April 2006
In our yard, this is 'Gregory's Tree'
Gregory checks for unwanted new growth.

Purple Leaf Plum Pages
Plum Journal
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
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Facts at a Glance
Prunus cerasifera - 'Thundercloud'

Planted April 21, 2001
Planting height: 8'
Planting trunk: 1.5"

2006 Update
5-yr height: 18'
5-yr trunk: 15"

Mature Height: 15 to 25'
Spread: 15 to 25'
Growth rate: Medium
Form: Rounded vase
Flowers: Pink
Fall color: No change Hardiness zone: 5 - 8
Culture: Full sun

Best feature:
purple leaves

Worst problem:
pests, messy plums

Do over? No


Gregory's Tree Gets a Visitor

NEW! Measuring the Height of Trees: The Bradleymeter

This is 'Gregory's Tree'

The Beast Is Me

Beauty or the Beast?

Julie: 1, Scales: 0

And You Thought I Was Crazy

Fat Ant Predator: This Makes Me Itch

'Scales Suck' Sounds Rude. But They Do

Tough Love: A Birthday Gift for Miss Plum

Pinch the Suckers


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Thundercloud Purple Leaf Plum


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver


Key identifying feature.. Throughout summer, purple, alternate, ovate leaves with serrated edges.

Common name.. Thundercloud Purple Leaf Plum

Scientific name.. Prunus cerasifera - 'Thundercloud.'

Mature height.. 15 to 25 feet

Mature spread.. 15 to 25 feet

Form.. Rounded vase shape grows to a symmetrical dense canopy. The tree stands out in the landscape through summer because of its purple leaves against a mostly green background and is best used as an accent plant, rather than as a mass planting or in a row of trees.

Fruit.. Purple, one- to three-inch round drupes attract birds, squirrels and other mammals in summer.

Flowers.. Fragrant pale pink to almost white flowers blossom in early spring before the leaves emerge, attracting bees.




Foliage.. Deciduous; purple leaves hold on through the end of fall; the fall color is basically the same as the spring color: purple or deep red, not showy. Leaves are simple, alternate, ovate with serrated edges.

Growth rate.. Officially: medium, 1 to 2 feet a year, but my tree has grown at a fast rate, more than 2 feet a year.

Hardiness zones.. 5 through 8

Culture.. Prefers full sun for the desired purple leaf effect as a focal point tree. When grown in shade, the leaves will pale to nearly green. Tolerates many different soil types, but the planting site should be well-drained.

Of special note.. Besides attracting bees, the plum trees are susceptible to aphids, borers, tent caterpillars, scales (see photograph below), mealy bugs and other pests. Also, a young tree tends to droop during a heavy rain and until the leaves dry. Sometimes the drooping is so bad, the tree "trains" itself to droop even when dry, causing an undesired weeping effect in the landscape that can only be corrected with pruning to alleviate the heaviest of branches. This tree is also reported to be short-lived, beginning to decline after only 10 or 15 years. In other words, this is not exactly a problem-free, easy maintenance tree!

Click the picture for the blog post about scales.

Julie's Comments.. (June 2004) This tree is a prime example of how an inexperienced tree grower gains useful knowledge about a tree after the fact. I desired this species simply because a mature one lives in a yard down the street and I often admired its purple beauty and beckoning shade as I walked by. I knew I wanted to plant a tree in honor of the newest member of our family, Gregory, and I planned for the new tree to be located next to the patio to provide shade for the tree house. But I didn't have a particular species in mind. Then one day I was walking around the garden section of Lowe's and there she was, my new purple leaf plum.

.. Bradley took one look at her too, and said, "This is the one, mom." Bottom line: never judge a tree on beauty alone. The fact that I planted this tree next to the kids' play area and that it attracts bees, well, suffice to say that kids and bees don't mix. On top of that, the drooping problem I mentioned in the "Of Special Note" section above has been more than a nuisance. I keep hoping that the tree just needs to gain some girth to be sturdy enough to shake off the rain. In the meantime, I can only imagine the worst should an ice storm come our way. On the other hand, my tree has not yet produced any fruit, so at least that hasn't been a problem. If it does start to produce fruit and drops a mess next to the tree house, I'm going to have serious words with young Miss Plum!

Julie's Comments UPDATE.. (May 27, 2005) Bradley came down from the treehouse today holding a little round purple thingy. "Mom," he said, handing it to me. "What's this?" What I want to know is, why didn't the tree tag include something about this being a messy, bee-attracting tree?


.....Hmmm . . . .. five fruitless years was not long enough.

Planting date.. April 2001. Gregory was 6 months old when this plum was planted in his honor from a 4-gallon container on Arbor Day. My older son, Bradley, stayed home from school for the big event, considering the day of planting a tree for his little brother a grand holiday of dirt digging and donuts. In fact, I'm not sure which was more special to him: planting the tree or the trip to Dunkin Donuts for a special treat. (When Bradley reminisces about planting day, he always points out how much he enjoyed the donut excursion.) At planting time, the tree was about eight feet tall and had a 1.5-inch trunk. I don't have any pictures from planting day because I was just trying to get the darn tree in the hole before the baby woke up!

DO OVER?.. No, I would not plant this specimen again in my current yard. But I would admire its beauty in somebody's else's yard!


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