Purple leaf sand cherry

medicinal herbsPurple-Leaf Sand CherryPrunus x cistena

Herb: Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry

Latin name: Prunus x cistena

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Description of the plant:




2 m
(6 1/2 foot)


May to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry:

Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit contains a single large seed. Seed – raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter – see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. Plants can be used for hedging.

Propagation of Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry:

Seed – requires 2 – 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. This species is a hybrid and will not breed true from seed. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Prunus x cistena:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.

How to Grow Sand Cherries

Days to germination: Started by seedling
Days to harvest: 3 years old
Light requirements: Full sun or light shading
Water requirements: Water occasionally, not often
Soil: Well-drained soil
Container: Suitable even for standard shrubs


Sand cherries are a great fruit choice for anyone gardening in cooler regions. They are one of the few fruit trees that can be grown as far north as zone 2. You can also grow them in warmer areas to zone 8, so you don’t necessarily have to live in a cool climate.

Many varieties of sand cherry are grown for their blossoms and will not produce fruit. You may have to do a little searching to find one that is bred for fruit production. The most commonly found one is the Purple-Leaved sand cherry and it is strictly an ornamental. The Nanking cherry is very popular as an edible bush cherry but its actually a different species than sand cherry. They grow similarly though if that is your only option.

In some parts of Canada (where it is native), the sand cherry is actually a wild fruit that can be found in many forested areas. Whether domestic or wild, the sand cherry does produce smaller fruit than the typical sweet cherry tree. Sand cherries are quite tart, and not to everyone’s taste for fresh eating out of hand.

They grow more as a shrub than a tree, and are usually about 7 feet high as well as 7 feet wide once they have matured.

Starting Your Tree

Find a location with plenty of sun, but a little afternoon shade won’t be a problem. The roots can be fairly wide-spread, but won’t usually interfere with foundations or other underground structures. Other nearby trees may suffer though, so leave plenty of space between a sand cherry bush and any other small trees.

The hole should be large enough for the roots, even after you’ve opened up the root ball and spread out the roots (carefully). Add a little sand or peat moss to help with draining if you have heavy soil.

Tree Care

The sand cherry is very adaptable to dry weather so you shouldn’t worry too much about constant watering. You should only need to water your trees during any extended dry periods or in extreme heat.

Though the sand cherry does fine in dry weather, you should make sure to water your new tree more often during the first summer until the roots are well established.

Any fertilizer should be a low-nitrogen formula to prevent excessive leaf growth and reduced fruit development. Treatments should be in the spring because new growth in the fall is more likely to be damaged by the winter cold.

Pruning is mainly unnecessary though a yearly trim of excessive branches or any dead wood can help keep the bush healthy and compact. You should do your pruning chores each spring before the first leaf buds come out, while the tree is still dormant. Doing it later on in the season will open your tree up to fungus infections, such as black knot (see below).


You can definitely grow sand cherries in containers, and you don’t necessarily have to find dwarf varieties in order to do so. You will want to do a little more pruning to keep it properly contained, so cut off any dead or older branches and even some of the new shoots so that the bush doesn’t grow too large. A 10 gallon container should be suitable though a larger one would accommodate a larger bush.

If you are growing sand cherries in pots in the colder ends of its region, such as zones 3 or 2, you may lose your potted plants due to the winter cold. Either wrap your plant well with burlap (particularly the pot) or move it to a sheltered area. It’s not necessarily a good idea to move it right indoors though because the plants do need a cold winter to bloom properly the next spring.

Pests and Diseases

Deer can be a big problem, as are many other mammals. This is mainly because the sand cherry is a relatively low-growing fruit which makes it an easy target for 4-legged pests. Bird are also very fond of sand cherries. Pick your fruit as soon as it is ripe and you may need to use bird netting or even fencing to protect your shrubs from animal browsing.

Black knot is a fungus problem that can effect all kinds of cherry, plum and apricot trees including the sand cherry bush. Thick black growths are seen on the branches, often attacking areas where the bark has been damaged. Cut away any branches with these galls on them, and dispose cleanly (don’t compost or just dump the corner of the yard). When you cut the branches, do so about 6 inches farther down from the knot to make sure you get all the spores inside the branch.

If your weather is humid, the low-growing bush can be prone to developing powdery mildew on the leaves. It looks like white dust but it doesn’t rub off. Treat with a fungicide and try to keep the leaves from getting unnecessarily wet. If you have other plants growing around your sand cherries, you may want to move them in order to get better air flow.

