Hardier than most varieties of sour cherries grown on trees, a related species of bushes, collectively known as "sand cherries" or "bush cherries," are short-lived fruiting plants that have value in the landscape. Their white to pink spring flowers and bright red, purple to purplish-black fruits in autumn make them attractive nearly all year long.
Hardy through USDA Zone 3, the western sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) is recommended as a windbreak shrub, as well as for hedge or border plantings by the North Dakota State University Extension. It grows to a height and width of 3 to 6 feet. It prefers full sun and soil that is neutral to slightly acidic and is slightly tolerant to drought. Western sandcherries have a short life span of only 10 to 15 years. The dark purple fruits are used to make jams, jellies and pies.
Hansen's Bush Cherry
Native to Asia and very cold hardy, Hansen's bush cherry (Prunus besseyi 'Hansen') grows to a height of about 10 feet. This plant is relatively care-free, requiring only an occasional pruning to remove dead or diseased branches. Bush cherries produce white-pink flowers in spring and bright red cherries in late summer and early fall. Hansen's will often begin bearing fruit when it is only 2 to 3 years old. More tart than sour cherries from trees, they nevertheless make excellent pies, jams and jellies.
Grown as much for its purple foliage as its colorful autumn cherries, the purpleleaf sandcherry (Prunus x cistena) grows as a small shrub about 7 to 10 feet high, spreading 6 to 8 feet. Fragrant spring flowers are pinkish-white. Purpleleaf sandcherry prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun. It is also tolerant of windy sites and urban conditions. This hybrid tends to decline after the age of 10 years.