Our Favourite Spots to See Cherry Blossoms in Victoria

Spring has arrived in Victoria when you can see cherry blossoms and plum blossoms and magnolia trees blooming throughout the city! It’s a glorious time to be here enjoying the bright colours and delightful scents that fill the air.

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Victoria is the Garden City and two things you can count on are flowers and residents bragging about it to whomever will listen (“oh look, the daffodils are blooming in February” said nearly every Victorian to a relative elsewhere in Canada). 

We also like to brag about our weather.

But enough about how beautiful it is, you want to know the best spots to see cherry blossoms. 

Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC
Early blooming cherry blossoms at BC Government House in Victoria BC

Many trees that people mistake for cherry blossom trees are actually plum trees, and discerning the difference can be challenging for many. Cherry blossoms can be distinguished by a small split at the end of each petal, a feature absent in plum blossoms. Additionally, cherry tree leaves are typically green, while plum tree leaves tend to have a purplish hue. The buds of plum trees are generally rounder in shape compared to the more oval buds of cherry trees. Both trees produce round flowers, though cherry blossoms often form a distinctive umbrella-like appearance. Finally, cherry tree bark is characterized by distinct horizontal lines, a feature not seen in plum trees.

You will only see cherry blossoms for a relatively short period of time and nobody knows for sure exactly when that will be. Blooms have been reported as early as January in a small micro climate area of James Bay, but that is not what we typically expect. Factors that determine when a tree will bloom include:

  • Climate and Temperature: One of the most significant influences on when cherry or plum trees blossom is the prevailing climate and temperature. These trees require a certain amount of chilling hours (exposure to cold temperatures during winter) followed by warmer temperatures to trigger flowering. Once the chilling requirement is met, warmer spring temperatures signal the trees to bloom. Different varieties have different chilling requirements, with some needing fewer chilling hours than others. Sudden fluctuations in temperature, particularly late frosts after warm spells, can delay or damage blossoms.
  • Variety of Tree: The variety or cultivar of cherry or plum tree plays a crucial role in determining the timing of blossoming. Some varieties are early bloomers, while others may bloom later in the season. Breeders have developed a range of varieties to suit different climates and growing conditions, each with its own specific flowering time.
  • Day Length: Trees also respond to changes in day length or photoperiod. As days become longer in spring, signaling the approach of warmer weather, this can prompt the trees to begin their flowering process. Day length triggers hormonal changes within the tree that lead to the development of flower buds.
  • Previous Year’s Conditions: The flowering of cherry and plum trees can also be influenced by conditions from the previous year. For example, if a tree had an exceptionally productive year with abundant fruit, it may have fewer resources to allocate towards flowering the following spring. Conversely, a year of lower fruit production may result in more blossoms the following season.
  • Location and Altitude: The geographical location and altitude of where the trees are planted can impact their flowering time. Trees planted at higher altitudes generally bloom later due to cooler temperatures and a shorter growing season. Similarly, trees in more northern or southern latitudes will bloom later compared to those in milder climates closer to the equator. Within the city even seemingly small things such as the micro climate surrounding the tree can affect bloom time. Trees surrounded by buildings may be protected from wind and benefit from the heat given off of the buildings. 
  • Weather Patterns: Unusual weather patterns, such as a particularly warm winter or a late frost in spring, can disrupt the natural cycle of cherry and plum trees. This can lead to irregular flowering times or even damage the delicate blossoms.
  • Pollination and Fruiting: The presence of pollinators, such as bees, is vital for successful fruiting. The timing of blossoming must align with the availability of these pollinators to ensure effective fertilization and fruit development.

For the most part, downtown Victoria and the bordering neighbourhood of James Bay are the first to start blooming, while the Westshore is usually a couple of weeks behind. A mature tree explodes with anywhere from 250,000 to 750,000 blossoms and early to mid February is when the show begins, usually with the trees lining View Street. 

Favourite Spots to See Cherry Blossoms (and Plum Blossoms!)

  1. View Street
  2. Grounds of Helmcken House and Thunderbird Park (beside the Royal BC Museum)
  3. Menzies Street on the grounds of the Parliament Buildings.
  4. Along Belleville near the Inner Harbour. 
  5. Clarence Street between Simcoe and Niagara (you have got to check out the teacup tree here)
  6. Meares Street
  7. Montreal Street
  8. Blanshard Street from Fort to Humboldt 
  9. Beacon Hill Park
  10. Croft Street
  11. South Turner Street
  12. Richmond Avenue towards Gonzales, then also down Gonzales
  13. Butchart Gardens (of course!)
  14. Ross Bay Cemetery
  15. Wildwood Avenue
  16. Moss Street (come on a Saturday and take in the Moss Street Market while you're here)
  17. Trutch Street
  18. Harbinger Street
  19. Hatley Castle and Gardens
  20. Government House on Rockland Avenue
  21. Basically, the entire James Bay, Fairfield and Rockland neighbourhoods (we highly recommend a horse-drawn carriage ride to experience this splendour!)
  22. Veteran's Memorial Parkway in Langford

This handy map courtesy of the City of Victoria shows the locations of all their trees plus there are many, many more spots to see cherry blossoms in the Greater Victoria region. If you’re visiting between February and early May, there’s a good chance you will experience our iconic spring glory and our favourite way to see them? A horse-drawn carriage ride of course! And if you love cherry blossoms like I do, why not paint your own with one of these incredible paint by number kits. No longer the tacky things they once were - these kits are like a paint night in your own home!

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