A cabinet showing the distinctive, reddish-brown color of cherry wood.

How to Grow a Sand Cherry Bush

by Jessica Westover

Identifiable by its dark purple to red leaves, the purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) adds color to the landscape throughout the growing season. Pink flowers appear in spring and transform into edible black berries, which stand out against the shrub's orange and green fall foliage. Thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 8, the purpleleaf sand cherry requires full sunlight and moist, fast-draining, fertile soils. Proper care of this disease-sensitive bush will promote healthy growth and a pleasing appearance.

Pull weeds from the ground beneath and at least 12 inches beyond the purpleleaf sand cherry's perimeter. Pick up any rocks, debris and objects from the same area. Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the ground with a rake. Keep the mulch 3 to 4 inches away from the bush's main trunk to prevent it from rotting.

Water the bush when less than 1 inch of rain falls during a period of seven days. Apply 1 inch of water from a garden hose directly to the ground surrounding the bush, avoiding wetting the foliage as much as possible. Water the sand cherry during the morning hours to allow moistened foliage time to dry before nightfall. Do not over water to the point that the soil becomes soggy.

Fertilize the plant in the early spring just before leaf emergence with a 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium slow-release granular fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon per square foot of soil. Spread the granules in a 12-inch- wide ring around the sand cherry, at least 6 inches away from its main stem. Rake the fertilizer into the top 3 inches of mulch and soil. Water the area thoroughly.

Examine the sand cherry's foliage periodically for the presence of green bodied aphids, webbing from spider mites, round brown scale, 1/2-inch metallic Japanese beetles and caterpillars. Mix 2 tablespoons neem oil with 1 gallon water in a tank sprayer. Spray the solution onto foliage infested with aphids, spider mites and scale every 7 to 4 days to eradicate these pests. Hang Japanese beetle traps from the shrub's branches. Hand pick caterpillars off the sand cherry.

Prune the sand cherry lightly in the late winter just before new growth begins and before applying the fertilizer. Cut out any dead branches with pruning shears, 1/4 inch above their bases. Trim back any broken limbs to 1 inch below the damaged portion, making the cut 1/4 inch above a lateral shoot or leaf bud. Cut out any crossing or rubbing branches.

Trim the sand cherry in the late spring or early summer once it finishes blooming. Cut any vigorous, overly long or unattractive branches back by one-third with pruning shears. Make each cut 1/4-inch above an outward-facing lateral branch, leaf or bud. Thin the shrub as needed, removing no more than one-fourth of the branches.

Items you will need

  • Mulch
  • Rake
  • Garden hose
  • 10-10-10 slow-release granular fertilizer
  • Neem oil
  • Tank sprayer
  • Japanese beetle traps
  • Pruning shears


  • Always wear gloves when spreading mulch, pruning branches or broadcasting fertilizer to prevent injury and contact with soil-borne diseases.
  • Always wear protective clothing when mixing or spraying neem oil.
  • Do not spray the oil solution when temperatures reach 80 F or higher. Avoid applying neem oil on windy days.
  • Immediately change out of and wash your clothes after spraying.
  • Store the neem oil in its original bottle away from children, pets and food storage areas.

Photo Credits

  • high definition tv storage cabinet image by James Phelps from Fotolia.com