Prunus cerasifera 'St Lukes' (Purple Leaf Plum)
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- USDA Hardiness Zone: 7A - 8B
- Mature Height: 12 to 20 ft
- Mature Spread: 15 to 25 ft
- Growth Rate: Moderate
- Availability: Available
- Drought Tolerance: Low to moderate
- Salt Tolerance: Unknown
- Light Requirements: Full sun to partial sun.
- Native Origin: Not native to Florida.
- Soil Drainage: Needs a well-drained site.
- Foliage: Deciduous tree with no showy fall color.
- Flowers: Pink, showy, in the late winter.
- Pests: Tent caterpillar can defoliate trees and weaken them.
Description: Growing 20 feet tall and wide, Plum forms a rounded mass of slender, branches sprouting from a short trunk. In spring, before the one to two-inch-long leaves appear, trees are festooned with small, pink flowers which make the trees quite decorative in the presence of other trees which are often still dormant. The 0.5-inch-diameter fruits which follow are red, ripening to red, and are extremely popular with wildlife and people. The plums are either eaten fresh or used to make a delicious jelly.
Grown occasionally with a single leader, trees are usually seen with a multiple trunk planted as a specimen in a yard under a power line or as an occasional accent. It makes a nice addition to the shrub border in the back yard and is well suited for planting around the patio or deck although it does not form a neat crown and looks a little unkempt during the winter. The crown often leans to one side or the other. Occasional pruning can significantly improve the form of the crown, especially when it is begun when trees are young.
Plum is easily grown and has no special cultural requirements. It tolerates drought poorly and does poorly in alkaline pH. These small trees grow quickly but have a relatively short life. This should not stop you from planting the tree since it will serve the landscape well during its life.
Gainesville Observations: This tree has been fast growing for us and should be suited for planting near power lines. Flowers have been reliable and beautiful in early March; fruit sets in late March. Our trees came with a short trunk (about 3 feet tall) which makes pruning to a dominant leader difficult but possible. Low branches droop toward the ground and require pruning for clearance under the canopy. Probably best reserved for occasional planting in a garden-like soil.