19 Flowering, Fruiting Trees and Shrubs From the Prunus Genus

Cherries, Plums, Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines, Almonds, and More

Close-Up Of Orange Tree
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  • 01 of 20

    Meet the Prunus Genus

    Summer fruit, including blackberries, blueberries, and nectarines in bowl
    Verdina Anna/Moment/Getty Images

    Species of the Prunus genus can offer interesting foliage, beautiful flowers, and edible fruit in the home garden. These members of the Rosaceae family include many familiar grocery store staples: almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums. There are more than 400 species in this genus.

    Prunus Flowers

    Although often grown for their fruit, these trees and shrubs are also grown for their ornamental flowers. Prunus trees and shrubs usually have five petals and five sepals on each flower, which are often white. Some varieties have been bred to have double flowers with many more petals.

    Successful pollination of many Prunus trees and shrubs requires two different varieties. Check with your local extension office for recommendations for your area, as sometimes specific varieties are unable to pollinate each other.

    Prunus Fruits

    Since they have fruit surrounding a stone (also known as a pit), Prunus trees and shrubs are categorized stone fruits, known scientifically as drupes.

    The fruits of Prunus can be classified according to how their pulp is formed around the stone.

    • Freestone fruits have flesh that pulls away easily from the pit, making them easy to eat fresh.
    • Clingstone fruits have pulp that is fastened more firmly to the pit and can't be pulled away without damage.

    Problems

    These trees and shrubs can be dangerous to plant if you have livestock. The foliage of many species is toxic to cud chewers such as goat and cattle.

    Birds love these fruit trees, which can be a double-edged sword. It's great if you want to attract some avian friends to your yard but can be quite annoying if you're trying to raise a fruit crop.

    There are quite a few pests and diseases that attack the various Prunus species, but there are both chemical and organic ways of controlling these problems.

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  • 02 of 20

    Almonds (Prunus dulcis)

    Three almonds growing on an almond tree.
    Stephanie Watson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The almond resembles an immature peach on the tree. If you crack open the pit, you find the "nut" that we eat. An almond is not a true nut but instead is a fruit stone, similar to that produced by other Prunus species.

    • Latin Name: Prunus dulcis
    • Native to: Middle East and South Asia
    • USDA Zones: 7 to 10
    • Height: 30 feet tall. There are also dwarf and semi-dwarf cultivars available.
    • Pollination: Requires cross-pollination. Pick varieties known to pollinate one another, as some varieties are incapable of this.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Butte'
    • 'Carmel'
    • 'Hall's Hardy' (lives up to the name and can be planted as far north as USDA hardiness zone 5)
    • 'Mission'
    • 'Nonpareil'
    • 'Sonora'

    Almonds are both eaten fresh and used in cooking. Ground almonds or almond meal and sugar are used to make marzipan, which is used in desserts and candies. Ground almonds can also be used to make almond butter, which is a spread similar to peanut butter.

    Some consider the almond to be a natural aphrodisiac for women.

    Recommended Recipes

    Try these recipes making use of almonds:

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  • 03 of 20

    Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

    Clusters of apricots on the tree.
    naturalflow/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Apricots are sweet little orange gems that do well in dry climates. In fact, almost all of the apricots commercially grown in the United States come from California. Apricots do not do well in humid climates and can have problems in frosty conditions.

    • Latin Name: Prunus armeniaca
    • Native to: China, Japan, Korea, and Kyrgyzstan
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: Most apricot varieties grow to be 10 to 20 feet tall.
    • Pollination: Most varieties are able to pollinate themselves, so another variety is not necessary.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Canadian White Blenheim'
    • 'Flavor Giant'
    • 'Flora Gold'
    • 'Nugget'
    • 'Pixie-Cot'
    • 'Wenatchee Moorpark'

    Recommended Recipes

    Apricots can be used in a variety of jams, preserves, pies, as well as in these recipes:

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  • 04 of 20

    Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

    Blackthorn berries on a tree.
    Alexandre Dulaunoy/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The blackthorn is a large shrub (sometimes a small tree) that is covered in spines (hence the species name spinosa). The fruits are made into liquors, jams, pies, and pickles. In Britain, it is also used to make sloe gin (not a type of true gin).

