Prunus x cistena
Purpleleaf Sand Cherry
(Rosaceae - Rose Family)
- medium-sized ornamental shrub
- maturing at about 8' tall by 8' wide
- upright oval growth habit in youth, becoming spreading with age, then arching outward from the open center at maturity (unless already pruned into better shape)
- medium growth rate
- full sun to partial sun
- prefers moist, well-drained soils in full sun, but is quite adaptable to adverse conditions and is very urban tolerant (especially to poor soils, drought, heat, and heavy shearing)
- propagated by rooted stem cuttings
- Rose Family, with several significant disease (trunk canker) and pest (borers in the trunks with age, and a predictable annual eating frenzy by Japanese Beetles in mid-Summer) problems, and many other relatively minor pathogens and pests as well
- abundantly available, primarily in container form, but also balled and burlapped
- Purpleleaf Sandcherry is somewhat sensitive to being transplanted in Autumn, and care should be taken to amend the soil, fertilize, water thoroughly, mulch liberally, and avoid Winter salt spray, to enhance survival chances during the first Winter
- emerging bright reddish-purple and remaining crimson-purple throughout most of the Summer, slowly changing to a bronzy-green fall color
- leaves are alternate, elliptical, serrated, about 2" long, and with dual glands at the top of the young petiole
- foliage will change quickly to bronzy-green in Summer if it is sited in a semi-shady spot
- pink buds are coincident with the emerging red foliage and open to white-pink flowers in April, being solitary, directly pendulous from the previous year's wood, and noticeable, but not especially showy
- black-purple, in July, ornamentally ineffective, sparse to rare, and seldom noticed, due to their small size and poor color contrast with the purple foliage
- red-brown, becoming dark gray with age, with the stems and branches lenticeled
- relatively rapid growth occurs at the apex and from basal suckers, with slower growth elsewhere
- multitrunked, gray to gray-brown, fissuring, and prone to trunk cankers and borers with age, with oozing sap
- ID Summary
- Purpleleaf Sandcherry (Prunus x cistena) has reddish-purple foliage that is alternate, elliptical, and about 2" long, with reddish-brown, relatively thin stems that fade to gray, and white-pink Spring flowers, while Purple Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria cultivars) differs in having round foliage on thicker, relatively unbranched, more vigorous stems that fade to tan, with wispy pinkish Summer inflorescences, and Red Barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea) and its cultivars have miniature obovate foliage on thin, densely twiggy, spine-laden stems with a much smaller mature size, with yellow Spring flowers
- the upright oval, strongly ascending, and sparsely-branched growth habit in youth gives way to a spreading growth habit with arching, heavy, densely twiggy branches at maturiy, that create an open center unless pruning and shearing have already occurred
- shrub will usually decline and die after 10 to 15 years of service life, sometimes dying one branch at a time, and often due to a cumulative, long-term assault by several pests and diseases
- focal point shrub with showy red-purple foliage that is used as a specimen, at borders, at entranceways, as a deciduous screen, in group plantings, or as a formal or informal hedge
- medium texture in foliage and when bare
- average density in foliage and when bare (thick density if sheared as a formal hedge)
- red, maroon, purple, or bronzy foliage during the entire growing season
- rapid establishment
- very urban tolerant
- white-pink ephemeral flowers are subtle but starkly contrasted against the emerging red foliage
- very hardy to cold Winters and tolerant of hot/humid Summers
- significant disease and pest problems that result in a relatively short service life
- one of the favorite delicacies of Japanese Beetle, causing unsightly cosmetic foliage damage
- if never pruned, its branches will weight down and become semi-pendulous with age, leading to an open center
- zones 2 to 8
- the parents of this hybrid are native to Western Asia and Caucasia (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea' [also known as 'Pissardii']) and the Northeastern United States (Prunus pumila)
- red-, maroon-, or purple-foliaged shrubs (Berberis thunbergii cultivars, Cotinus coggygria cultivars, etc.)
- Prunus x cistena 'Big Cis' - a more vigorous form that yields a 15' tall single- or multi-trunked small ornamental tree
- Prunus is the Latin name for plum.
- x indicates the hybrid nature of the shrub.
- cistena translates from the Sioux word for "baby", referring to the dwarf growth habit.
- Purpleleaf Sandcherry is one of the very few ornamental shrubs with reddish-purple foliage.
- Prunus x cistena is a medium-sized shrub with an upright oval then spreading growth habit, having red-purple foliage that does not fade very much during the Summer, and subtle white-pink Spring flowers.
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