Prunus is a huge group of trees and shrubs that includes many of our favorite spring-flowering trees and arguably our tastiest fruits. Peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries and almonds are all different species of Prunus.

The glorious flowering cherry trees that dot Portland’s Waterfront Park welcoming spring are a fabulous example. This article covers the species grown for ornamental use.

You'll some of our favorites below:

To find information about fruiting Prunus species, visit our Fruits & Berries Page.

Flowering Cherries:

Prunus emarginata

Prunus emarginata: Bitter Cherry

Native to the Northwest. White flowers with notched petals bloom in late winter, red bitter berries in summer are good for wildlife. Dark green leaves are lighter underneath. Plants grow into a small tree or large shrub, 7-50’ tall, depending on their culture. Roots are very wide-spreading, often forming suckers far from the original tree. In the wild they often form thickets.

Grows 7-50’ tall, sun, part shade, or shade – hardy Z4

Prunus padus

Prunus padus: European Birdcherry

Native to Europe, northern Asia, Korea & Japan. Clusters of white flowers in April after other flowering cherries are finished blooming. Green leaves turn yellow to bronze before falling in autumn. Small black wrinkled fruit in clusters is loved by birds, but bitter for humans. Prone to aphid problems.

Grows 30-40’ tall, upright with a round canopy

Sun, hardy, Z3

P serrula'

Prunus serrula: Birchbark or Tibetan Cherry

Excellent shiny red-brown bark that peels in big strips provides nice winter interest. Flowers are white & sparse, leaves are green. Upright pyramidal shape. Prone to canker and borer problems.

Grows 20-30’ tall, sun, hardy Z6

Cerisier du Japon Prunus serrulata

Prunus serrulata: Japanese Flowering Cherry

This is the species for many of the trees commonly brought to mind when folks consider flowering cherries. It’s been in cultivation for hundreds of years and many variations are available.

Prunus serrulata ‘Amanogawa’

Fragrant pale pink single to semi-double flowers, very narrow columnar shape, 20’ x 4-5’

Prunus 'Kwanzan'

Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’

Deep pink flowers with many petals usually bloom in early April. New leaves are bronze, turn green during summer and peachy gold in autumn before dropping. Growth is upright, vase-shaped with a broad canopy, 30-40’ tall & wide.

Mt. Fuji

Prunus serrulata ‘Mount Fuji’

Pink flower buds open to fragrant white semi-double flowers, earlier than ‘Kwanzan’. New leaves are bronze, turning green in summer. The shape is upright with a wide horizontal branching pattern, 15-20’ tall by 20-25’ wide.

Prunus serrulata ‘Shirofugen’

Pink buds open to white double flowers that age pink. Upright vase shape with horizontal branching pattern creates a flat-topped wide crown, 25’ x 30’.

Prunus subhirtella Higan or Weeping Cherry

Early blooming species that has both upright and weeping varieties.


Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

Pale pink semi-double flowers open sporadically during the warmer spells of winter, usually finishing in early March. Slender twiggy branches create an open woodland look. Upright growth to 20-40’ x 15-30’.

Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula', Arnold Arboretum - IMG 5949

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula or ‘Pendula Double’

Pink flowers in March are single or double and lightly fragrant. Weeping branches are usually grafted to a 4 or 6’ trunk and grow out and down to the ground, with gradual mounding adding height gradually. In 10 years trees are about 12-15’ tall x 10-12’ wide, but in time branches will form some upright growth and trees can reach 30’ tall x 40’ wide. Prone to shot-hole fungus.

Prunus Yoshino Cherry

Prunus x yedoensis Yoshino Cherry

In Japan Yoshino Cherries are called ‘The National Flower’. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted 900 Yoshinos to the USA, which were planted in Washington D.C. Clusters of small flowers are pale pink in bud and white when open. Flowers open before green leaves fill-in. Leaves turn lovely yellow and peach in autumn before falling. Young trees grow very fast and develop thick trunks quickly. Trees mature around 40-50’ tall.

Prunus 'Akebono'

Prunus x yedoensis 'Akebono'

Akebono Cherries are planted around Oregon’s capital building in Salem. Their flowers and shape are very similar to Yoshino but their form is smaller, making it a more manageable city tree. It matures around 25’ x 25’.

Flowering Plums

Purple leaf plum

One of the first trees to bloom in spring with pretty pink flowers. Green-leaved forms exist, but the most ornamental forms have dark purple leaves. Most forms develop edible fruit, but is usually left for birds and can be messy. Many cultivated varieties exist, differing mostly in their overall shape. All types are subject to problems with shot-hole fungus in the leaves and serious aphid problems. Without treatment an aphid infestation will cause considerable dropping of sticky aphid dew on whatever is parked beneath the tree. All are best in full sun and hardy to Z5.

These are our most commonly available flowering plum trees:


Prunus cerasiferaThundercloud’: Thundercloud Plum

Pale pink flowers appear in late winter or early spring before the dark purple leaves fill up branches. Sometimes leaves turn red or orange before dropping in autumn. Fruit is purple and edible, but this is not a variety typically grown for its fruit.

Grows 20’ x 20’, sun, hardy Z5

Bliriana Plum

Prunus x blireana: Blireana Plum

A hybrid between P. cerasifera and P. mume. Double pink flowers in earliest spring, purple leaves and purple plums. Grows to 20’ x 20’.

Purple-leaf Sand Cherry

Prunus x cistena: Purple-leaf Sand Cherry

Flowers and leaves are the same as tree-form plums, but this is a shrub. It grows in an upright, multi-stemmed dense shape to 6-10’. It likes full sun, and is super hardy to Zone 3.

Prunus mume: Flowering Apricot

Fragrant flowers appear on bare branches during winter in colors from white to dark pink, in single or double form. Leaves are green and sometimes glowing yellow fruit develops in summer. Fruit has a sour or bitter flavor so is typically not eaten fresh off of the tree.

Flowering plums have a long tradition of cultivation in China and Japan and are important in Chinese culture.

Grows into a small tree to 15-20’ tall. Sun, Zone 6.

‘Matsubara Red'

Prunus mume 'Matsubara Red'

Dark pink fragrant flowers can appear as early as January and as late as March, depending on weather. Green leaves follow.

Grows 20-25', sun, Z6.