How to Grow Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry. Prized for its fragrant blossoms and striking purple foliage, the purple-leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is a common sight in landscaping within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 8. Its tidy, 6- to 10-foot-tall growth habit and low maintenance care requirements make it a desirable...
Prized for its fragrant blossoms and striking purple foliage, the purple-leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is a common sight in landscaping within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 8. Its tidy, 6- to 10-foot-tall growth habit and low maintenance care requirements make it a desirable addition to smaller yards and gardens. However, its correct growing conditions must be observed to limit the chances of fatal damage from pests and disease.
Full sun and moderately fertile, fast-draining soil provide the best growing conditions for the purple-leaf sand cherry. Although it will adapt to light shade, its blossom production and foliage color may suffer as a result. Most purple-leaf sand cherries prefer moist soil, but they should not be planted in areas with heavy soil or sluggish drainage because excess moisture will cause root problems. Likewise, overcrowding can also contribute to early decline in purple-leaf sand cherries, so provide at least 25 square feet of space for each tree to accommodate their mature size. At planting, feed the tree with 2 to 3 tablespoons of 10-10-10 analyses fertilizer to hasten root and foliage growth.
Purple-leaf sand cherries need regular, deep watering during their first year in the garden to encourage deep, healthy root development. Provide roughly 1 inch of water weekly during dry weather, moistening the soil to a 6- to 15-inch depth. Established purple-leaf sand cherries are drought tolerant by the third year and need no supplemental water except during periods of extended drought or extreme heat. Provide water in summer if the tree shows signs of stress such as wilting or foliage loss, wetting the soil to a 6- to 15-inch depth. Winter water is seldom necessary, but may be advantageous if the weather is dry, cold and windy.
Purple-leaf sand cherries are light feeders, requiring very little supplemental fertilizer to perform well. However, a light annual application of general purpose fertilizer may help encourage more lush foliage growth and flower production in new and established trees. Feed each year in early spring before new growth emerges. Sprinkle 2 cups of 10-10-10 analysis fertilizer under the drip line of the tree and scratch it into the surface. Water as usual after feeding, then spread a fresh 3-inch layer of mulch over the fertilizer to shield the roots, keeping mulch away from the trunk.
For all their good qualities, purple-leaf sand cherries are not without drawbacks. They are relatively short-lived trees, most lasting just 10 to 20 years in the garden. Poor growing conditions are often to blame for their lack of longevity, but pest infestations and viral or bacterial diseases are also significant causes of early decline. The attractive, 3/4-inch-wide fruit present another potential problem, as the fruit create a slippery mess on walkways when they drop, and the seeds inside sometimes germinate and create unwanted seedlings. Rake up any fallen fruit to prevent both issues, and discard the litter into the trash rather than the compost pile where they might take root.
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