Harvest and Storage

Cherries usually ripen in the early summer and will be a dark purple when they are ready to pick. The fruit can stain, so watch out for the juice during harvest.

The fruit can be quite tart, and it’s most commonly used in jams or jellies so the berries are not usually preserved on their own for long term storage. You can keep them in the refrigerator for about a week, and they can also be dried or frozen like regular cherries. You will have to pit them first though, and sand cherries are known for their rather large seeds.

Sand cherries bushes will keep providing you with fruit for 15 to 20 years, though they can give a much reduced number of cherries towards the end of that time.

  1. steph connor Says:
    August 26th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    i received a package of sand cherry seeds and planted them, and i have never heard of these before, they have 30 sand cherries per plant, inside the wrapper is a little yellow cherry, so i tried it and to my surprise it was rather sweet tasting,its late august in minnesota had a very hot summer and these little cherries are fantastic, so next year these will be in my garden everywhere, they have little tan husk’s and yellow cherries inside does anyone know what there are???????

  2. Shannon Carranza Says:
    February 15th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I think what you have are what we used to call ground cherries. They grew wild as a weed in Utah where I lived as a child. We loved to go out into weedy empty lots and pick them then make ground cherry jam. As far as I know no one ever planted them in their gardens on purpose. We had some in our yard before all of the lawn was in but they went the way of the other weeds when the landscaping was finished. I hadn’t seen them in years until recently a seed catalog had them as a free gift with an order. I don’t remember which one it was but I would love to get some.

  3. Chris Keating Says:
    May 3rd, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Burgess Seed and Plant company has Ground Cherries for free with any order of $22 or more (http://www.eburgess.com/free.asp). I know this because I got some from them last year (when ordering Sand Cherries, no less!). I haven’t gotten them growing in my garden yet, but a neighbor gardener had a bush, and the fruit have such an appealing and interesting flavor. I’m still waiting for my Sand Cherries to fruit, so I have yet to try their fruit. I hope it will not be too tart for my liking.

  4. Karen Sheldon Says:
    August 17th, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Wehave 4 red sand cherry bushes on the east side of the house in full sun all day. They receive 20 min of water each day. Leaves are turning yellow with dark red spots and they look like they are dying. I have tried fertilizer and it did not help. Extension Office does not know what is wrong with them and I am on the verge of having them cut out. Plants are about 6 yrs old.

  5. Eli Says:
    December 16th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    ^ You’re drowning them.

  6. JayJay Says:
    May 31st, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    My sand cherries are 6 years old and never get watering.
    They do fine..they are drought tolerant bushes.

  7. J Mangal Says:
    October 20th, 2016 at 7:58 am

    West Indies Barbados. Permaculture regeneration project. I would like to source some sand Hill cherry seeds for testing in our project. Unsure how to do so. Any assistance appretiated.

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Pruning Plum Leaf Sand Cherry: When And How To Prune A Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is a hardy shrub that belongs to the rose family. This striking plant, also known as plum leaf sand cherry, is valued for its reddish-purple foliage and pale pink blooms. Purple leaf sand cherry care involves regular pruning. Read on for tips on how to prune a purple leaf sand cherry.

When to Prune Plum Leaf Sand Cherries

The best time to prune plum leaf sand cherries is just before new growth emerges in spring. This timing ensures the plant has plenty of time to recover and produce gorgeous blooms for the coming season.

Pruning Plum Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple leaf sand cherry pruning isn’t complicated. Prune the oldest stems first, removing at least one-third of growth down to within a few inches from the base. Additionally, cut damaged or dead growth at the base of the shrub. The branches will be sturdy, so be sure your cutting tool is sharp.

When old and damaged growth has been removed, thin out wayward growth and branches that are rubbing or crossing other branches. If the plant looks a bit straggly, you can remove twigs to keep it tidy throughout the season.

Be sure to make each cut about 1/4-inch above a node or a point where one stem is growing from another. Lastly, snip off any suckers that form at the base of the plant.

If the purple leaf sand cherry is badly overgrown or neglected, you can rejuvenate the plant by cutting it nearly to the ground in late winter, shortly before the plant emerges from dormancy.

Rake the area under the shrub after pruning. If you are pruning to remove diseased growth, dispose of the clippings carefully. Never place diseased debris in the compost pile.

