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Nanking CherryPrunus tomentosa

  • Nanking Cherry shrubs - Prunus tomentosa
  • Nanking Cherry - Prunus tomentosa
The Nanking cherry is an upright, rounded, broad-spreading dense shrub becoming more open and irregular with age. The bark is a lustrous orange or reddish brown color, exfoliating in thin strips of vertical curls with age. The flowers are pale pink to white, fragrant and usually profuse. The leaves are a dull, dark green, and given a soft appearance in summer by the downy hair that covers the leaves, new shoots, and fruits. The Nanking cherry produces heavy crops of short stemmed strong red fruits that hold well on the plant 2-3 weeks after ripening. Although some self fertile clones have been identified, it generally requires cross pollination. Two plants should be planted within 100 yards of each other for pollination. The flowers and fruit are borne on branches produced the previous season. The early flowers are somewhat frost tolerant. It adapts to a wide range of growing conditions including drought and extremes of cold and hot temperatures. Annual pruning, although not necessary, will stimulate a steady supply of young, fruitful branches and keep the shrub open to sunlight.

Hardiness Zones

The nanking cherry can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–7. View Map

Tree Type

Mature Size

The Nanking cherry typically grows to a height of 6–10' and a spread about 15' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium Growth Rate

This shrub grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this shrub, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Nanking cherry adapts to a variety of soil conditions and pH levels. It prefers well-drained soil but will tolerate drought and can grow in semi-arid conditions.

Attributes

This shrub:
  • Blooms in early spring, with pinkish buds opening up into pale pink or white flowers that are very fragrant.
  • Produces tart and tangy scarlet-colored cherries that can be eaten fresh or used in pies, jams and jellies.
  • Ripens July to August.
  • Adapts well to cold winters, hot summers and drought.
  • Develops a lustrous orange or reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in thin strips of vertical curls with age.
  • Features simple leaves that are obovate to elliptic with unequally toothed margins, dull dark green color and downy hair on the underside.
  • Is not self-fertile. Two or more shrubs should be planted within 100' of each other to ensure cross-pollination.
  • Grows in a rounded shape
  • Can be planted 4–5' apart to form a hedge.
  • Serves as dwarfing stock for cherry trees.

Wildlife Value

The shrub provides habitat, and the fruit attract birds and other wildlife.

History/Lore

The Nanking cherry is native to central Asia. It was introduced to the North America in 1882. Other common names are Manchu cherry, downy cherry, mountain cherry, Mongolian cherry, Chinese bush cherry and hedge cherry. The word tomentosa indicates the hairy nature of the underside of the leaf of this tree. Its branches can be cut in mid-winter and forced to bloom indoors in early spring.