Prunus- Cherry

Deciduous and evergreen shrubs, mostly flowering in spring; very important in ornamental gardens. The Prunus genus embraces the Japanese flowering cherry, almond trees, plum trees, peach trees, bird cherry etc.


The Japanese flowering cherries, the forms most frequently used, provide striking colour accents in the spring garden. The same applies to the flowering almond, flowering peach and a number of other botanical flowering cherries. The evergreen cherry laurel is used for wind-breaks and to provide shade. The many species with edible fruits are not dealt with here. Cultivation Many ornamental forms have been grafted on medium-sized or tall stock; they will not last for more than about fifty years. Pruning is rarely necessary; only the almond is cut back every year after flowering, like a pollard willow. Nearly all species are wind resistant.


These species are undemanding where the soil is concerned; many of them will thrive even where the water level is high. A little lime is appreciated, but not essential.


Common species may be grown from seed, but since only cultivars are used in gardens, they will have to be grown from cuttings . Cherry laurels are easily increased from winter cuttings. The standard trees are budded or grafted, usually on Prunus avium stock. Frequently wild shoots emerge from the stock; they are recognised by their single white flowers and by the foliage which is usually paler in colour. They should be removed immediately.

Evergreen species

Prunus laurocerasus, common cherry laurel: Height to 3 m; clusters of white flowers in late spring; the large leathery leaves are oval to oblong, dark green. There are tall and low-growing garden forms, either with erect-growing or spreading habit. The pyramid-shaped ‘Reinvaanii’ is very suitable for hedge making, while the spreading habit of ‘Zabehana’ makes it useful for slopes and block-planting Japanese flowering cherries

Prunus serrulata: Height to 10 m, often with a tall trunk, but sometimes also supplied as a shrub; rose-red or white flowers in mid to late spring, very rarely pale yellow. Single or double flowers. The leaves are initially reddish, fruit is rarely produced. Well known forms are: ‘Amanog-awa’, columnar habit, pale-pink flowers; ‘Jo-Nioi’, single white flowers,, shrubby shape; ‘Kiku-Shidare-Sakura’, a weeping tree form with double harsh pink flowers; ‘Kwanzan’, vase-shaped habit, double pink flowers – the best known form; ‘Mikayo’, a broad, flat crown, double white flowers; ‘Shirotae’, slightly arching branches, semi-double white flowers.

Prunus subhirtella, rosebud cherry: Height to 8 m, shrub or tree; white flowers in mid spring. The best known form is the cultivar ‘Autumnalis’, which starts to flower as early as late autumn, and has semi-double flowers. ‘Fukubana’ has dark-pink flowers in mid to late spring. Other ornamental cherries, plums, peaches etc Prunus X amygdalopersica, almond: Height to 5 m, shrub or tree, erect growing; large, clear-red single flowers in early to mid spring. Unless they freeze they will produce plenty of almonds.

Prunus avium, black cherry, sweet cherry: Height to 15 m, single white flowers in mid to late spring. Popular for use as stock for grafting; the double form ‘Plena’ is more attractive.

Prunus cerasifera, cherry plum: Height 10 m; white flowers in mid spring. A very well known form is ‘Atro-purpurea’, always called Prunus pissardu, which has brown-red foliage and often flowers in earliest spring. Prunus padus, European bird cherry: Height to 6 m; a spreading shrub with drooping clusters of white flowers in mid to late spring. Suitable for planting under trees. Prunus persica, ‘Klara Meyer’, flowering peach: Height 3 m; large, very conspicuous, bright-pink double flowers in mid to late spring.

Prunus sargentii: Height to 4 m, small tree; dark-pink flowers in late spring, the leaves are brown when they appear and change colour magnificently in the autumn. Prunus serotina, wild black cherry: Height to 10 m, tree or shrub; drooping clusters of white flowers in late spring and early summer; leathery foliage. Considerably self-sowing.

Prunus tenella, dwarf almond: Height to 1.5 m; rose-red flowers in mid spring; very graceful.

Prunus triloba, Chinese flowering almond: Height to 2 m, depending on the height of the stock. Rose-shaped double flowers on leafless branches in early to mid spring. Often sold as cut flowers. Cut back immediately after flowering. Prunus yedoensis: Height to 16 m, broad-crowned tree; white flowers in great abundance in mid spring. One of the finest ornamental cherries when there is adequate space. The young twigs are slightly downy; in the autumn the fresh green leaves turn yellow and red.

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