PRUNUS

FAMILY: Rosaceae

TYPE
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Trees
  • Deciduous
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Regular Water
  • Moderate Water

Plant Details

Discussed here are the orna- mental members of the genus Prunus. Fruit trees belonging to Prunuscollectively called the stone fruitscan be found under their common names. See Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Peach and Nectarine, and Plum.

Ornamentals are divided into two classes: evergreen and deciduous. Evergreens are used chiefly as shade trees, street trees, hedges, and screens. Deciduous flowering trees and shrubs, closely related to the fruit trees mentioned above, are valued for their floral display as well as for attractive form and for foliage shape and texture. Many of these also bear edible fruit, attractive to wildlife or used to make jams and jelly.

DECIDUOUS TYPES

Zones vary by type. Cultural needs of all are identical. They require full sun and fast-draining, well-aerated soil; if your soil is substandard, plant in raised beds. Prune only to remove awkward or crossing branches; pinch back the occasional overly ambitious shoot to force branching. You can cut during bloom time and use branches in arrangements. Trees bloom in early to midspring, depending on type.

All are good to garden under. Use them as their growth habit indicates: Large, spreading kinds make good shade trees, while smaller ones are indispensable in Japanese gardens. Foliage may sustain damage from insect pests. Plants growing in heavy soil are sometimes subject to root rot (for which there is no cure); an afflicted tree will usually bloom, then send out new leaves that suddenly collapse.

P. 'Accolade'. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Small tree with spreading branches, twiggy growth pattern. Very vigorous. To 25 ft. tall and wide. Semidouble, blush-pink, 1 in. wide in large drooping clusters; open from rose-pink buds. Early. Hybrid between P. sargentii and P. x subhirtella.

P. campanulata, TAIWAN FLOWERING CHERRY. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Graceful, slender, upright-growing small tree; densely branched. To 2025 ft. high and wide. Single, bell shaped, dropping, in. wide, in clusters of two to five. Striking shade of bright purplish pink. Very early. Red fruit about in. long. Good choice for Coastal South.

P. 'Dream Catcher'. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Upright, vase- shaped. Dark green leaves turn yellow-orange in fall. To 25 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide. Single pink. Early; about a week after parent P. 'Okame'. Good resistance to pests and diseases.

P. 'First Lady'. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Very upright, almost columnar. To 25 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide. Single, dark rose-pink. Very early. Hybrid between 'Okame' and P. campanulata.

P. 'Hally Jolivette'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Dense, shrubby. Slow to 68 ft. high and wide; eventually reaches twice that size. Double white blooms open from pink buds. Early; relatively long bloom, lasting several weeks. Can be used in shrub borders. Hybrid between P. x subirtella and P. x yedeonsis.

P. incisa. FUJI CHERRY. Zone US; USDA 6. Large shrub to small tree, growing 1520 ft. tall and wide, blooming pale pink before midspring. 'Kojo-no-mai' ('Little Twist') is smaller than the species, growing up to 6 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide with twisted branches.

P. 'Okame'. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Upright, oval habit. Fast growing. Dark green, fine-textured foliage. Good yellow-orange to orange-red fall color. To 25 ft. by 20 ft. Single, carmine-pink, 1 in. wide. Very early. Blooms well even in Coastal South. Hybrid between P. campanulata and P. incisa.

P. 'Royal Burgundy'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Remarkable for its red foliage to complement pink flowers. Upright branches that grow into a rounded tree 30 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide. Midseason.

P. sargentii. SARGENT'S CHERRY. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Upright, spreading branches form rounded crown. Good orange-red fall color. To 4060 ft. tall and wide. Single, blush-pink flowers in clusters of two to four. Midseason. 'Columnaris' is narrower and more erect than species, though more vase-shaped than columnar. P. sargentii 'Pink Flair' is compact; upright with a narrow vase shape. Good orange-red fall color. To 25 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide. Single, pink flowers. Midseason.

P. serrulata. Known through its many selections.

'Amanogawa'. JAPANESE FLOWERING CHERRY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Columnar in youth, becoming vase shaped with age. To 2025 ft. tall, 48 ft. wide. Semidouble, light pink with deep pink petal margins; 1 in. wide. Early midseason.

