What Is a Cherry Plum?

Angie Bates

The cherry plum is a type of tree originating in Asia. A small tree with showy flowers, colorful leaves, and edible fruit, cherry plums are used primarily for ornamental purposes. The scientific, or botanical, name for the cherry plum is Prunus cerasifera.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Generally small, the cherry plum usually reaches heights of 15 to 28 feet (4.6–8.5 m) tall. Their spread is roughly symmetrical, and it may be between 15 and 20 feet (4.6–6.1 m) wide. The dark gray to reddish-brown bark is smooth in the tree's youth, then becomes furrowed as it ages.

Although cherry plums are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each winter, their leaves do not change color with the seasons. Most cherry plum trees have dark, purple-red leaves, but some are a dark green. Oval-shaped, the leaves are between 1.5 and 2.5 inches (3.81–5.1 cm) long. They alternate on the stems.

Beautiful pale pink flowers blossom in the early spring. About 1 inch (2.54 cm) across, these flowers may be light enough to be called white. Flowers do not occur in clusters, but they are spaced so closely together and are so numerous that they may appear to be clustered at a distance. In addition to being beautiful visually, these blossoms are also strongly fragrant.

In late summer, reddish fruit appears. This fruit is edible and is frequently eaten by birds. Like most plums, cherry plum fruit has a fleshy exterior and a hard, non-edible, interior pit. These types of fruits are called stone fruits or drupes.

Cherry plums like full sun and acidic or alkaline soil. They should always be pruned after flowering is completed. Drought tolerant, these trees are often planted for ornamental purposes.

Sometimes used for shade, cherry plums are most often used as specimen trees. A specimen tree is a type of tree planted in order to exemplify its beautiful features for the pleasure of observers. Often found with few or no other plants and trees nearby in landscaping, the striking nature of the cherry plum shines without the addition of other showy plants.

Though they are drought tolerant, cherry plum trees are very susceptible to many pests and diseases such as aphids and leafspot. Once infected, the disease or pest is usually very difficult to eliminate and will affect both the health and the appearance of the tree. Additionally, the cherry plum is relatively short lived, lasting only about 20 years. After 10 years, the tree may begin to decline.

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Discussion Comments


I have a question I hope someone can answer. I have a very aged cherry plum in my yard and last fall I planted 3 of its seeds and was rewarded with two this spring. But, I was kind of expecting the leaves to be red. They are not. They are green. In the first season after they emerge from the seeds, are they green and then next season do they emerge red, or do I now have a crops breed of cherry plum and something else, if that is at all possible. Thank you


In the Middle East, we eat cherry plums when they're green. We don't allow them to ripen all the way. They are slightly sour and slightly sweet. Some people also like dipping them in salt.

I love eating these. They are fantastic. I can eat a whole bowl just by myself. It's also great for diabetics like me because it doesn't raise blood sugar when it's not ripe yet. And it's full of fiber too.

I can't wait until they're in season again. Some years, they're very expensive and I don't get to eat a lot. I hope they will be plenty and very affordable this year.


@burcinc-- Cherry plums can grow in most areas in the US. Of course, it also depends on the type of cherry plum. The European variety is common and is fairly hardy. I'm sure you've seen and eaten cherry plums. They're usually yellow although I believe there are red varieties as well. They're very sweet and can be used for a variety of different things like sauces, jams, desserts, etc.

I like making spicy plum sauce with these. My mom has two trees in her yard and I take most of the fruit. The nice part is that this plum appears sooner than other types of fruit and ripens earlier too.


I always thought that cherry plums were a type of cherry. Perhaps, a large juicy variety. I just realized that these are plums and referred to as "cherry plum" because the way they hang off of branches resemble cherries.

By the way, do cherry plums grow in the States? I'm sure I've seen them but I don't quite remember.

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