Pronounciation: PRU-nus sir-ass-ci-FEAR-a
Landscape Use: Small (especially in Phoenix) to medium-sized deciduous tree for foliar and floral accent, residential specimen, screen, appropriate for smaller scaled oasis or mesic landscapes. Here it is used as a park tree in Istanbul, Turkey.
Form & Character: Deciduous tree, switch branches upright yet compact, wood is relatively hard and brittle.
Growth Habit: Moderately slow grower to 15 to 20 feet in height with less than (young trees) or equal (mature trees) spread.
Foliage/texture: Leaves oval to oblong to 3 inches long, deep purple w/ serrate margins; medium texture.
Flowers & fruits: Pink, perfect flowers on branches and spurs; produces a small edible drupe fruit that is about one inch in diameter, though many cultivated selections are non-fruiting.
Seasonal color: Whitish pink flowers in early spring in Phoenix, purple foliage during summer.
Temperature: This is a very cold hard tree. It is also suprisingly heat tolerant as well.....with adequate water of course.
Light: Full sun for best summer purple leaf color. Summer leaf color will 'green out' in Phoenix if trees are in a shaded location.
Soil: Tolerant; however, tends to show foliar micronutrient deficiences such as zinc 'little leaf' disorder in alkaline soils.
Watering: Infrequent deep irrigations are imperative for survival in Phoenix, though frequent regular irrigations are best.
Pruning: Prune very conservatively to lift canopy.
Propagation: Softwood cuttings, budding and grafting.
Disease and pests: Peach tree borer, firelight, aphids, little leaf a zinc deficiency, root knot nematode, Texas root rot.
Additional comments: This is a tree for relatively smaller landscape spaces that are sheltered from desert heat radiating surfaces such as decomposing granite or asphalt and concrete.
There are many cultivated varieties. 'Krauter Vesuvius' is a purple leaf cultivar that hold its color throughout the summer and is best for the Phoenix area. Another cultivar 'Autropurpurea' is slightly larger to 30 feet with new copper red foliage maturing in spring to purple but changing to purple green during late summer. 'Atropurpurea' is also a prolific producer of small red plum fruit. The cultivar 'Newportii' is a cold-hardy purple leaf variant (great for the Flagstaff area) that grows 1 inch diameter plum fruits. And finally, the cultivar 'Thundercloud' is largest in tree size.
Research has shown that purple leaf plum fruits have a VERY high antioxidant content and may have a future in the fruit drink industry.
Weird final note: Some of the common names for Prunus cerasifera that use 'cherry' are confusing as this is not a cherry tree at all.