Additional Purple Leaf Sand Cherry Care

Water purple leaf sand cherry regularly during the first growing season. Usually, one watering per week is ample, or whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. Thereafter, water only during extended periods of hot, dry weather.

One feeding every spring is sufficient for purple leaf sand cherry. Any balanced, general-purpose fertilizer is fine.

Otherwise, plum leaf sand cherry is easy to get along with and requires little care. However, the plant is susceptible to a number of plant diseases such as:

  • Root rot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Leaf curl
  • Fire blight
  • Honey fungus

A sunny location, well-drained soil and adequate air circulation around plants are the best ways to avoid these moisture-related diseases.

Purple leaf sand cherry is also bothered by several pests, including:

  • Aphids
  • Japanese beetles
  • Leafhoppers
  • Scale
  • Caterpillars

Most insects can be controlled by blasting the affected leaves with a strong blast of water, or by spraying the foliage with insecticidal soap. Unfortunately, despite your best attempts, pests and disease may shorten the life span of purple leaf sand cherry.

Sand Cherry Plant Care: How To Grow A Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Plum leaf sand cherry, also referred to as purple leaf sand cherry plants, is a medium sized ornamental shrub or small tree that when mature reaches a height of approximately 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide. This easy care plant makes a great addition to the landscape.

About Plum Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is a member of the Rose family. Prunus is Latin for ‘plum’ while cistena is the Sioux word for ‘baby’ in reference to its smallish size. The “x” is indicative of the shrub’s hybridism.

This Prunus hybrid is useful as an ornamental specimen due to its beautiful red, maroon, or purple foliage. The shrub grows at a moderate rate and is suitable in USDA zones 2-8. The parent plants of sandcherry bush hail from Western Asia (Prunus cerasifera) and the Northeastern United States (Prunus pumila).

This purplish-red leafed plant has an oval growth habit gradually maturing into an arched form and opening out from the center of the shrub. The stunning 2-inch long, serrated foliage emerges crimson-purple and remains throughout the summer, gradually changing to a green-bronze hue in the fall.

Around early spring, the plant’s pink buds open into whitish-pink flowers – the same time as the red foliage. The innocuous blooms become small black-purple fruit barely noticeable without contrast to the purple foliage in July. The multiple gray-brown trunks are prone to trunk fissuring and cankers, which ooze sap.

How to Grow a Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

This specimen is urban tolerant and establishes rapidly to lend a brilliant pop of color to the landscape. So how do you grow a purple leaf sand cherry?

Sand cherry is readily available through the local nursery and/or propagated via rooted stem cuttings. Sand cherry is sensitive to being transplanted in the autumn, so extra care should be taken in amending the soil, fertilizing, mulching heavily and watering thoroughly.

Ideally, you should plant the purple leaf sand cherry in full to partial sun exposure in moist, well-draining soil. However, the sand cherry bush is adaptable to lesser soils, drought, heat and over aggressive pruning.

Sand Cherry Plant Care

Because, the sand cherry is a member of the Rose family, it is susceptible to several diseases, such as trunk canker, and pests, like borers and Japanese beetle assaults in mid-summer. It also has a short lifespan at between 10 to 15 years primarily due to assault by pests or diseases.

Other than these issues, the sand cherry plant care is relatively fuss free and is tolerant of a variety of conditions – hardy in cold winters and hot summers. Prune the sand cherry bush to remove heavy branching that will weigh the plant down. It can even be pruned into a formal hedge or used in borders, at entranceways or in group plantings.

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry

Are you in the market for an outstanding accent plant to use as a focal point in your landscape? “Ornamental” is certainly the perfect word for the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cisterna). This is one of the very best selections for foliage, flowers, and bird-watching.

People love using this ornamental shrub near an entrance way to welcome guests. It has such a wonderful look, it helps spark conversation right off the bat. This shrub is pretty in every season, including winter, thanks to its graceful branch structure.

Right from the first foliage that forms in the early spring, the three-inch leaves feature a reddish-purple coloring, and they’ll maintain that strong color in your yard throughout the summer months. Even young bark has purplish color.

Beautiful, small white flowers with a strong pink influence will emerge in the spring, softening the bright effect of the early foliage. This plant is a member of the Rose family, and the overall look of the flowers is really pretty.

As fall comes on, you’ll see the leaves transition to a red-bronze hue before they drop from the plant. What a show!

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry it a wonderful plant for birds. You probably won’t notice the small, dark purple cherries forming in early fall, but the birds certainly will.