    Creamy white flowers 1/2 inch in diameter appear in the spring, just before the leaves appear. In addition to the use of its fruits in preserves and alcoholic drinks, this thorny plant is often used to form an impenetrable border barrier.

    • Latin Name: Prunus spinosa
    • Other Common Names: Sloe
    • Native to: Europe, northwest Africa, and western Asia
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: At its tallest, the blackthorn may be up to 16 feet tall.

    Recommended Recipes

    Among the more interesting uses for blackthorn is in liqueurs and sloe gin recipes:

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  • 05 of 20

    Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

    White cherry laurel flowers.
    Bri Weldon/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    While the name and look of this shrub might suggest that the cherry laurel is related to the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), it actually comes from entirely different plant families.

    All parts of the cherry laurel except the fruit are poisonous. Do not plant these if you have cattle or sheep, as it is especially harmful to them and other ruminants. The fruit is rather flavorless to humans, but birds enjoy feasting on them. Creamy white flowers appear in April and May.

    • Latin Name: Prunus laurocerasus
    • Other Common Names: English laurel
    • Native to: Southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: The cherry laurel can be up to 30 feet tall, though it is often pruned to stay at a shorter height.
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  • 06 of 20

    Chinese Plum (Prunus mume)

    Chinese plum tree flowering leaves in a pink hue.
    TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Also known as the Japanese apricot, this is the fruit that is pickled in Japanese cooking to create umeboshi. They are also pickled in Chinese cooking and are known as suanmeizi. The Chinese plum is also used for liquors, sauces, juices, and for medicinal purposes. In the United States, this plant is normally grown for ornamental purposes, as it produces beautiful pink flowers in late winter and early spring. 

    Another plant, the loquat, is also known as the Chinese plum, but it belongs to the Eriobotrya genus.

    • Latin Name: Prunus mume
    • Other common names: Japanese apricot, ume plum, and flowering apricot
    • Native to: China and Korea
    • USDA Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 10 to 20 feet tall
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  • 07 of 20

    Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

    Chokecherry fruit hanging off a branch.
    Matt Lavin/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The chokecherry is the state fruit of North Dakota. It can be used to make syrups, jams, and jellies once you add sugar to balance the tartness. This plant is often used in shrub borders; it produces attractive, fragrant white flowers in April and May.

    The common name chokeberry is also used for another plant, Aronia spp., though it is an entirely different plant from Prunus virginiana.

    • Latin Name: Prunus virginiana
    • Other Common Names: Virginia bird cherry and bitter-cherry
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: 20 to 30 feet tall

    Don't plant this if you have horses, cows, or goats as it is poisonous for them. It is also poisonous for the other ruminants, such as deer, moose, and bison.

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  • 08 of 20

    European Plum (Prunus domestica)

    European plum fruit growing on a tree.
    4028mdk09/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    ​The European plum is the usual source for prunes (dried plums) since many of the cultivars are freestone and processing the pits is simpler. This species is also smaller than the Japanese plum and matures later. This tree is normally grown for the fruit crop, but the attractive white flowers that appear in April make it a good specimen tree, as well.

    • Latin Name: Prunus domestica
    • Other Common Names: Damson, common plum, Damask plum, and bullace
    • Native to: Western Asia
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: Depending on the variety, the European plum will generally reach a height of 15 to 30 feet tall. Some cultivars, such as 'Stanley' remain less than 10 feet tall.
    • Pollination: Many varieties of the European plum do not need a different variety for successful pollination. They cannot pollinate the Japanese plums.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Bavay's Green Gage'
    • 'Blue Damson'
    • 'Brompton'
    • 'Golden Transparent Gage'
    • 'Stanley'

    Recommended Recipes

    Some recipes to try with European plums include:

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  • 09 of 20

    Japanese Flowering Cherry (Prunus serrulata)

    Four Japanese flowering cherry trees near a pond with ducks.
    Rob Stevens/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The Japanese flowering cherry is called sakura in Japanese and is the national flower of Japan. This is one of the cherry species celebrated every March and April in Washington, D.C.'s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the gift in 3,000 trees to the United States from Japan in 1912.

