Growing Purple Leaf Sand Cherry Shrub

Thanks to its massive popularity, the Rosaceae family has seen a lot of expansion over time to include just about every shape, size, and color imaginable.

The famous cherry hybrid Prunus x cistena is no exception.

Close up view of white and red blossoms and buds on a purple leaf sand cherry bush (prunus cistena.
Purple leaf Sand Cherry | CynthiaMarie-DepositPhotos

While it may seem strange, plums, cherries, and even almonds are all part of the rose family; and Prunus x cistena‘s cherry blossoms are every bit as wonderful as a common rose.

This perennial shrub is a cultivar between Prunus cerasifera (PROO-nus ke-ra-SEE-fer-uh) and Prunus pumila (PROO-nus POO-mil-uh) and was first developed in 1910 at South Dakota University.

Being a hybrid, this plant has only one common name (purple leaf sand cherry), but different regions may compound some of the words to create variations.

The purpleleaf sand cherry has a large growing zone which covers most of the United States and provides a striking contrast between leaf, stem, and flower color that’s perfect for almost any garden.

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry Care

Size & Growth

Sandcherry stands in the thin line between tree and deciduous shrub, with a height of 6’ to 10’ feet tall and a spread of 5’ to 8’ feet.

In colder climates, the size will tend to be on the smaller end of this range.

The moderately growing plant begins with an upward-growing, oval shape before arching outwards and opening up at the center as it grows older.

The peeling bark is an attractive chestnut brown, maturing into grey-brown.

Its 2” to 3” inch long serrated oval leaves are the main show, beginning as maroon or purple in early spring and eventually changing to a green-bronze in autumn.

The average lifespan is 10 to 15 years, although it will live longer if cared for.

Flowering and Fragrance

If you’ve ever seen cherry blossoms, you’ll know what to expect.

The ½” inch wide pink to white flowers begin appearing in late April, around the same time the foliage becomes most pronounced, resulting in a beautiful display of pale flowers over vibrant reddish-purple foliage.

As with other cherry trees, the blossoms of sandcherry are quite fragrant.

By July, the flowers give way to ¾” inch purple-black to blue-black drupes.

Light & Temperature

As with most trees and large shrubs, sand cherry loves full sun to partial shade.

It is highly tolerant of extreme temperatures and will thrive in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 8.

Watering and Feeding

Despite having some minor tolerance to drought, you should water your sand cherry’s weekly to keep the surrounding soil evenly moist.

In times of drought, the tree may require additional watering or irrigation. Watering with soaker hoses puts the water right where it is needed. More on How To Use A Soaker Hose.

An all-purpose fertilizer added each spring will help ensure optimum growth.

Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to ensure the best results.

Soil & Transplanting

This shrub will be happy in just about any well-drained soil.

Plant with plenty of room for airflow for the best results.

Plan for irrigation if you live in an area prone to drought.

Be warned that this plant doesn’t like to be transplanted during autumn, so make sure to pamper it with well-prepared soil.

Grooming And Maintenance

Pruning your sand cherry has two benefits: It creates more density, and allows you to turn it from a shrub into a single-stemmed tree, if you so wish.

It establishes quickly, and may be kept to a specific size or allowed to fully grow.

Any pruning should be done in late spring once the plant has bloomed for shaping, or in early spring prior to new growth for removing dead or diseased branches.

Some owners will even cut old growth to nearly ground level in late winter to encourage fresh, vibrant growth.

Note that specimens may require staking if you’re in a high wind area, with one stake for the first 12’ feet and a second if the plant is taller.

How To Propagate Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

The best way to propagate the sand cherry plant is through rooted stem cuttings.

Because this is a hybrid plant, it is not possible to reproduce true offspring from the seeds, which will likely grow into one of the parent species.

Sand Cherry Bush Main Pest or Disease Problems

This plant is able to withstand extreme temperatures as low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit.

It is mildly drought tolerant for brief periods and moderately tolerant to ocean air

The peeling nature of sand cherry’s bark and some sap oozing is normal, although cankers or fissures will cause additional sap loss.

The root system of this plant is shallow, and any damage to them may result in suckers.

A wide range if insect pests are known to attack this plant, including

Several diseases and ailments are also known to affect the plant, including:

Suggested Purple Leaf Sand Cherry Uses

A combination of moderately slow growth rate and the ability to keep this plant as a large shrub or prune it into a small tree makes it easy to design your garden around it or add it to an existing garden space.

The pink flowers and attractive leaf color allow you to enjoy striking beauty or partake in the Cherry Blossom festival without leaving home.

A functional showstopper, the leaves and fruit may be used to make green dye and the cherry fruits are edible.

When pruned for fullness, the sand cherry may be used as a hedge plant.

Plant near a window so your family can enjoy the wonderful fragrance and many birds which come to nest and feast on its fruit.

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