The birds love to feast on these tiny cherries. You’ll feel a sense of pride that you gave our feathered friends a helping hand to prepare for winter, as the summer season begins to draw to a close.

The Purpleleaf Sand Cherry is a dense-growing shrub that reaches an impressive size for a shrub if allowed to grow naturally. However, you can easily prune it to stay within a desired size.

It’s versatile and can be trained into either a single stem small tree form, or used as a natural shrub with lower branches. Either way, this is a highly ornamental plant that is worthy of an esteemed location in your landscape.

If you’re looking for a pretty shrub to captivate you year round, the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry is the perfect choice. Order today!

How to Use Purpleleaf Sand Cherry in the Landscape

Include this plant in a mixed foundation planting. It’s gorgeous near your front door or placed at the corner of your house. You’ll appreciate how it captures attention.

Plant several as a hedge along your patio to give yourself a very appealing visual barrier. This lovely shrub won’t make your yard look like a fortress!

Instead, you’ll delight in the passing seasons by watching the growth of the dark leaves, and delicate flowers transform into the tiny cherries. You won’t be able to keep your eyes off it!

And it’s not just sight, this plant also has appeal for your ears. The leaves catch the breeze and provide gentle sound to your garden environment. In fall, you’ll hear bird calls as they come to reap the cherry harvest.

Place this in a prominent position where you’ll be able to enjoy it throughout the year.

#ProPlantTips for Care

As with all plants sold by Nature Hills, read our Plant Highlights to learn about the unique growing conditions preferences. It has an upright growth habit that becomes spreading with age.

Give Purpleleaf Sand Cherry plenty of room to grow into its full mature size. This will eliminate pruning chores for you.

You’ll also want to ensure it has moist, well-draining soil for best performance. Just like people, a healthy tree is a happy tree. Air circulation is important for this tree, so give it “elbow room” and let it truly shine for you.

This is a low maintenance, medium sized shrub. It tends to establish itself very quickly, so you won’t have to wait long to witness its outstanding benefits.

It’s also hardy, long-lived and beneficial to wildlife. Full sun will keep the best leaf color and excellent uniformity.

Enjoy growing this gorgeous plant, order today!

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry

Introducing: A Distinct Way to Celebrate Spring

Intense Red-Purple Shrub Provides Color Through Fall

The Sand Cherry shrub is an ornamental delight, with burgundy leaves reminiscent of a dark, red wine.

The perennial shrub renews its foliage each spring and stays colorful well into the fall. Then, its leaves become bronze and really stand out. You’ll appreciate the small tree as a focal point near an entryway, a foundation, or simply as a landscaping accent. It can also be pruned into a formal hedge.

The distinct, ovate-elliptical leaves lend a pop of exquisite color to your landscape, especially set against a green backdrop. You’ll make a bold statement with the Sand Cherry, and the vibrant plant will grab your guests’ attention, season after season!

More Than a Beautiful Shrub – It Produces Large Dainty Flowers

Start looking forward to beautiful flowers every May when the elegant Sand Cherry shrub bursts with whitish-pink blossoms! A member of the Rose family, the Sand Cherry produces buds and blooms that contrast exceptionally well with its dark foliage. You’ll be delighted by an explosion of fragrant, solitary blooms, each measuring about ½ inch across, as it brings fresh flowers to your garden, year after year.

Want Fast Results? You’ll Get it!

You can’t help but be impressed by the Sand Cherry’s energetic leafy growth that unfurls from its center and pursues an oval habit. In fact, growers are advised to prune the shrub at least once per year because the Sand Cherry is so robust! The grower shrub quickly establishes itself in moist, well-drained soil and will reach heights upwards of 10 feet. Since the Sand Cherry becomes very lush in a short amount of time, you’ll get beautiful benefits, right away.

You Won’t Have to Fret ANY Forecast with This Resilient Shrub

Among purple-leafed shrubs, the Sand Cherry distinguishes itself by surviving nearly everywhere in the U.S. (Zones 3-8). The tough hybrid doesn’t blink at droughts, hot summers, or cold winters. With occasional irrigation and pruning, you can expect year-round resiliency. Although most Sand Cherry shrubs live 10-15 years, this is often because growers miss the appearance of pests. With good care, expect the plant to live even longer.