    This species is often grafted onto the sweet cherry (Prunus avium). The flowers are white or pink and can be single or double. The tree will burst into bloom every spring and provide a spectacular show.

    • Latin Name: Prunus serrulata
    • Other Common Names: Oriental cherry, hill cherry, East Asian cherry, and Japanese cherry
    • Native to: China, Korea, and Japan
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: The Japanese flowering cherry will grow 15 to 40 feet tall, depending on the variety chosen.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Amonogawa'
    • 'Kwanzan'
    • 'Shirofugen'
    • 'Ukon'
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  • 10 of 20

    Japanese Plum (Prunus salicina)

    Three Japanese plums growing on a tree.
    Erin Silversmith/Wikimedia Commons/GNU

    In the United States, most of the plums found in grocery stores will be a variety of Japanese plum, which is larger and sweeter than the European plum. They also bloom and ripen faster, producing fruit with more flesh and juice. While normally grown as an orchard food crop, the white blooms that appear in early spring give the tree some landscape use, as well.

    The loquat is also sometimes called a Japanese plum. While it is in the same family (Rosaceae), it is in an entirely different genus (Eriobotrya japonica).

    • Latin Name: Prunus salicina
    • Other Common Names: Blood plum and Chinese plum
    • Native to: China
    • USDA Zones: 5 -to 9
    • Height: The tree height depends on the variety and may reach more than 30 feet tall.
    • Pollination: Plant a second variety of Japanese plum for proper pollination. You cannot use a European plum for pollinating a Japanese plum.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Bubblegum'
    • 'Crimson Beauty'
    • 'Ozark Premier'
    • 'Santa Rosa'
    • 'Satsuma'

    Recommended Recipes

    Many delicious recipes can make use of Japanese plums, including: 

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  • 11 of 20

    Nectarine (Prunus persica var. nectarina)

    Nectarine fruit hanging from a tree.
    Old Sarge via Flickr

    Natural genetic mutations have brought many new and wondrous plants to the world of horticulture. One of them is the nectarine, which is a mutation of the peach. The result was a fruit that is hairless, smaller, redder in the skin, rounder, and sweeter. It's pure heaven. Each nectarine variety will feature either white or yellow pulp.

    Showy pink flowers appear in April, making this plant valuable both as a landscape specimen and as a source of fruit. If you don't harvest the fruit yourself, it will attract many birds.

    • Latin Name: Prunus persica var. nectarina. Some use nucipersica as the variety.
    • Native to: Likely Asia
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: The exact height will change by variety, but the nectarine tree can be up to 20 feet tall.
    • Pollination: Nectarine tree varieties will not need a separate pollinator.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Arctic Rose' (white)
    • 'Fantasia' (yellow)
    • 'Goldmine' (white)
    • 'Independence' (yellow)
    • 'Red Gold' (yellow)
    • 'Summer Beaut' (yellow)

    Recommended Recipes

    Among the recipes that you can try with nectarines are:

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  • 12 of 20

    Paperbark Cherry (Prunus serrula)

    Paperbark cherry tree trunks.
    Esther Westerveld/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The trunk of the paperbark cherry seems to be covered in plastic, but it's actually the bark itself that is a natural plastic. This species is sometimes used as the grafting base for other Prunus, such as the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis). You can use a side-stub graft to join the two trees together.

