prunus cerasifera blood plum
The blood plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’) is a red leaf selection of the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), also called myrobalane. The garden form was selected around 1916 in the USA and is extremely popular as a house tree. The wild species originates from the Near East and has been cultivated in Europe for about 400 years. In many regions it is wild and can therefore be found in the wild in field hedges and on warm, sunny mountain slopes.
The blood plum grows into a tree five to seven metres high and forms a roundish to conical crown three to six metres wide. Some specimens also grow with several stems. Blood plums grow relatively slowly, about 25 centimeters per year. The bark of the young shoots is brown-red, that of the older ones black-brown. They are often slightly spined. The stem possesses a thin and only weakly furrowed, grey-black bark and is occupied with large cork cells. The roots often form runners.
The alternate, egg-shaped to elliptical leaves, about five centimeters long, show a wine-red hue when sprouting and have a shiny metallic surface. They turn black-red after budding and hardly green even in the shade.
The flowers of the blood plum are bright pink and about 2.5 centimeters wide. They appear from mid-March before the leaves shoot and have the typical radial structure of the rose family with five petals. They are heavily flown by insects.
The small, edible cherry plums are ripe from July and hardly bigger than large sweet cherries. They taste very sweet and aromatic when ripe and are often used as compote or jam. The wild species bears yellow to light red fruits, the plums of the variety ‘Nigra’ are coloured dark red like the leaves.
Location and soil
Blood plums grow best in full sunlight, but also thrive in sunny locations. In case of lack of light, however, the flower base is clearly more sparse. They are reliably frost hardy, but like warmer locations. The trees do not place high demands on the soil: although they prefer nutrient-rich, calcareous loam soils, they still grow satisfactorily on poorer sandy soils. Blood plums can also withstand summer drought without any problems.
Planting and care
Blood plums are best planted in autumn or spring. Container plants can also be planted all year round, provided the trees planted in summer are well supplied with water. If you are planting a larger high trunk, you should immediately drive in a tree post on the west side of the trunk and tie your blood plum to it so that it does not tip over in a storm. It is best to sprinkle a few handfuls of horn shavings in the root area and cover them with bark humus after planting. For young blood plums it is important to shade the trunk in winter as the trees are very susceptible to frost cracks. Wrap it best with a jute fabric or a reed mat. Regular watering is usually no longer necessary after ingrowth, as blood plums cope well with temporary dryness. If overripe cherry plums fall to the ground, you should remove them as soon as possible – the fermenting fruits attract numerous wasps. It is better to harvest the ripe cherry plums in time and cook a delicious jam from them.
Before the root runners of the blood plum become annoying, you should tear them out of the soil with a jerk in their still unwoody state. In the case of extreme runner formation, it may be advisable to set a root barrier afterwards.
Blood plums do not need a regular cut. However, you can make corrective prunings for young plants if necessary and thinn out the crown of older trees from time to time if it becomes too dense. As with all plums, the larger cuts in the blood plum are susceptible to wood rot. Avoid cutting back older branches close to the trunk or, in case of doubt, leave a cone about the width of a hand.
Use in the garden
Blood plums are a very good choice as house trees. The heat- and climate-resistant deep roots can even be easily integrated into a paved surface with a small tree disc and can therefore also serve as a shade tree for a seat. Plants develop best when they can grow undisturbed and the crown has enough space in all directions to unfold.
Because of their deep roots and light canopy, blood plums can also be easily subplanted with semi-shade shrubs and small flowering shrubs. The robust and uncomplicated woody plants also cut a good figure in mixed flower hedges.
Blood plums are increased by grafting – either by so-called copulation in spring or by oculation in summer. Two to three-year-old seedlings of the wild cherry plum serve as grafting rootstocks. You can also try copulation as a layman, because the success rate is usually very high. However, you need a sharp grafting knife, because the wood of the blood plum is very hard and tough.
Diseases and pests
On humus-poor, sandy and somewhat waterlogged soils, rubber-flow can occur occasionally. Powdery mildew and shotgun disease are relatively common but not life-threatening fungal diseases. Among the most common insect pests are aphids and the small frostbite.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.