The Q&A Archives: Purple Sand Cherry

Question: I have a small purple tree. I'm pretty sure its a Sand Cherry. Its about 6 ft tall and 4 feet wide. It was hit by an ice storm and lost about 1/4 of its branches. It isn't doing well and never seemed to bounce back after that. What can I give it to give it the extra boost it needs to send up new shoots? I love the color and don't want to lose it. Thanks for all your very helpful advice this year.!!!! Dorian

Answer: Prunus cistena is a thick-growing, long-lived shrub that is sometimes called the Purple Leaf Sand Cherry. It produces bright red 3 inch leaves in spring and blushing, white flowers in May. In autumn it produces purple-black cherries and the foliage turns a magnificent reddish purple.

This ornamental shrub is especially valued for its hardiness and unique coloring. It is an asset to the landscape and a standout specimen shrub. This deciduous plant makes a wonderful hedge as well. Grows 7-8 feet tall, depending on pruning. Plant 2-3 feet apart for a hedge and best planted in full sun.

Since your plant was damaged in an ice storm it probably needs some pruning to remove the damaged sections and encourage healthy new growth. It's too late in the season to do any renewal pruning but early next spring you can reduce the size of your plant by one-third to encourage new growth. The following spring you can do a bit more renewal pruning and by the end of the third year it should have an attractive shape and lots of healthy growth.

Best wishes with your garden!

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