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Purple Leaf Sand Cherry - Prunus x cistena


Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Photo © Flickr user James Jordan


Purple leaf sand cherry can either be a shrub or a small tree. It is often chosen for its purple foliage.

Latin Name:

The botanical name of this shrub is Prunus x cistena and it is included as part of the Rosaceae family.

Common Names:

You will see this shrub named as the purple leaf sand cherry, purpleleaf sandcherry, purple leaf sandcherry and purpleleaf sand cherry.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

The preferred zones for Prunus x cistena are Zones 2-8.

Size & Shape:

The purple leaf sand cherry grows 7-10' tall and wide. When it is young, it has an oval shape. As it reaches maturity, it will become arching with an open center, if not pruned.


Purple leaf sand cherry should be grown in full to part sun. If it receives too much shade, the leaves will change to a bronze green color.

Foliage/ Flowers/Fruit:

The leaves are reddish-purple, 2" long, and elliptical in shape. In fall, they will turn a bronze-green.

The flowers are pink or white, and appear in April.

A few 3/4" purplish-black drupes will appear in July.

Additional Facts:

Purple leaf sand cherry is a cross between Prunus pumila and Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea'.

Design Tips:

Use Prunus x cistena as a specimen to provide splashes of purple in the garden.

Purple leaf sand cherry is very susceptible to pests and diseases, so plan on a life span of approximately 10-15 years.

The small fruits will attract many kinds of birds.

Good for drought resistant gardens.

Growing Tips:

Purple leaf sand cherry can grow in a wide variety of soils and conditions. Well drained soil is best.

The stems will be red brown to dark gray, and tend to ooze sap.

The roots are close to the surface and if they are damaged, they will make the shrub send up suckers.

Propagation is through cuttings.


Pruning on Prunus x cistena should be done after the flowers come in spring. It should be pruned as needed to keep it in an oval shape, or it will become spreading and open in the center as it matures.

Pests & Diseases:

Japanese beetles are VERY fond of the purple leaf sand cherry, unfortunately. Other pests include peachtree borer, scale, fall webworm, aphids, mealy bugs,and tent caterpillars.

Diseases include honey fungus, verticillium wilt, black knot, cankers, powdery mildew, leaf spot, bacterial leaf scorch, and frost cracks.

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