Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1018 Prunus serrula

Common Names: paperbark cherry, Tibetan cherry Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
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Tibetan cherry blossoms
The brilliant white blossoms of the paperbark cherry variety 'Tibetica' make a memorable springtime sight against a bright blue sky.


The main attraction of paperbark cherry is its beautiful glossy, mahogany red bark. The bark peels on older specimens, only adding to the interest. The tree is smallish, with a height seldom reaching 30 ft (9 m), and has a neat, rounded crown just about as wide. The narrow, willowlike leaves are 3-4 in (7-10 cm) long and turn yellow in autumn. The white flowers come out with the new leaves in spring. They aren't very large and tend to be hidden in the foliage. The cherries are bright red when ripe, about a half inch (1 cm) long, and not considered to be edible.


Prunus serrula is native to western China.


Light: Grow in full sun. Moisture: Paperbark cherry can be grown in any fertile, well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. This is a tree that likes a cool climate. Paperbark cherry is likely to succumb to viral diseases in warm, humid climates. Propagation: Seeds can be sown after stratifying for 10-14 weeks in damp, cool peat. Or, the seeds can be sown outdoors in autumn. Cultivars are propagated by grafting or by cuttings from fast growing new softwood in spring.
paperbark cherry
This mature Tibetan cherry took decades to reach its mature height of 30ft (9m). This tree is as famous for it's glossy smooth reddish bark (on younger stems, see inset) as for its beautiful blossoms.


Paperbark cherry is seldom encountered in American gardens any longer. Few nurseries offer it. That's a shame, because it makes a stunningly beautiful specimen tree for even a small landscape but it's susceptibility to disease and insect damage has limited its appeal.


Paperbark cherry is especially beautiful in winter when the trunk is not obscured by foliage and the flowers are exquisite. Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is easier to grow and has similarly beautiful blossoms but lacks it lustrous polished bark.

Steve Christman 03/25/06; updated 02/08/09

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Prunus species profiled on Floridata:

Prunus americana

( wild plum, American plum )

Prunus angustifolia

( Chickasaw plum )

Prunus campanulata

( Taiwan flowering cherry, Formosan cherry, bell-flowered cherry )

Prunus caroliniana

( Carolina cherry laurel, cherry laurel )

Prunus laurocerasus

( English laurel, cherry laurel )

Prunus serotina

( black cherry, wild cherry, rum cherry )

Prunus serrula

( paperbark cherry, Tibetan cherry )

Prunus serrulata

( Japanese flowering cherry, Japanese cherry,oriental cherry, hill cherry )

Prunus subhirtella

( higan cherry, rosebud cherry )

Prunus virginiana

( chokecherry, common chokecherry, chokeberry )

Prunus x cistena

( purple sand cherry,purpleleaf sand cherry )

Prunus x yedoensis

( Yoshino cherry, Potomac cherry, Tokyo cherry )

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