D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms will Reach Peak Bloom from March 23 to 26, Officials Predict

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post
The blossoms’ peak bloom is predicted for March 23 through March 26.

The National Park Service predicted Thursday that D.C.’s cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom from March 23 to March 26.

Peak bloom is defined as the point when 70 percent of the blossoms along the Tidal Basin – the reservoir on the Mall – have flowered. The event attracts droves of tourists and locals every year to visit the flowering trees, which were a gift from Japan in 1912.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival also returns this year, from March 20 through April 14, with dozens of events around the city to celebrate the city’s famous flower.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, which independently estimates peak bloom, predicted that the buds will reach their peak between March 19 and 23, about 10 days earlier than normal. If the prediction holds up, it would be one of the earliest peak blooms on record.

According to Capital Weather Gang, a warming climate has led the cherry trees to flower earlier over time. Historical bloom data shows the average peak has advanced about five days, from April 4 to March 31. Last year, peak bloom was March 23. It was recorded on March 21 in 2022. The earliest peak bloom on record occurred March 15, 1990.

Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said NPS looks at long term forecasts, historical records and the appearance of the trees to try to predict the peak bloom date. But another mild winter and drastically changing temperatures – with highs in 60s on Wednesday to lows in 20s this Thursday – have made it more challenging to predict bloom.

“Emerging from the warmest January on record, this has been a particularly puzzling year to read the trees and establish a projected date,” Reinbold said. “You’re seeing the effects of a warmer and highly variable temperatures on the trees.”

The date range is when NPS expects the first day of peak bloom could occur. If weather conditions are right, Reinbold said, the peak bloom period can last up to 10 days.

The dates were unveiled at an annual news conference where dozens of city leaders and National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers gather for the announcement. On Thursday, stakeholders donned pops of pink at the Waldorf Astoria in downtown.

The festival, which celebrates Japanese culture and D.C.’s diplomatic relationship with Japan, is one of Washington’s most cherished traditions. City leaders have hoped in recent years that the events could be a catalyst for post-pandemic tourism and reviving D.C.’s struggling downtown. Last year, the city spent $100,000 on a campaign that sent a bright pink 45-foot coach bus to Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore to promote the festival.

At the event Thursday, Nina Albert, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said the festival annually brings 1.5 million visitors to the city.

“This festival is D.C.’s unofficial entrance into spring,” Albert said. “As the buds begin to bloom, residents and visitors begin to emerge from their winter state.”

This may also be one of the last years visitors will see the Tidal Basin’s cherry blossoms in their current configuration. Last August, the National Park Service announced a more than $112 million investment to restore failing sea walls around a portion of the Tidal Basin and along the Potomac River. The project includes repairing and widening walkways around the Tidal Basin.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-2024 and is part of a nearly $500 million project to improve infrastructure on the National Mall before the 250th anniversary of American Independence in 2026.

Although construction will not affect this year’s activities, NPS is still determining how the construction could affect cherry blossom events in the coming years.