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Plant Profile: Black Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifer) ‘Nigra’

Prunus cerasifer is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia and is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes apple, almond, and lady’s mantle.  The cultivar ‘Nnigra’ grows 15-20′ tall and has dark purple twigs and leaves that emerge bronze in the spring, turn almost black in the summer, and orange to red in the fall.  From early to mid spring pale pink,  single, cup-shaped flowers .8″ across with 5 petals  emerge from dark pink buds and cover the branches before the leaves appear.  Red or yellow fruits are occasionally produced and attract birds.  Plants are prized for both their foliage and floral display and are a good choice for a specimen plant but can also be planted en mass and used as a hedge or screen.  The genus name, Prunus, comes from the Greek word  προύνη meaning plum, a prominent member of this genus. The specific epithet, cerasifera, comes from the Latin words cerasus meaning cherry and fero, meaning carry, and refers to the appearance of the fruits.  The cultivar name  ‘Nigra’ is the Latin word meaning black and refers to the leaf color.

Type: Deciduous shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Purple foliage; floral display

Form: Rounded to pyramidal

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Single pale pink flowers from deep pink buds in early to mid spring

Size: 15-20′ H x 15-20′ W

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Moderately fertile, moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 4-9

Care: Prune in mid summer if silver leaf is a problem

Pests and Diseases: Aphids, caterpillars,leaf-miners moths;  bacterial canker, blossom wilt, silver leaf

Propagation: Chip budding, grafting, softwood cuttings in summer with bottom heat

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