Flowering plum trees and flowering cherry trees are very popular ornamental trees. Most Prunus varieties are bred for their flowers, unlike the cherry, apricot, plum, and peach trees of the genus, which are grown for their fruit. The dwarfed fruits of the ornamental trees are eaten eagerly by birds and leave little mess. These typically small to midsize flowering trees tolerate city conditions if given space and good care. Homeowners are constantly in search of the best flowering trees for their landscape.
The genus, Prunus, is a member of the rose family, however, and is subject to problems that plague America’s favorite flower, so be sure to plant only resistant cultivars guaranteed by responsible, preferably local, nurseries. You will find facts and information on flowering plum and flowering cherry trees.
Flowering Plum Tree facts and varieties
The flowering plum is the earliest of the ornamental Prunus to bloom and also the hardiest. In March or April the branches are covered with small single pink or white blossoms, in most varieties before the leaves appear. The purple-leaf plums make dramatic specimens.
A cultivar of the purple Myrobalan plum (Prunus cerasifera), 18-foot pink-flowered ’Thundercloud’, retains its deep rich color throughout the growing season in Zones 5-8. The 30 ft. cold and heat tolerant ‘Krauter Vesuvius’ is popular in California. Purpleleaf sand cherry (P. X cistena), which can reach 7 feet, is often grown as a hedge plant in the Midwest, Zones 4-8. The foliage retains its rich color all summer, and the fragrant pink-white flowers open after the leaves appear. “Cisterna” means 'baby' in the Sioux language.
Flowering Cherry Tree Varieties
Next come the flowering cherry trees, blooming in April and May. In a garden with space for just one type of Prunus, a weeping cherry is often the choice. Weeping P. Subhirtella ‘Pendula’ blooms early and bears single pink flowers. ‘Pendula’ blooms early and bears single pink flowers. ‘Pendula Plena Rosea’, the 25-30 foot double-flowered weeping Japanese cherry, becomes a vast pink umbrella in late April. With some protection, it will succeed as far north as Zone 4. ‘Autumnalis’ a double weeping pink to 30 feet tall, blooms sporadically on warm days in the fall and blooms again lavishly the following spring. The durable Higanm or rosebud, cherries, upright varieties of P. Subhirtell, lives 30 to 50 years.
The Japanese cherry trees that flower each March at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., are the 40 to 50 foot Yoshino cherries (P. yedoensis). Though hardy in Zones 5-8, and Washington D.C., is in Zone 7, the spring show is sometimes blasted by a late winter storm. The finest cultivar is ‘Akebono’, is a pink-flowered fragrant plant that prefers somewhat acid soil and adapts to partial sun. ‘Shidare Yoshino’ is a weeping form. ‘Ivensii’ has fragrant white flower on weeping branches. The hybrid P. ‘Snowfozam’, a beautiful white weeping cherry just 12 feet tall, is hardy in Zone 4.
Some cherry trees have colorful fall foliage. The leaves of the Sargent cherry (P. Sargentii) turn bronze, orange, and red in the fall, harmonizing with the excellent cinnamon and chestnut brown bark. This long-lived upright tree grows to 50 feet and has spreading branches that bear showy clusters of single deep pink blooms in early spring. It is hardy in Zones 5-9, bears double pale pink flowers.