Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1258 Prunus x cistena

Common Names: purple sand cherry,purpleleaf sand cherry Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
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purple sand cherry
This well-grown purple sand cherry is maintained as a small tree.
purple sand cherry flower
Purple sand cherry flowers appear in spring at the same time as the leaves.


Purple leaf sand cherry, or just purple sand cherry, is a hybrid species of garden origin, created by crossing sand cherry (P. pumila) with the cherry plum cultivar, Prunus cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’. This is a small, rounded shrub, only occasionally getting more than 7 ft (2 m) tall with a similar spread. The deciduous leaves are red at first and then reddish purple later in the season, and around 2.5 in (6 cm) long. They turn bronzy green in autumn. The leaves have serrated margins and pointed tips. The flower buds are pink, appearing singly or in pairs along with the leaves in early spring. They open to white, sometimes with a pinkish tinge, after the leaves have unfurled. Flowers are cup shaped, around one-half inch (1.5 cm) across, and fragrant. They are usually followed by a skimpy crop of purplish black fruits around ¾ in (2 cm) in diameter.

‘Minnesota Red’ has foliage that is a deeper red than the typical variety. ‘Crimson Dwarf’ is a little smaller shrub with brilliant red twigs and calices. ‘Schmidtes’ and ‘Big Cis’ are both faster growing shrubs that get larger, up to 16 ft (5 m) tall. Both have larger leaves and pink flowers.


The parents of Prunus x cistena, are sand cherry (Prunus pumila), which is naturally wide spread in the southern half of Canada and most of the northern half of the US, and cherry plum (P. cerasifera), which is native to much of eastern Europe and western Asia. Purple leaf sand cherry was introduced in 1910 by Dr. N. E. Hansen, horticulturalist at South Dakota State University.


Light: Like most of the cherries and plums (genus Prunus), purple leaf sand cherry thrives in full sun. Leaf color and flowering will suffer in partial shade. Moisture: Purple leaf sand cherry likes a moist but well drained soil. It does not tolerate poorly drained soils, but does tolerate periods of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 8 . Purple leaf sand cherry does not do well in warmer climates and specimens in zones 7 and 8 struggle during the summer, often losing their leaves before autumn. This shrub does best in zones 4-6. Propagation: Purple leaf sand cherry is easy to propagate from cuttings.

purple sand cherry shrub
Purple sand cherry is often trimmed and grown as a shrub in commercial plantings and to provide contrasting color in mixed hedges.
purple sand cherry flower
Purple sand cherry flowers are not super-showy when viewed from a distance but their beauty is apparent on closer inspection.


Purple leaf sand cherry is a slow growing shrub that never gets very large. As a specimen shrub, this is an excellent choice for smaller landscapes, especially in the northern parts of its useful range. Purple leaf sand cherry is one of the hardiest of shrubs that sport purple or red leaves. The flowers are showy, but not spectacularly so. The colorful maroon foliage lasts all summer and makes for a fine accent or specimen shrub. Use it in borders, screens, informal hedges, or around building foundations. Purple leaf sand cherry is tolerant of urban conditions, air pollution, poor soil, and moderate drought. Although it tolerates partial shade, it performs best in full sun. Later in the season, the leaves will turn bronzy, especially if the shrub is not in full sun.

The fruits, neither showy nor palatable, are eaten by song birds.


Most species of Prunus are susceptible to a variety of diseases and parasites, often surviving for less than 10 or 15 years. Purple leaf sand cherry is no exception.

Steve Christman 4/20/16

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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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