Friday, April 30, 2010

Purple Leaf Plum

                                    (above picture from Paul Parent Garden Club)

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Purple Leaf Plum (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"As I look out my window this time of the year my eyes search for a small tree planted near my driveway called the Purple Leaf Flowering Plum. It is unique because the trunk and the branches of this tree are black and really stand out among other trees in the yard. Last week, the flower buds started to swell and in just the last couple of days, the flowers opened, covering the black branches with deep pink blossoms. The flowers are 1 z' inch in diameter, with single petals that are fragrant. These flowers will last for three weeks or more depending on the rain and wind, as they are delicate like the flowering cherry trees. About a week or two after the flowers open, the new growth will begin to develop--and this is when it gets exciting for me. The new growth is purple-branches, foliage, and all. The new purple growth, paired with the pink flowers on the black branches, really stands out on a green lawn. (I too love that rich purple growth--this plant is a real standout and a must for your landscape!)

The Purple Leaf Plum will grow 15 to 20 feet tall and wide when matured. You can expect 12 to 15 inches of new growth each year, so it is a fast-growing small tree. The leaves are oval shaped, with a point on the tip and a smooth edge. These leaves will grow 2 to 3 inches long and about 1 inch wide. As they emerge and develop, the foliage will be bronze-purple and will mature to deep reddish purple. It will stay this wonderful color all summer long and really stand out in your yard. The colored foliage on this tree is more beautiful than the flowers because it will last right up to the frost in the fall. The tree is thick with leaves and some years if we get a lot of hot sunshine, the inner foliage will fade to deep green, but the outside leaves stay purple. The Flowering Plum does not have fruit and is a clean tree for your yard. It is very hardy and will tolerate a wide open growing area with wind.

The Purple Leaf Plum will look great when planted alone in a garden with underplantings of perennials or annuals. Plant the Purple Leaf Plum in a row along your driveway or along your property line. When the trees are used as a barrier, they are striking to look at and will give your property great lines. I like them because the tree has no disease problems with the foliage, unlike flowering crabapples. Fertilize them (use Plant Tone or Tree Tone by Espoma) in the spring when in bloom to help produce more foliage and flower buds for next year. I use Plant Tone and the new Plant Thrive with Mycorrhizae bacteria fertilizer to help them get established when young. The flowering Plum loves a rich soil, so add plenty of compost or peat moss (we recommend the Shrub and Tree Mix by Jolly Gardener--a great compost for planting!) when planting. The roots are shallow and a layer of bark mulch or compost on the planting bed really helps the tree at all seasons. When you first buy the tree, it will be upright growing because of how it was grown in the nursery. Once you plant it in your yard, it will s pread out and get wide in just a few years. The tree will grow best in a well-drained soil with no standing water. During hot dry summers, when rain is hard to come by, watering is necessary to keep the leaves shiny or they will get a dull finish to them.

Look for the Newport Flowering Plum, as it is more rounded in shape and has white to pink flowers. It will grow 15 to 20 feet wide and tall and is also hardier in a cold climate. The Thundercloud Flowering Plum is taller, growing upright to 20 feet plus, with deeper pink flowers. Keep trees away from the side of the road because, like most other flowering small trees, they do not like road salt . The thick foliage will also make a great place for birds to nest. Remember that hummingbirds love red and if you want to attract and feed them, this is a great tree to place a feeder on a pole. Enjoy!"

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 30, 2010

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