'Kanzan' ('Kwanzan', 'Sekiyama'). Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Stiffly upright branches form a narrow, inverted cone that spreads with age. Orange fall foliage. To 30 ft. by 20 ft. Large (2 in. wide), double, deep rosy pink, in pendent clusters. Blossoms appear before or with red young leaves. Midseason. Tolerates heat and humidity well.

'Shirofugen'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Wide horizontal branching. To 25 ft. high and wide. Long-stalked double blooms 2 in. wide, in pink fading to white. Flowers appear at same time as coppery red new leaves. Latest to bloom among P. serrulata selections.

'Shirotae' ('Mt. Fuji'). Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Strong horizontal branching. To 20 ft. by 25 ft. Semidouble, to 2 in. wide. Pink in bud; white when fully open, aging to purplish pink. Early.

'Shogetsu'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Spreading growth, arching branches. To 15 ft. by 25 ft. Semidouble and fully double, to 2 in. wide. Pale pink, often with white center. Late.

P. 'Snow Goose'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Erect; narrow at first, eventually becoming broader. To 20 ft. tall and wide. Single white. Early.

P. x subhirtella. Known for its popular selections.

'Autumnalis'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Loose-branching, bushy tree with flattened crown. To 2530 ft. high and wide. Double white or pinkish white, in. wide. Often blooms during mild autumn or winter weather as well as in early spring.

'Rosea'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Widespreading; horizontally branching. To 2025 ft. by 30 ft. Single pink blossoms open from nearly red buds. Profuse, very early bloom.

P. x yedoensis. YOSHINO FLOWERING CHERRY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Horizontal branches; graceful, open pattern. Fast growing. Leaves may turn orange or red in fall. To 40 ft. by 30 ft. Single light pink to nearly white, to 1 in. wide. Early. This is the cherry planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Tolerates heat and humidity.

'Akebono' (sometimes called 'Daybreak'). Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Horizontal branches; graceful, open pattern. Fast growing. Leaves may turn orange or red in fall. To 25 ft. high and wide. Flowers pinker than those of P. x yedoensis.

Weeping Flowering Cherry

P. 'Pink Snow Showers'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Weeping. To 25 ft. tall and 2025 ft. wide. Single pink blooms. Early.

P. 'Snow Fountains' ('White Fountain'). Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Slightly curving trunk; weeping branches reach the ground. Sold as a small tree or trunkless ground cover. To 1215 ft. tall and wide as a tree; 1 ft. by 1015 ft. as a ground cover. Single white. Early.

P. x subhirtella 'Pendula'. WEEPING HIGAN CHERRY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Usually sold grafted at 56 ft. high on upright-growing understock. Graceful branches hang down, often to ground. To 1525 ft. high and wide. Profuse show of -in., pale pink, single flowers. Trees grown on own roots are rare but more graceful than those grown from grafts. Early.

P. x subhirtella 'Pendula Plena Rosea' ('Yae-shidare-higan'). DOUBLE WEEPING CHERRY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Double rose-pink. Midseason.

Flowering peach. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Most are more widely adapted than fruiting peach but otherwise identical in size, growth habit, cultural needs, and potential problems. Place trees where they will be striking when in bloom yet fairly unobtrusive out of bloom. Bloom period runs from late winter to early spring. The following selections are strictly flowering in that the 2- to 2-in. blooms are showy and fruit is either absent or inferior. In areas with late frosts, choose late bloomers; early bloomers are best in areas with early springs.

'Bonfire'. Dwarf form to only 56 ft. tall, 7 ft. wide. Red leaves; double pink flowers. Midseason.

'Early Double Pink'. Very early.

'Early Double Red'. Deep purplish red or rose-red. Very early. Brilliant color is beautiful but likely to clash with other pinks and reds.

'Early Double White'. Blooms with 'Early Double Pink'.

'Helen Borchers'. Semidouble, clear-pink flowers. Late.

'Late Double Red'. Later than 'Early Double Red' by three to four weeks.

'Peppermint Stick'. Double flowers striped red and white; may also bear all-white and all-red flowers on same branch. Midseason.

