bloom. In particular, the timing of the bloom depends heavily on the weather (specifically, temperatures). And, as we all know, weather predictions don't always match reality.
This is why it's worth checking back to this page for the current forecasts or signing up to get updates using one of the methods described below.
How are the Peak Bloom Predictions Made?
There are three parts that go into the mix for making the NPS peak bloom predictions.
- The first is a mathematical model that basically assigns heat points for temperatures. In the horticultural world, it's known as a growing degree-days (GDD) calculation. Once the trees wake up from their winter dormancy, there are thresholds for a certain number of heat points to bring them to bloom.
- The second is actually looking at the trees to see how they're developing. Sometimes the mathematical model doesn't match what they actually see on the trees, as happened in 2018 when the model predicted a much earlier bloom than ended up happening because the buds got stuck in the green bud stage for much longer than expected.
- The third part, and the most unstable element of the whole thing, consists of weather forecasts looking weeks ahead. We all know only too well just how unreliable forecasts that far ahead can be, and that's the main reason that the peak bloom predictions can change quite a lot and why the NPS arborists aren't really comfortable with their predictions until about ten days out.
What Does “Peak Bloom” Mean & Why Is It a Date Range?
The peak bloom date is the day on which the NPS horticulturists judge that 70 percent of the Yoshino blossoms are out. There are a number of different varieties of cherry trees around and near the Tidal Basin, but the Yoshino variety is by far the most numerous and famous.
“Peak Bloom” is a specific day that the threshold is passed. So when a forecast expects peak bloom between such and such dates, it means that they expect the 70 percent threshold to be crossed one day during that range.
It does not mean that the flowers will be at peak bloom for that entire date range. It also does not mean that you have to be there only on that specific day to catch the spectacle. More on that below.
I have more detail in a separate post explaining the ins and outs of peak bloom.
How Accurate Are Peak Bloom Forecasts?
The NPS arborists are the first to point out that they're not really confident in their prediction until about ten days out.
And nature has a way of being unpredictable sometimes, as the 2017 bloom proved. There are so many variables that can come into play, especially since the prediction is based on long-range weather forecasts a month or more out.
Sometimes, the predictions nail it. Other times, Mother Nature has other plans, and it's not at all unusual for the forecasts to be revised as we get closer to the date as the actual weather conditions diverge from the long-range weather forecast the peak bloom predictions initially relied on.
So the peak bloom forecasts are the best information we have to go on, but that doesn't mean things always pan out as expected, and it's quite common for the forecasts to change. So be sure to keep checking in for any updates. I keep the peak bloom forecasts page up to date with the latest information.
Are There Any Other Peak Bloom Forecasts?
The two to watch are the forecasts by the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang. Both typically issue their first forecasts for the season around the end of February or the beginning of March.
From time to time, there are some other forecasts issued that are worth noting, and I try to include them when possible. The weather team from the local NBC station, Storm Team 4, have also been making their own predictions in recent years, and I've sometimes started including those.
What Month is Cherry Blossom Season in Washington DC?
The cherry blossoms in Washington DC usually bloom around the end of March into early April.
What Kind of Cherry Blossom Trees are in Washington DC?
There are about a dozen different kinds of cherry trees among the thousands around and near the Tidal Basin. The most famous and most numerous are Yoshino cherry trees.
Where Can I See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC?
While there are cherry trees scattered throughout the region, by far the most famous ones are centered around the Tidal Basin and the area near the National Mall. These are the ones you've probably seen in photos with famous monuments like the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.
I've put together a detailed guide on how to get to the cherry blossoms as well as some suggestions for alternate (and less crowded) places to find cherry blossoms in and around DC.
Do I need a permit to take engagement photos at the cherry blossoms?
I mention this here because it is an issue that the NPS has now addressed more explicitly. And they've done so in such a way that clears up any lingering confusion that the previous policy caused.
The short answer is that most engagement photo sessions do not require a permit. The key factor now isn't whether it's a commercial or non-commercial shoot but whether it's “low-impact.” And nearly all engagement photo sessions fall within that category (i.e., fewer than five people, limited equipment, limited impact on the area or people around them, etc.). I have more details here.
2023 Cherry Blossom Ten Miler
The 2023 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run & 5K Run-Walk is scheduled for April and 2, 2023.
You can find more information, along with entry details, on their website.
Images and product information from Amazon Product Advertising API were last updated on 2023-05-28 at 10:00.