Attract a Wide Range of Birds

As well as being a splendid flowering shrub, the Sand Cherry offers small, black-purple cherries in late summer. The fruit is very inconspicuous, as it blends so well with the shrub’s foliage, but you can count on songbirds to find it! You’ll benefit local wildlife and get a garden filled with birds as the Sand Cherry draws them in, beautifying your space in more ways than one.

Don’t hesitate to add this beautiful shrub to your garden. Order quickly!

Planting & Care

Location: The hardy Prunus x cistena, also called the “Purpleleaf Sand Cherry,” grows best in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-8. It is commonly grown as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub. The tree’s cherry crop is often used to make jams, jellies, or pies. It is an important food source for songbirds, squirrels, and other small garden creatures. Choose a location in the garden where the small tree’s spring flowers can be enjoyed.

Planting Instructions: Plant the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry tree in a location where it receives full to partial sunlight. It does not tolerate heavy shade well.

The small tree grows well in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, and clay soils. The planting location should be well draining because the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry does not tolerate waterlogged roots.

Dig a hole that is at least twice as large in diameter as the tree’s root system. Place the tree into the hole and carefully spread the roots out. Fill the hole to the point where the tree is slightly more elevated than the container. This will help against issues such as crown rot. Tamp the soil firmly around the tree’s root system to remove all air pockets.

Spread a three-inch layer of mulch such as peat moss, pine needles, bark chips, or recycled plastic garden chunks around the base of the tree. The mulch will keep the soil moist, the tree’s roots cool, and also prevents weeds from growing.

Watering: The Purpleleaf Sand Cherry tree does not tolerate drought. It prefers evenly moist soil to thrive. Water the small tree at least once per week. During periods of exceptionally hot weather, the tree might require additional watering to thrive.

Fertilizing: In the spring months apply an application of general purpose fertilizer to the tree to encourage strong growth. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer for application ratios. Water slowly and deeply to help push the fertilizer into the soil.

Staking: When young the tree might require staking in areas of excessive wind. Use one stake if the tree stands up 12 feet in height to provide ample support. If the tree stands taller than 12 feet, use two stakes to secure the tree’s trunk and keep it from breaking.

Pruning: Prune the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry in early spring just before new growth emerges. You can cut away up to one-third of each branch’s length. Remove and discard dead or damaged branches. Also, prune away branches that are crossing each other or rubbing together. If the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry is old and overgrown, it can be cut almost to ground level in late winter and it will usually regrow more vigorous in the spring.

Pests and Diseases: The Purpleleaf Sand Cherry is a relatively hardy tree and rarely suffers from diseases or pests. If pests should plague the tree, identify the pests and use a broad-spectrum insecticide for control. Follow the directions on the insecticide label for application ratios and instructions.

Fast Growing Trees shrubs and hedges Tree Spikes //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Purple_Leaf_Sandcherry_450_MAIN.png?v=1549677183 //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Purple_Leaf_Sandcherry_450_D1.png?v=1549677183 13940921106484 1 Quart 29.95 29.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/purpleleaf-sandcherry-shrub?variant=13940921106484 OutOfStock 1 Quart 13940921139252 1-2 ft. 39.95 39.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/purpleleaf-sandcherry-shrub?variant=13940921139252 OutOfStock 1-2 ft.

Purple Sandcherry – Potted Plant

A very hardy glowing landscape specimen, the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry has reddish-purple foliage that keeps its color all summer. It makes an excellent contrast tree in your landscaping. It can grow as a shrub or a small tree, and can be planted close to paved surfaces and utility lines. Also excellent as a deciduous hedge. While there will never be a large crop, its fruit is commonly used for making jams, jellies, and pie.

Important source of food for many small birds and mammals including robins and cardinals. Birds nest in its branches.


  • You are purchasing one Purple Sand Cherry Shrub/Tree – 1 Gallon Container
  • Produces fragrant light pink to white flowers from late April to early May
  • Simple leaves with intense reddish-purple color that lasts all summer
  • Yields small, sour fruit that is blackish-purple in color and sparse in quantity
  • Grows in a rounded shape
  • Note: Images are of mature plants
  • Botanical Name: Prinus x cistena
  • Mature Size (H x W): 7’-10’ x 5’-7’
  • Soil: Average, moist, well-drained
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-7
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to full sun
  • Characteristics: Can be either shrub or small tree
  • Growth Rate: Moderate to Fast
  • Bloom: Light pink to white
  • Suggested Uses: Border, Hedge, Specimen

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