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Purpleleaf Sand CherryPrunus x cistena

  • Purpleleaf Sand Cherry - Prunus x cistena

This is a very hardy flowering landscape specimen with reddish-purple foliage that keeps its unique color all summer. Because of this, the purpleleaf sand cherry makes an excellent contrast tree. It can be planted close to paved surfaces and near utility lines and can also be used as a deciduous hedge.

While there will never be a large cherry crop, the fruit is commonly used for making jams, jellies and pie.

Hardiness Zones

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

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a flowering tree and an ornamental tree. It is typically planted for both its visual interest and profusion of spring flowers.

Mature Size

The purpleleaf sand cherry grows to a height of 7–10' and a spread of 5–7' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The purpleleaf sand cherry grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, and clay soils. It is not drought-tolerant.


This tree:
  • Produces fragrant light pink to white flowers from late April to early May.
  • Features simple leaves with an intense reddish-purple coloring that lasts all summer.
  • Yields small, sour fruit that is blackish-purple in color and sparse in quantity.
  • Tolerates many soils.
  • Grows in a rounded shape.
  • Is winter-hardy.

Wildlife Value

This tree is an important source of food for many small birds and mammals including robins, cardinals and coyotes. Birds nest in its branches.


A cross between Prunus pumila and Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea' developed by Dr. N. E. Hanson of South Dakota State University in 1910. The parents of this hybrid are native to Western Asia and Caucasia (P. cerasifera) and the northeastern United States (P. pumila). Prunus is the Latin name for plum, and cistena comes from the Sioux word for baby.