    • Latin Name: Prunus serrula
    • Other Common Names: Birchbark cherry and Tibetian cherry
    • Native to: Western China
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 20 to 30 feet tall
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  • 13 of 20

    Peach (Prunus persica)

    Three peaches growing on tree.
    Chris Fannin/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    Peaches come in two different types: white flesh and yellow flesh. Most of the peaches sold in supermarkets are a freestone variety, as the clingstones are better for canning rather than eating fresh. These fuzzy fruits are juicy and sweet, with the white varieties being especially so. The peach is the state fruit of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Some varieties are grown more for ornamental purposes; the pink flowers that appear in early spring before the leaves appear are very attractive in the landscape.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of pests and diseases that you might encounter if you plant peaches in your yard. Peach leaf curl is caused by the Taphrina deformans fungus and has the potential for serious damage. Other bacteria and fungal diseases may attack. Pests may include aphids, borers, Japanese beetles, scales, spider mites, and tent caterpillars.

    Each peach variety will have a chilling hour requirement, which is the amount of cold weather they need for proper fruiting.

    • Latin Name: Prunus persica
    • Native to: China
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: There are dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard peach varieties that can be up to 35 feet tall.
    • Pollination: You will not need a different variety, as most peach varieties are able to pollinate themselves.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Contender' (yellow freestone)
    • 'Crimson Rocket' (upright yellow freestone)
    • 'EarliGlo' (yellow freestone)
    • 'Elberta' (yellow freestone)
    • 'Ernie's Choice' (yellow freestone)
    • 'Klondike White' (white semi-freestone)
    • 'Lady Nancy' (white freestone)
    • 'Rich Lady' (yellow clingstone)
    • 'Topaz' (yellow freestone)

    Recommended Recipes

    Peaches are one of the most versatile fruits there is for cooking. Try:

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  • 14 of 20

    Prunus Crosses

    Flavor Grenade pluots sold at a farmer's market.
    dailylifeofmojo/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Many plants within the Prunus genus are able to genetically cross with each other, resulting in new fruits. The cross of an apricot and a plum may be known as either apriplum, or plumcot, for example.

    Zaiger's Genetics has created several of these crosses and has secured trademarked names for them. These new cultivars are the results of several generations of crossing. They include:

    • Apriums. This is the cross of apricot and plum and resembles apricots more than plums.
    • Nectaplums. These are the result of crossing nectarines and plums.
    • Nectarcots. These are produced when nectarines are crossed with apricots.
    • Peacotums. These occur after peaches, apricots, and plums are bred together.
    • Pluots. These are the same cross with the plum characteristics being more prominent. Pluots are marketed in stores with clever names such as "Dinosaur Eggs."
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  • 15 of 20

    Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena)

    Purple leaf sand cherry bush and grassy background.
    lcm1863/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    The purple leaf sand cherry is a cross between the purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea') and the sandcherry (Prunus pumila).

    This plant is normally grown for its burgundy foliage, though the white flowers appearing in April are also attractive. The fruit is not particularly useful for cooking, but this is a great plant for gardeners who want to bring birds to their yards. But unfortunately, it's also a favorite of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).

    • Latin Name: Prunus x cistena
    • Other Common Names: Purpleleaf sandcherry, purple leaf sandcherry, and purpleleaf sand cherry
    • Native to: This is a cross of two plants. The sandcherry is from the northeastern United States and the purple leaf plum is from Western Asia and Europe.
    • USDA Zones: 2 to 8
    • Height: 7 to 10 feet tall
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  • 16 of 20

    Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera)

    Purple leaf plum flowers on branch.
    Dendroica cerulea/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    One of the most popular trees with purple leaves is the purple leaf plum. The little fruits can be made into jams or eaten fresh, though the pit is large in proportion to the amount of pulp. This plant is more often grown as a flowering specimen tree for its fragrant white or light pink flowers that appear in early spring.

    Plan on this tree living for no more than about 20 years, as it is susceptible to several pests and diseases.

    • Latin Name: Prunus cerasifera
    • Other Common Names: Myrobalan plum, cherry plum, and purple leaf plum
    • Native to: Europe and western Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 15 to 25 feet tall
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  • 17 of 20

    Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

    Sour cherries growing on a tree.
    thy/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Sour cherries are too tart to eat out of hand for many people, so they are commonly used in cooking with sweetening. The most popular variety planted in the United States is the 'Montmorency'. The plant is not remarkable in the landscape, so is normally grown only for its fruit.