'Weeping Double Pink'. Smaller than other flowering peaches, with weeping branches. Requires careful staking and tying to develop main stem of suitable height. Midseason.

'Weeping Double Red'. Like 'Weeping Double Pink', but with deep rose-red flowers. Midseason.

'Weeping Double White'. White version of weeping forms listed above.

'White Icicle'. Double white flowers. Late.

Flowering plum. Zones vary by type. Flowers appear before leaves, from late winter to early spring. Less particular about soil than flowering cherries, nectarines, and peaches but will fail if soil is waterlogged for long periods. If soil is boggy, plant in raised beds. Little pruning is needed. Potential pests include aphids, borers, scale, tent caterpillars. Possible diseases include canker and leaf spot. The most ornamental flowering plums are described below. Note that purple-foliaged types have a dominating color that makes them difficult to work into a landscape successfullyso use them sparingly (and never plant them in front of red brick). For more flowering plums, see listings for P. americana, P. angustifolia, P. x cistena, P. maritima, and P. mexicana.

Prunus x blireana. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Graceful form. New leaves reddish purple; turn greenish bronze by summer. To 25 ft. by 20 ft. Double, fragrant pink to rose flowers to 1 in. wide. Little or no fruit. Hybrid of P. cerasifera 'Pissardii' and P. mume.

P. cerasifera. MYROBALAN, CHERRY PLUM. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Most often used as rootstock for various stone fruits. Dark green leaves. To 30 ft. high and wide. Pink or white flowers to 1 in. wide. Red, 1- to 1-in-wide fruit is sweet but bland. Self-sows freely; some seedlings bear yellow fruit. Purple- and red-leafed selections are more popular than species.

'Allred'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Upright, slightly spreading. Red leaves. To 20 ft. by 1215 ft. Single, white flowers. Red, 1-in., tart fruit good for preserves, jelly.

'Crimson Pointe'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Grows like an exclamation point, 2025 ft. tall and 56 ft. wide. White flowers in early spring. Dark red foliage. Small ornamental fruit.

'Krauter Vesuvius'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Upright, oval form. Darkest foliage (blackish purple) of any flowering plum. To 18 ft. by 12 ft. Single, light pink flowers. Little or no fruit.

'Mt. St. Helens'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Upright, spreading, with rounded crown. A sport of P. c. 'Newport' but more robust, with larger leaves of a richer purple color. Faster growing than 'Newport' to 20 ft. high and wide. Fragrant, single, white to pale pink flowers. Will bear a little fruit.

'Newport'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Upright and spreading, with rounded crown. Foliage is dark all summer, attractively reddish in autumn. To 1520 ft. by 20 ft. Fragrant, single, white to pale pink flowers. Will bear a little fruit.

'Pissardii' ('Atropurpurea'). PURPLE-LEAF PLUM. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Rounded habit. Leaves are coppery red when new, later deepen to dark purple; turn red in autumn. Fast to 2535 ft. high and wide. Single, white flowers. Heavy crop of red, 1- to 1-in. fruit.

'Thundercloud'. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Rounded in habit (more so than P. c. 'Pissardii'). Dark coppery leaves. To 20 ft. high and wide. Fragrant, single, light pink to white flowers. Sometimes sets good crop of 1-in. red fruit.

Japanese flowering apricot (P. mume). Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Tree from China, Korea. Not a true apricot. Longer lived, tougher, and more trouble free than many other flowering fruit trees. Eventually develops into a gnarled-looking, picturesque tree to 20 ft. tall and wide. Broadly oval, pointed leaves to 4 in. long; profuse, inch-wide winter blossoms with a clean, spicy perfume. In the Lower and Coastal South (USDA 8-9), sudden freezes following warm spells will kill just-opened blossoms. New ones seem to replace the frosted ones. Fruit is small and inedible.

'Beni-chidori'. Bushy and upright, to 8 ft. tall and wide, with dark pink flowers.

'Bonita'. Semidouble, rose-red blooms.

'Dawn'. Large, ruffled double, pink flowers.

'Matsubara Red'. Double, deep red flowers.

