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Paperbark Cherry


Paperbark cherry has plastic bark. Photo © Andy Stanton

Overview of Paperbark Cherry:

Paperbark cherry is best known for its stunning bark. The dark coppery peeling bark is actually a plastic film! It works quite well for winter interest. Unfortunately, it isn't planted that often because it is highly susceptible to borers and diseases, making it a short-lived tree. Still, if you have room in your yard for this showy little beauty, think about giving it a chance.

Latin Name:

Prunus serrula

Common Names:

Paperbark cherry, Tibetan cherry, birch bark cherry

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:

Paperbark cherry grows best in zones 5-8.

Size & Shape of Paperbark Cherry:

This tree grows 20-30' tall and wide, and has a round shape.


Plant in full sun.

Foliage/ Flowers/Fruit of Paperbark Cherry:

The leaves are 2-4" long with serrated edges. They are dark green, turning yellow in the fall.

In late spring, the tree is filled with cluster of tiny (.75") 5-petaled white flowers.

The fruit is a small (.5") inedible red drupe.

Design Tips For Paperbark Cherry:

Excellent for winter interest as the shiny bark will definitely stand out.

Plan on this tree being short-lived, as it usually falls prey to insects and diseases readily.

This can be used as a rootstock for other cherry trees. One combination that is especially lovely is a weeping cherry grafted on top of the paperbark cherry.

Growing Tips For Paperbark Cherry:

Plant in a location with fertile soil that is moist, but has good drainage.

Propagation is through seeds, cuttings and budding.


This tree does not usually require much pruning besides removal of problem branches (i.e. damaged or dead). Since they bloom in the spring, it is best to wait until just after blooming has finished, before they start forming the buds for next year.

Pests & Diseases of Paperbark Cherry

Paperbark cherry is highly susceptible to damage from borers and beetles (such as Japanese beetle), which can severely weaken the tree. Aphids, scale, spider mites, tent caterpillars and leafhoppers can also be a problem.

As with all cherries, it is also prone to diseases. Leaf curl, fireblight, dieback, leaf spot, cankers, powdery mildew and root rot are all diseases that may show up in the paperbark cherry.

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