Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 22, 2017

They're not yet in full bloom, but they've taken a big step in that direction in the past 24 hours. Once we get through freezing temperatures tonight, things are shaping up beautifully for the weekend.

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.

They’re not yet a full bloom, but in the past 24 hours they’ve taken a big step in that direction. The steps will be smaller today and tomorrow with a brief cold blast slowing things down.

And the trees are bouncing back remarkably well. There’s clearly damage from the cold, especially up close, but overall they look much better than you might expect when you hear that 50 percent of them were wiped out. (I have more details on this in yesterday’s update).

So it’s shaping up beautifully for the weekend.

There’s one more obstacle to get past: freezing temperatures tonight into early tomorrow morning. While we have sun out today, there’s a strong, cold wind that’s going to get stronger and colder. Tonight temperatures are expected to get down to the mid-20s, which is into the danger zone for a hard freeze. But I remain optimistic that they’ll make it through just fine–thanks to the water, the temperatures around the Tidal Basin tend to stay a shade warmer. But it is entirely possible there’ll be some more damage overnight.

So when are they going to bloom?

They’re starting to bloom properly now, and it’s very easy to find blossoms out all the way around the Tidal Basin. It’s not full bloom yet, but they should start coming into their prime as things warm up Thursday and get better over the next few days. So it should be good timing for the weekend.

As we get into next week, things get a bit iffier the deeper into the week we get. Cool, calm weather helps prolong the bloom; warm, rainy, and windy weather accelerates things as they head out. There’s still the occasional tree that’s well behind the others, so it’s likely to be a bit drawn out and possible to see at least some flowers well into next week. And you miss this round, the Kwanzan cherry blossoms should be out in 2-3 weeks or so.

You can get a sense of the progression after the peak bloom from this photo timeline.

The Story So Far

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a quick recap of where we’re at.

It has been a topsy-turvy leadup to the bloom this year. A warmer than normal winter led into a very warm February. That brought the cherry blossoms to the verge of blooming around mid-March. It was even shaping up to be possibly the earliest on record.

Then an arctic blast hit (well, actually two, but the one over the past week has been the most significant for the cherry blossoms–the saucer magnolias got wiped out in the first one). It slowed the development to a crawl. It also caused widespread damage to many of the blossoms because it came right when many were just on the verge of blooming and at their most vulnerable. A snow and ice storm turned them into cherry blossom popsicles. But we’re through that now, temperatures are (mostly) moderating, and we’re well on the way to a second attempt at the bloom.

Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram Feed

I’ve started a new Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram account. I’ll often be able to post short updates there more quickly than on the website, so if you want to get a jump on the very latest updates, be sure to check it out.

You can follow it at @cherryblossomwatch.

For Photographers

Sunrise tomorrow is at 7:06AM and sunset at 7:22PM. Because it’s still close to the equinox, the sunrise and sunsets are lining up wonderfully with the monuments on the National Mall, which runs directly East-West. The photo above is from this morning from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

And if you’ve been meaning to try out some near gear, BorrowLenses is currently running a 15% off promotion. If you’ve never used them or ones similar, they have a huge range of cameras, lenses, and other gear that you can rent. It’s a great way to try out gear before buying or to use something different. An example is a macro lens, which comes in very handy for cherry blossom photos.

If you want to see what they have available (they’re usually very good about quick shipping), here’s the link:


Maine Ave SW Parking Lot

It’s closed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. There are currently tents, a stage, food tents, and activity areas in there.

Traffic Restrictions on Ohio Drive

The temporary traffic restrictions are now in place. Ohio Drive SW is now one-way, and the entrance to it from the Lincoln Memorial end is closed. To get to it you have to enter via Maine Ave SW and go around the Jefferson Memorial.

Photos from this Morning

These should give you an idea of how they’re doing as of this morning.

Not something you see everyday: a squirrel with a taste for cherry blossoms. He/she was going branch to branch deliberately seeking them out.

Last updated March 23, 2017

View Comments

  • Hi! Thanks so much for the updates! I'm a Cherry Blossoms Freak-Lover :) I visit D.C. every year just for them. We will drive there Saturday morning so we will miss the sunrise :( if we take the pics of the blossoms during sunset are the pictures of the blossoms going to be under exposed? Sunday doesn't look like a good day to take pics of the sunrise due to the clouds and the rain.

  • First off, thank you for the update. We've been reading this everyday. Do you recommend early sun rise as best time to take pictures? (I noticed that it doesn't look very crowded in your picture.) We will be there on the weekend and want to avoid as much crowd as possible, and we booked a hotel near Tidal Basin so we are fairly flexibly with time.

    • Sunrise is my personal favorite time to be down there. It has been remarkably quiet so far, but that will change on the weekend. There's likely to be quite a few people there well before sunrise--here are some photos from last year to illustrate what I mean. There will be many photographers, especially over by the FDR Memorial (best view of the rising sun), along with people just there to enjoy the view. You'll even come across small groups that bring a sunrise picnic along. But it's a very large, spread-out are that can accommodate a huge number of people without too much trouble. If you were driving and trying to park it would introduce a whole layer of hassle, but since you're presumably not doing that it'll make things infinitely easier. All of which is a long-winded way of answering your question: yes, even if there are quite a few people there at sunrise, there will be even more as the day goes on.

  • Thank you for all the hard work to keep us updated! I was planning to go down on Thursday because it will be the "sunniest" day in the next five days. Based on what you are reporting today, the blossoms will be more ready on Friday....

    • More and more will be coming out each day over the next few days, so yes, aside from any potential surprises from the cold tonight, there'll be more out Friday than Thursday. The weekend should also be prime viewing (and very crowded).