    Make sure you choose a location that does not have wet soil, which can encourage diseases and other problems.

    • Latin Name: Prunus cerasus
    • Other Common Names: Pie cherry and tart cherry
    • Native to: Europe and southwest Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: Sour cherries can grow up to 50 feet tall, but they are usually pruned and kept at 12 to 15 feet tall.
    • Pollination: Sour cherries are self-fertile and a second variety is not necessary.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Balaton'
    • 'Danube'
    • 'Early Richmond'
    • 'English Morello'
    • 'Jubileum'
    • 'Meteor'
    • 'Montmorency'
    • 'Northstar'
    • 'Schattenmorelle'

    Recommended Recipes

    Sour cherries are very popular for a variety of recipes, including:

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  • 18 of 20

    Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)

    Dozens of Rainier cherries on a white plate.
    Kimberly Vardeman/FlickrCC BY 2.0

    The sweet cherry is what you usually find in the North American grocery stores. The most common variety there is the 'Bing', though others like 'Rainier' will make an appearance too. These are much sweeter than the sour cherry and can be eaten fresh as well as being used in recipes.

    Plant in a location with soil that is well-draining, as soil that is too moist will cause problems such as rots and cankers. This tree's attractive white flowers appearing in early spring make it a viable landscape specimen, and it is one of the few Prunus species that also makes a good shade tree.

    You will need to use nets, reflective strips, owl statues, or other methods of deterring birds, as they will gobble up your sweet cherries before you get a chance to harvest them.

    • Latin Name: Prunus avium
    • Other Common Names: Wild cherry, bird cherry, gean, and Mazzard cherry
    • Native to: Europe, Turkey, western Asia, and northwest Africa
    • USDA Zones: Depends on the variety, from 3 to 9
    • Height: Sweet cherries grow up to 35 feet tall. They are usually pruned to be 12 to 15 feet tall in the landscape. There are also dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available.
    • Pollination: You will need a different cherry variety for successful pollination. Check with your extension office for suggested matches as not all will pollinate your variety.

    Popular Varieties

    • 'Bing'
    • 'Hudson'
    • 'Lambert'
    • 'Lapins'
    • 'Rainier'
    • 'Regina'
    • 'Ulster'

    Recommended Recipes

    Among the many recipes that make good use of sweet cherries, try these:

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  • 19 of 20

    Weeping Higan Cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula')

    Weeping Higan cherry tree along pathway.
    David Paul Ohmer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The weeping Higan cherry is a favorite weeping tree due to its showy floral displays each spring. This tree is created by grafting this variety onto other rootstocks when it reaches approximately six feet tall. This gives it a stronger base and allows it to live for a long time. It is​ grown principally as a flowering landscape tree; the pea-sized fruit is insignificant and of no use other than to birds.

    The flowers come in shades of white or pink, depending on the variety. There are double-flowering varieties available, such as the 'Pendula Plena Rosea'.

    • Latin Name: Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' and 'Pendula Rubra'
    • Other Common Names: Weeping cherry tree, spring cherry, and rosebud cherry
    • Native to: Japan
    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 20 to 40 feet tall
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  • 20 of 20

    Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina)

    Wild Cherry tree and its berries.
    Rasbak/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The wild cherry is a large tree that is a close relative of chokecherries. It must be planted in an area with full sun as it will die in shady areas. This North American tree is valued for its lumber, which is often used in cabinetry. In the landscape, it is planted both as a flowering specimen (white blooms appear in April to May) and as a shade tree.

    The fruits are used in wines, jellies, and as a flavoring for brandy, ice creams, and sodas. You'll have to pick them right when they ripen; otherwise, birds will quickly eat the entire crop.

    This is a favorite treat of eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum), which will munch away on the leaves. It's usually not a serious problem and the tree will not be permanently damaged.

    Livestock such as goats and cattle can be poisoned by the wild cherry, so don't plant them near these animals.

    • Latin Name: Prunus serotina
    • Other Common Names: Black cherry, rum cherry, mountain wild cherry, and wild black cherry
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 40 to 90 feet tall