Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Prunus x cistena

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Prunus (PROO-nus) (Info)
Species: x cistena
Hybridized by Dr. N. E. Hansen
Registered or introduced: 1910
View this plant in a garden




Foliage Color:



Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring


Grown for foliage


Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From herbaceous stem cuttings

From woody stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)

Huntsville, Alabama

Flagstaff, Arizona

Texarkana, Arkansas

Brighton, Colorado

Colorado City, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Littleton, Colorado

Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Niceville, Florida

Winterville, Georgia

Fruitland, Idaho

Payette, Idaho

Chicago, Illinois (2 reports)

Macomb, Illinois

Sugar Grove, Illinois

Woodridge, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Saint John, Indiana

Davenport, Iowa

Keokuk, Iowa

Olathe, Kansas

Louisville, Kentucky

Berwick, Maine

Saugus, Massachusetts

Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Fenton, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Kingsley, Michigan

Tecumseh, Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan

Bovey, Minnesota

Nisswa, Minnesota

Purdy, Missouri

Great Falls, Montana

Kearney, Nebraska

Mount Laurel, New Jersey

Nutley, New Jersey

Buffalo, New York

Jefferson, New York

New York City, New York

Patchogue, New York

Tonawanda, New York

Akron, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio (2 reports)

Delaware, Ohio

Lancaster, Ohio

Lynchburg, Ohio

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Perkasie, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Coventry, Rhode Island

Belton, Texas

Kaysville, Utah

Lexington, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

Waverly, Virginia

Benton City, Washington

Ellsworth, Wisconsin

Green Bay, Wisconsin

New Lisbon, Wisconsin

Owen, Wisconsin

Racine, Wisconsin

South Milwaukee, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 16, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I consider this as a cheap junk shrub sold by almost every conventional nursery in the East and Midwest and other regions. It usually lives about 15 years in areas where the summers get hot and humid and then is killed by canker disease, which includes Illinois and southeast Pennsylvania. This shrub gets straggly and unkempt. It is wrongly used in the idea of having color in the landscape with too many red-foliaged or yellow-foliaged plants, which should only be an accent not a mainstay. Better to use perennials and annuals for color.


On Jul 21, 2014, KariGrows from New Lisbon, WI (Zone 4b) wrote:

I bought a very small specimin hoping it would grow quickly but the deer kept pruning if for me... its still about 2 feet tall after 5 years... then I bought a larger one, which also was pruned off and remains about 2 and a half feet tall. Each spring they get a few blossoms and even lived thru the brutal winter we had....but still are small. One would think that the pruning would rejuvenate them but no such luck.
The only negative thing I have done to them myself is placed them in what is now nearly full shade.
Any ideas if I should move them to a sunny site?


On Jun 16, 2014, vonnie427 from Cary, IL wrote:

I have had several Purple Leaf Sand Cherries in my yard - both in shade and sunny locations. They did equally well in either location.

The one suggestion I would make is that make sure you stay on top of pruning. Mine grew EXCEPTIONALLY fast and once they get the better of you, pruning them back can be a disheartening experience. You have to prune and then wait for the growth to come in. Also, allow enough spacing when planting - they are not compact and one was placed too close to a sidewalk - constant struggle to keep it pruned but not overly so.

Pretty flowers and nice leaf color - pretty sturdy.


On Oct 6, 2013, osmviv from Montreal,
Canada wrote:

My experience with my purple sand cherry has been generally positive. I've had it for several years and up to this year had no problems. This year, however, probably in July, I noticed the bush was looking unhealthy. A closer look revealed bumpy looking scale all along the branches. I think they were small insects of some kind, but they blended with the colour of the branches. Unfortunately, I did nothing about it. The bush has survived and looks like it might be okay next year, but I'm wondering what it might have been and what I should have done! Any help would be appreciated.


On Dec 29, 2011, marktrot1 from Flagstaff, AZ wrote:

Got these from the local home improvement store for cheap. They are planted in alkaline soil and get blasted by wind from late-March until May with very little moisture. But they seem to do well here in Flagstaff, AZ. They love our summer thunderstorms! I'm sure in a wetter climate they would grow thicker. However, we do average about 20" per year of moisture. They have not suckered in my soil.