'Peggy Clarke'. Double flowers in deep rose, with extremely long stamens and red calyxes.

'Pendula'. Weeping branches hold semidouble, rich pink blossoms.

'Rosemary Clarke'. Double, white flowers with red calyxes. Very early.

'W. B. Clarke'. Double, pale pink flowers; weeping form. Effective large bonsai or container plant. Bloom and form make it the center of attention in a winter garden.

ADDITIONAL DECIDUOUS SPECIES

P. americana. WILD PLUM, GOOSE PLUM. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native from Manitoba to Massachusetts, south to Utah, New Mexico, and Georgia. Tough, hardy plant grows to 1520 ft. high and 1015 ft. wide, spreading to form thickets. Blooms profusely before the dark green leaves emerge, bearing clusters of white, inch-wide blossoms. Yellow to red, 1-in. fruit is sour but good for jelly.

P. angustifolia. CHICKASAW PLUM. Large shrub. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from New Jersey to Missouri, south to Florida and Texas. Grows to 1216 ft. tall and wide, forming a somewhat thorny, shiny, dark green thicket; spreads by root suckers. Clouds of -in. white blossoms in early spring; -in. red or yellow fruit is prized by wildlife. Likes sandy soils; takes sun or partial shade.

P. x cistena. PURPLE-LEAF SAND CHERRY, DWARF RED-LEAF PLUM. Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Dainty, multibranched hybrid to 610 ft. high. Can be trained as single-stemmed tree; good for small patios. Bears white to light pink flowers as leaves emerge, then covers itself in red-purple foliage. May offer a summer crop of small blackish purple fruit.

P. glandulosa. DWARF FLOWERING ALMOND. Shrub. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to China and Japan. An old Southern favorite. To 46 ft. high, with clumps of upright, spreading branches and light green, willowlike, 4-in. leaves. In early spring, before leaf-out, the slender stems are transformed into wands of blossoms. Double-flowered 'Alba Plena' (white) and 'Sinensis', sometimes sold as 'Rosea Plena' (pink), are commonly sold; both have fluffy, 1- to 1-in. blooms. A rare single-blossomed type known in some areas as Easter cherry is the only one that fruits. Prune heavily during or after flowering to promote new growth for next year's bloom. Suckers freely. Fireblight can be a problem.

P. maritima. BEACH PLUM. Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to Atlantic coast from Maine to Virginia. Suckering shrub to 6 ft. or taller, spreading to form large colonies. Dull green leaves grow 13 in. long, half as wide. White, -in. flowers in spring are followed by - to 2-in., dark red or purple fruit that is highly valued for preserves. Tolerates strong winds and salt spray.

P. mexicana. MEXICAN PLUM. Tree. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Kentucky to Texas and northeast Mexico. Beautiful native plum with delicate, spreading form and handsome, peeling bark. Usually single trunked; grows 1525 ft. (occasionally to 35 ft.) tall, not quite as wide. Yellow-green, oval, pointed leaves to 4 in. long turn orange in autumn. Not a suckering species. Very fragrant, -in. white blossoms (fading to pink) bloom in early spring; purplish red fruit, good for jellies and preserves, follows in late summer. Foliage turns orange before dropping in fall. Tolerates drought but grows fast with regular water; takes many soils, including limestone and sand, but must have good drainage. Full sun or partial shade.

P. serotina. BLACK CHERRY, WILD CHERRY. Large tree. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Canada to Florida and Texas. Fast growing to 5060 ft. tall, 30 ft. wide; possibly much taller. Leaves to 5 in. long, oval and pointed; dark green above, light green below. Yellow to red fall foliage. Fragrant white spring flowers in drooping clusters; red to purple-black, bittersweet cherries, used in jellies and wines. Wood is prized for furniture. Tolerates many soils, but not extremely wet or very dry sites. Not good for planting near the house; dropping fruit is messy, and nests of eastern tent caterpillars in branches are unsightly in spring. One of the larval hosts of Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. Seeds prodigiously.

P. tomentosa. NANKING CHERRY. Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. From Tibet, China. Extremely tough and cold hardy. To 68 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide. Small, fragrant white flowers open from pinkish buds in spring; -in. scarlet fruit follows.

