Prunus × cistena
Common Name: purple-leaf sand cherry 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Garden origin
Zone: 2 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy


Best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates part shade, but best flowering and leaf color generally occur in full sun. Tolerates urban conditions. Good soil drainage is essential. Prune as needed after flowering. Propagate by rooted stem cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Prunus × cistena, commonly called purple-leaf sand cherry, is an upright deciduous shrub that typically grows 6-10’ tall and 5-8’ wide. It also may be trained as a small tree. It is most noted for its reddish purple foliage that retains good color throughout the summer. This is a hybrid shrub (P. pumila × P. cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’) that was introduced in 1910 by Dr. N. E. Hansen at South Dakota State University. Ovate-elliptical leaves (to 2” long) with serrate margins are a distinctive and attractive reddish purple. Fragrant, solitary, white flowers (1/2” across) with pink tints bloom in spring (April) after the foliage emerges. Flowers give way to an often meager production of small blackish-purple fruits (to 3/4”) that mature in July. Fruits are eaten by birds.

Genus name from Latin means plum or cherry tree.

Specific epithet means baby in Sioux language.


Susceptible to a large number of potential insect and disease pests, often resulting in an abbreviated life span of less than 10 years. Trunk cankers and borers can be particularly harmful. Japanese beetles can do significant damage to the foliage. Potential additional insects include aphids, scale, leafhoppers, caterpillars and tent caterpillars. Potential diseases include leaf spot, die back, leaf curl, powdery mildew, root rot, honey fungus and fireblight. Spider mites may also be troublesome.


Reddish purple foliage makes this an excellent accent or specimen. Borders, screens, hedges, entranceways and foundations.