The Q&A Archives: Japanese Flowering Plum

Question: Is there such a tree: Japanese Flowering Plum-non-fruit bearing? If so, what is the botanical name and is it hardy in Zone 5?

Answer: Japanese Flowering Plum is botanically Prunus cerasifera.

Japanese Flowering Plums grow as tall as 24 to 26 feet tall at maturity in 10 to 15 years. Typically their width will reach 16 to 20 feet. They have a strongly upright habit as young trees, softening with age as many branches develop. Eventually they have a rounder top. On some varieties the twigs have thorns.

Flowering Plum trees are among the earliest bloomers in the spring, usually mid to late April. The single or double fragrant flowers appear on the branches in clusters of 2 or 3 before the leaves emerge. Each flower is about ? inch wide and depending on the variety, may be white or pink. Blooms on flowering plum trees are fleeting, lasting 4 or 5 days at best. In the fall, small dark fruits, purplish to black in color develop. They are about an inch in diameter and are edible. Some varieties have been bred to not to produce fruit.

Flowering Plum foliage is very ornamental in its own right. Leaves are oval, tapering at the tips, and are about 2 inches long. They are a stunning dark purple, sometimes appearing almost black. Somewhat glossy, these leaves have a softer texture than those of apples, peaches, and most other fruit trees. Because plum trees are deciduous, the foliage falls in the fall, often turning a paler purple or reddish color first.

Choices of Flowering Plum include:
Atropurpurea (Pissard Plum) has reddish-purple foliage all summer. It can handle hot, dry sites;

Hollywood starts green, turns deep purple;

Black Myrobalan Plum Nigra has the darkest leaves; Pendula has drooping branches.
Thundercloud retains dark foliage color best all summer.

Krauter Vesuvius and Newport have few or no fruits.

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