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Purple Leaf Plum - Prunus cerasifera

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Prunus Cerasifera Purple Leaf Plum © Wikimedia Arturo Reina

Overview:

Purple leaf plum is a small deciduous tree commonly planted for its deep reddish-purple leaves and white/pale pink flowers that are among the first to appear in spring. Although it is short lived, it is fast growing and great for use as a specimen or shade tree.

Latin Name:

The scientific name for this species is Prunus cerasifera and it falls under the Rosaceae family. Many of the stone fruits are also part of the Prunus genus.

Common Names:

You may see purple leaf plum, cherry plum, purpleleaf plum and Myrobalan plum used in reference to this tree.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

Prunus cerasifera will have the best growth in Zones 4-9.

Size & Shape:

Purple leaf plum grows to approximately 15-25' tall and wide at maturity, and has a rounded shape.

Exposure:

Plant in a location with full sun. The leaves will turn green if grown in the shade.

Foliage/ Flowers/Fruit:

The leaves of Prunus cerasifera are 1.5-3" long. Most cultivars for sale have the reddish-purple leaves, there are ones with green foliage also available.

Flowers are small, fragrant and either white or pale pink. Purple leaf plum is one of the first trees to flower in the spring, with the blossoms appearing before the leaves.

Although the fruits are small at only 1.25", they are edible. These little gems can be yellow, purple, or red, depending on the cultivar chosen.

Additional Facts:

Purple leaf plum is a fairly fast growing tree. Unfortunately, it also has a short lifespan - 20 years on average.

Design Tips:

Purple leaf plum is a common choice as a specimen tree. This has a very strong color, so it is best to use only one instead of a group.

Remember the short lifespan of Prunus cerasifera when planning your garden.

Growing Tips:

The soil for your purple leaf plum should be well-drained. Acidic soil is preferred, though it can tolerate a wide variety of soils.

As long as it is properly established, it is moderately drought tolerant.

Prunus cerasifera does not tolerate compacted soil or pollution.

Propagation is through cuttings or seed.

Maintenance/Pruning:

Be prepared to clean up the masses of fallen fruit.

Pruning should be done after flowering. Little pruning is needed except for maintenance of dead, diseased or damaged branches.

Pests & Diseases:

Prone to Japanese beetle, mealy bugs, borers, tent caterpillars, and scale.

Susceptible to leaf spot, gray mold, verticillium wilt and cankers.

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