Cherry Plum Information – What Is A Cherry Plum Tree

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

What is a cherry plum tree is not as simple a question as it sounds. Depending on whom you ask, you may get two very different answers. “Cherry plum” can refer to Prunus cerasifera, a group of Asian plum trees that are commonly called cherry plum trees. It could also refer to the hybrid fruits which are literally a cross between plums and cherries. How to grow cherry plum trees also depends on which one you have. This article will explain the differences of trees commonly called cherry plums.

Cherry Plum Information

Prunus cerasifera is a true plum tree native to Asia and hardy in zones 4-8. They are mostly grown in the landscape as small ornamental trees, though with the correct pollinator nearby, they will produce some fruit. The fruit they produce are plums and have no attributes of a cherry, but still they became known commonly as cherry plum trees.

Popular varieties of Prunus cerasifera are:

  • ‘Newport’
  • ‘Atropurpurea’
  • ‘Thundercloud’
  • ‘Mt. St. Helens’

While these plum trees make beautiful ornamental trees, they are a favorite of Japanese beetles and can be short lived. They are also not drought tolerant, but cannot tolerate areas that are too wet either. Your cherry plum tree care should take these factors into account.

What is a Cherry Plum Tree Hybrid?

In recent years, another tree known as cherry plum has flooded the market. These newer varieties are hybrid crosses of fruit bearing plum and cherry trees. The resulting fruit is larger than a cherry but smaller than a plum, approximately 1 ¼ inch in diameter.

These two fruit trees were first cross-bred to create cherry plum fruit trees in the late 1800s. The parent plants were Prunus besseyi (Sandcherry) and Prunus salicina (Japanese plum). The fruit from these first hybrids was alright for canning jellies and jams but lacked the sweetness to be considered dessert quality fruit.

Recent efforts of major fruit tree breeders have produced many highly sought after varieties of delicious cherry plum bearing fruit trees and shrubs. Many of these new varieties have sprung from the crossing of Black Amber Asian plums and Supreme cherries. Plant breeders have given these new varieties of fruit cute names, such as Cherums, Plerries or Chums. The fruits have dark red skin, yellow flesh and small pits. Most are hardy in zones 5-9, with a couple varieties hardy down to zone 3.

Popular varieties are:

  • ‘Pixie Sweet’
  • ‘Gold Nugget’
  • ‘Sprite’
  • ‘Delight’
  • ‘Sweet Treat’
  • ‘Sugar Twist’

Their shrub-like/dwarf fruit tree stature makes harvesting and growing a cherry plum plant easy. Cherry plum care is just like care for any cherry or plum tree. They prefer sandy soils and should be watered in times of drought. Many varieties of cherry plum require a nearby cherry or plum for pollination in order to bear fruit.

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