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Purple-leaf Sandcherry

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  • January 7, 2015
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Prunus x cistena

This is one of the most commonly planted shrubs in Alberta.  It is used for its nice-looking maroon-coloured foliage, but it is one of the least hardy shrubs you can plant in our region.  It frequently dies back hard over winter, and doesn’t start looking “good” again until mid-summer.  We don’t use this plant in our designs and I recommend that you avoid it, unless you don’t mind the maintenance of cleaning out all the deadwood each year.  Sandcherries rarely look good, because once the die-back is removed, they are often very unbalanced shrubs.  If you insist on using it, choose a warm, sunny location, protected from harsh winds.  Make sure the soil is moist, well-drained, and good quality.  Use a mulch around the plant to keep the roots cool and moist.


Full sun

Pruning time

Anytime while the leaves are off so you can see the framework of the shrub.


Train as an open-centered shrub.  Annuallly, remove dead and damaged branches, and cut back wayward branches to balance the shape.


Avoid shearing or “rounding” this shrub.  Purple-leaf sandcherries do not tolerate hedging or hard topping cuts.  Most specimens I deal with in the landscape have been repeatedly mutilated by power hedgers, which ruins the look of this plant.  Prune as you would a double-flowering plum or nanking cherry.

(c) 2015 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service, Red Deer, AB.