The purple plum tree is a variety of Prunus cerasifera named "Krauter Vesuvius." This tree has purple leaves and light purple or pink flowers and is usually simply called the "purple plum tree" or "purple-leaved cherry tree." Although there are other purple-leaved varieties of plum trees, "Krauter Vesuvius" is the most commonly planted in the United States, according to Oregon State University.
Purple plum trees are highly desirable for their deep, purplish summer foliage. These trees also have a pleasingly rounded, dense canopy. In the spring, the equally attractive, light-pink flowers appear before the leaves uncurl. These trees grow to an average height of between 15 and 20 feet, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This makes purple plum trees an excellent choice as an accent or specimen tree in a home garden.
Purple plum trees prefer a temperate climate with mild summers and cool winters. They are cold-hardy to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone 5, according to Oregon State University. These trees do not grow well in the sub-tropical or tropical regions of the country.
Purple plum trees grow best in full sunlight. This helps the canopy maintain its full, rounded shape. If they are exposed to too much shade, the leaves will turn green, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Prunus cerasifera trees in general are adaptable to all types of soil, although they grow best in moderately moist, well-draining, loamy soils.
The beauty of purple plum trees comes with a price. These trees are susceptible to many insect pests and diseases, from mild fungal diseases such as leaf spot, to deadly, life-threatening diseases such as verticiliium wilt. Purple plum trees are also often infested by insect pests, including tent caterpillars, which can defoliate the tree in just one season, to Japanese beetles, which will ravenously eat the leaves in a matter of weeks. Fungicides and insecticides can help if a systematic application plan is followed.
Purple plum trees are often used as the focal point of landscapes. They are attractive in home gardens and in parks, businesses and universities. Their adaptability allows them to grow even in polluted urban soils. Purple plum trees look especially attractive when highlighted against trees with bright green foliage.