Pink Flowering Almond Bush: the Dwarf With the Giant Impact

How to grow Prunus glandulosa

bloomiing almond tree
 tinajustitia/Flickr/Public Domain

In the lingo of plant taxonomy, pink or "dwarf" flowering almond bush is called Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena.' The cultivar name breaks down as 'Rosea,' meaning "pink," and 'Plena,' meaning "full" or "double." This name thus tells you two things about the flowers: their color is pink, and they are double flowers. A synonymous -- but less helpful -- cultivar name is 'Sinensis.'

Botanically speaking, pink flowering almond is a multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub.

What Does It Look Like? Is It Truly a Dwarf?

With a common name like "dwarf flowering almond," the gardener tends to assume a small size. Listings for its height vary greatly, however. Some sources claim a figure of 3 feet at the bottom of its height range; others say it will reach 4 to 5 feet. That is not huge, but it is not tiny, either. Through faithful pruning, however, it is surely possible to keep its dimensions at approximately 3" x 3".

This dwarf shrub is grown for one reason, and one reason alone: its profusion of double pink flowers (or, occasionally, white blossoms) when it blooms in mid-spring. The flowers appear before any leaves grace the branches.

Where Does It Grow?

The plant is indigenous to the Far East, as you may have guessed from its alternate cultivar name, 'Sinensis,' which indicates that it is a plant from China. It is best grown in planting zones 4-9.

Grow pink flowering almond bushes in full sun and in a well-drained soil. 

Care for Dwarf Flowering Almond Bush

The shrub's branches are notoriously weak, so be careful when handling the plant (many a gardener has accidentally broken off a branch when transplanting). Provide your plant with artificial irrigation during dry periods until it has had time to become established (after which it will resist drought well).

If one had to pick just a single aspect of plant care to focus on here, it would be pruning. Flowering almond can become messy-looking if left to its own devices for too long; suckering can also be a problem. So yearly pruning is advisable. 

  • When To Prune: Just after blooming is over (since it is a shrub that flowers on old wood).
  • How to Prune: With an eye to shaping your plant, prune any branch that is too tall, just above a set of leaves (plus remove dead wood or branches rubbing against each other). Err on the side of pruning off too much rather than too little (you will not hurt this shrub by giving it a severe pruning).
  • Pruning for Damage: Should your shrub ever be damaged, simply cut the branches right down to ground level to rejuvenate it. Future blooming will be delayed, but the plant will eventually come back as good as ever.

Fertilize this shrub with compost in spring.

Plants in this genus are susceptible to a host of problems. Borers often tunnel into them before you are even aware of damage; in what seems like just the blink of an eye, a healthy shrub turns into a dead one. At least aphids and many other insect pests are more readily spotted; spray with Neem oil when you detect them.

On a positive note, according to Texas A&M, gardeners in the South value flowering almond because "this shrub requires only a very short period of chilling to induce flowering."

Does It Produce Edible Almonds?

In a word, no. The plant that bears the well-known almond nuts is Prunus dulcis, a tree native to parts of the Mediterranean region. It is taller (up to 15 feet) and less cold-hardy (only to zone 7).

Does Prunus Have Anything to Do With Prunes?

Speaking of edibility, you may wonder if the genus name, Prunus has anything to do with prunes. In fact, it does. The Prunus genus contains such well-known edibles as not only almonds and their close relatives, the peaches, but also cherries, apricots, plums, and nectarines. We use the term, "prunes" to indicate the (mainly dried) fruit from particular types of plum trees. There are many kinds of Prunus that serve ornamental purposes, as well (besides flowering almond), such as the varieties of weeping cherry trees that grace spring landscapes.

Prunus is a genus in the diverse rose family, which covers a lot more than just rose bushes. In addition to all the fruit trees just mentioned (to which we can add apple trees), there are many members of this family that non-gardeners have probably never associated with roses, including:

Other Types of Flowering Almonds

The subject of this article has been the dwarf flowering almond with pink flowers, but there are other types, as well:

  • P. glandulosa 'Alba Plena' is the white version.
  • P. glandulosa 'Alba' is also white, but with single, rather than double flowers
  • P. triloba is a taller plant, capable of reaching 15 feet tall. It is thus sometimes called a "tree."

Uses in Landscaping, Assessment of Plant's Value

Although flowering almond is a popular plant, it is not universally loved. Michael Dirr assesses it as having "essentially no redeeming characteristics other than its double, rose-pink flowers," adding that once the flowers are gone, "the plant is so bland it practically disappears until the next flowering season."

While this is a fair assessment as far as it goes, the same argument could be used against a number of other outstanding performers in the spring yard, including:

Therefore, the value you attach to this shrub largely comes down to how you answer the following question: Does a plant have to possess multi-season interest to warrant growing it, or is a spectacular display during one season enough to justify using it? Your answer may depend, in part, on the size of your yard. Those with small yards may find it difficult to justify growing a one-hit wonder, feeling that, to make optimal use of the space available, they need to grow a plant with visual interest spread across more than one season. By contrast, those with larger yards have the luxury of splurging on a bush such as flowering almond, because they have the space to grow numerous other plants to take up the slack when flowering almond "disappears," as Dirr puts it.

Flowering almond does, in fact, have at least two other selling points:

  1. It is one of the fast-growing shrubs.
  2. It is also counted among the drought-tolerant shrubs.

The most common ways to use dwarf flowering almond bushes are as hedges or as specimen plants for springtime.