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Ornamental Flowering Plum Trees

By Aaron Painter ; Updated September 21, 2017
Ornamental plums are prized for spring flowers and purple foliage.
Purple Haze image by hurley37 from Fotolia.com

Though several varieties of the ornamental plum are sold throughout the United States, most are grown for similar characteristics. Hardy to sunny areas in zones 5 to 8, Prunus cerasifera is a relatively short-lived, small tree, generally not reaching 25 feet high and wide. Flowers and leaf color provide year-round interest and contrast to other garden trees and shrubs. Ornamental plums are somewhat susceptible to wilt and leaf -spot diseases, aphids, caterpillars and other insects that typically attack fruit and nut trees.


The original Purple-leaf plum, 'Atropurpurea' displays ruby-colored new leaves that change to purple, and finally bronze-green by late summer. White to light-pink flowers blossom in late winter to early spring before the leaves emerge. One to 3 inch fruits that attract birds, but drop in summer, follow the flowers.


The leaves of the Black Myrobalan Plum also emerge red, but hold a deep purple color throughout the summer. Spring blooms are pink. Hardy to zone 9 and able to reach heights of 30 feet, 'Nigra' is a larger tree more suited for deeper areas of the south.


The 'Newport' Purple-leaf plum is more widely adapted than other varieties. Hardy to zones 4 to 9, it flourishes in parts of the Northeast and Midwest, as well as the Lower South. White to pale-pink springtime flowers give way to purple-bronze new leaves. Summer foliage color is dark purple. A somewhat shorter tree, it rarely grows taller than 20 feet.

Krauter Vesuvius

Also hardy to zones 4 to 9, 'Krauter Vesuvius' is similar in growth and habit to 'Newport' but differs in summer leaf color, which is a dark purple to black. Spring flowers are light pink. 'Krauter Vesuvius' is also less likely to produce messy fruit in summer.


About the Author


Aaron Painter began as a garden writer in 1999, and has more than 12 years of professional experience in landscaping and horticulture and six years in broadcast journalism. Painter holds a BA in mass communication and horticulture from LSU, and now lives in Nashville, Tenn.