P. triloba 'Multiplex'. DOUBLE FLOWERING PLUM, FLOWERING ALMOND. Small tree or large treelike shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. From China. Slow to 810 ft. (possibly to 15 ft.) tall, with equal spread. The rather broad leaves are 12 in. long. Double, pink flowers about 1 in. wide appear in early spring before leaf-out. A white form is sometimes available.

P. virginiana. CHOKECHERRY. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native from Newfoundland to Saskatchewan, south to Kansas, east to North Carolina. To 2030 ft. high, 1825 ft. wide, with suckering habit. Oval, pointed leaves are 24 in. long; they are dark green above, grayish green beneath. In late spring, small, very fragrant white flowers appear in slender, 3- to 6-in. clusters among the leaves; these are followed by astringent, dark red to black fruit to in. wide. 'Canada Red' ('Shubert') has leaves that open green, turn red as they mature.

EVERGREEN SPECIES

The following evergreen species are all large shrubs or small trees.

P. caroliniana. CAROLINA CHERRY LAUREL. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from North Carolina to Texas. As an upright shrub, it can be well branched from the base and used as clipped hedge or tall screen to 20 ft. high; can also be sheared into formal shapes. Trained as a tree, it is a broad-topped plant reaching 3540 ft. high and nearly as wide; looks attractive with multiple trunks. Densely foliaged in glossy, green, smooth-edged, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves. Small, creamy white flowers in 1-in. spikes appear in late winter or spring, followed by black fruit to in. wide. Flower and fruit litter can be a problem in paved areas. Produces lots of seedlings. Very tolerant of heat, wind, drought. 'Bright 'n Tight' and 'Compacta' are denser than the species, reach only 810 ft. tall and 68 ft. wide, and take well to pruning.

P. laurocerasus. CHERRY LAUREL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Hardy to 5F; selections listed below are hardier. Native from southeastern Europe to Iran. To 20 ft. tall and wide, though generally seen as a lower clipped hedge. Leathery, glossy, dark green leaves are 37 in. long, 12 in. wide. Blooms in summer, bearing 3- to 5-in. spikes of creamy white flowers that are often hidden by leaves. Small purple to black fruit appears in late summer and fall.

Where adapted, a fast-growing, greedy plant that's difficult to garden under or around. Regular water and nutrients will speed growth and keep top dense. Needs reasonably good drainage. Give partial shade in hottest areas. Tolerates salt spray. Stands heavy shearing but with considerable mutilation of leaves; best pruned by one cut at a time, using hand pruners, to remove overlong twigs just above a leaf. Leaf spot can be a serious problem in the Lower South.

The compact selections listed below are good garden plants, better behaved than the species.

'Etna'. Grows 68 ft. tall and wide. Compact growth; takes well to shearing. Coppery new leaves.

'Mount Vernon'. Very slowly forms a dense mound to about 2 ft. high and 5 ft. wide. Though very dwarf, it has full-size leaves like those of the species. Can be used as ground cover.

'Otto Luyken'. To 4 ft. tall, 56 ft. wide. Deep green, glossy leaves 24 in. long.

'Schipkaensis'. SCHIPKA LAUREL. Usually 45 ft. high (possibly 10 ft. tall), 7 ft. wide. Narrow leaves are 24 in. long.

'Zabeliana'. ZABEL LAUREL. Narrow, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves; branches angle upward and outward from plant base. Eventually reaches 6 ft., with equal or greater spread. More tolerant of full sun than species. Versatile plant; good for low screen, big foundation plant, bank cover (with branches pegged down), espalier.

P. lusitanica. PORTUGAL LAUREL. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Spain, Portugal. Densely branched shrub 1020 ft. high and wide; or multitrunked, spreading tree to at least 30 ft. tall and wide. Trained to a single trunk, it is used as formal street tree. Glossy, dark green leaves to 5 in. long, 2 in. wide. Small, creamy white flowers in 5- to 10-in. spikes in spring and early summer, followed by clusters of tiny bright red to dark purple fruit. Slower growing than P. laurocerasus and more tolerant of heat, sun, and wind. Drought tolerant.

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