On May 9, 2011, ctplanter from Suffield, CT wrote:

This is a beautiful plant. We have three of them in a flower bed and want to keep them small, as in a shrub.

I am looking for trimming tips for this plant. I'd like to keep it about 1 to 2 feet tall and not too bushy.

any suggestions?


On May 21, 2010, 7498Tran from Tonawanda, NY wrote:

I'm looking for bugs on this plant on how to control them


On Mar 28, 2009, Victorine72 from Richmond, VA (Zone 7b) wrote:

We acquired three seriously overgrown sand cherries when we bought our house. The previous owners had inexplicably placed them in the front and side foundation plantings. They receive less than a half day of sun due to the *13* large trees on our property. By the end of summer last year, the poor things were looking so scraggly, I considered removing them. However, since I was planning to canopy-up most of my trees in Jan, I decided to cut the sand cherries way back and see what happened come spring. As I was cutting, I noticed that many of the limbs seemed to be dead or diseased. I tried to cut back until I found healthy tissue. This resulted in shrubs which are now about 1/3 their original height. At the moment, they all seem to be leafing out well, but I have my doubts as to how... read more


On Oct 18, 2007, mama_gray from Patchogue, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Mine was located in a small over-grown and weed-infested area at my home when I moved in last year. I've tended to the area by adding lots of compost, and continuous weeding. I wasn't sure if this was a 'valid' tree or not, but I liked the foliage so I trimmed it up a bit and figured I'd give it some time to see how it fares. It looks a lot better than last year, but since it was so neglected by the previous owner, there is a definite 'tilt' to it. I'm still hoping it will continue recovering with TLC. Maybe next year I'll see some blossoms. (Long Island, NY)


On May 10, 2007, HostaFanatic from Rockwood, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

It has beautiful flowers and leaf coloration. I love it, so do the japanese beetles :( They loved mine to death.


On Apr 1, 2007, Gregirv from Waverly, VA wrote:

These plants are the easiest plants to grow. They are incredibly drought tolerant. It is a hybrid of an Caucasian an US native species of the Prunus genus.


On Mar 5, 2006, Sashagirl from Davenport, IA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Planted 1quart pot 13 years ago in full sun. It's about 8 ft tall, with about 10 foot spread.
It's always had wonderful purple foliage, and full of blooms in the spring. No cherries that I've noted.
No pest problems, no special treatment. I would highly reccomend this speciman. Also note, very little suckering.


On Jul 5, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

These are very popular in Oklahoma City. The color is just beautiful in contrast with green leaved trees.


On Oct 22, 2004, nevrest from Broadview, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

Grows nicely here in Saskatchewan, Zone 3a, in full sun with no watering other than what Mother Nature provides. Local deer love it, too and keep it too well pruned.


On May 6, 2004, KDePetrillo from North Scituate, RI (Zone 6a) wrote:

I bought a sand cherry about 5 years ago, aftering wanting one for many, many years. When I bought it (from a reputable nursery), it was about 5 feet tall and had a nice root system. It was dead by the end of the season. I don't know what I did wrong, and I was disgusted with the whole experience.


On May 5, 2004, wyldcelt from Colorado Springs, CO wrote:

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Grows very well here even with 3 years of drought and sporadic watering. My two plants are both 10 ft tall and 8 ft wide. Wonderful fragrance and color next to our deck. Only downside is regular pruning to keep them under control.


On Apr 27, 2004, jlynnnatali from Denver, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

This plant has done very well in past 3 years of drought in Denver (Z5) with minimal watering and full sun (morning-early afternoon). Cheap buy at Home Depot. Great pink to white flowers in March-April and then another show in Fall as purple leaf color fades. But only one lone cherry to date.


On Sep 9, 2003, jbyrne from St. John's,
Canada (Zone 5a) wrote:

Here in Zone 5b, it seems to love full sum. We planted it last year and it has already grown very nicely to stand at about 3 feet (planted at 1.5).

Beautiful foliage and colour.


On Jun 20, 2003, haleygem from Saugus, MA wrote:

Even though it is listed as sun to part shade, this tree does best in full sun in my neck of the woods. We saved it from a part shade garden and it is thriving in our sun garden. Easy to prune to keep at a smaller size.