The attractive, deciduous tree has an upright, spreading habit with a rounded crown, and is a moderate- to fast-grower reaching fifteen to twenty-five feet tall and about fifteen to twenty feet wide. In spring, beautiful cranberry-burgundy foliage emerges with a medium textured, oval leaf arrangement. By fall, the foliage matures to greenish-bronze. It produces pinkish-white springtime blossoms that make a showy appearance before the leaves emerge. After blooming, one-inch purple fruits appear and attract birds and squirrels. The fruit can be used to make an edible jam preserve. Two popular varieties are ‘Thundercloud’ and ‘Atropurpurea’. Use it as a specimen or small shade tree near a deck or patio, or in oriental gardens where its showy foliage, attractive, dark bark and spring flowers provide great contrast against other landscape plants. The species originated in central and eastern Europe, southeast Asia, and central Asia.
The tree enjoys full sun and well-draining soils that are slightly alkaline, and does not do well with compacted soils. It also prefers regular irrigation, and is hardy to zero degrees. Purple leaf plum requires little pruning to develop a strong structure. Apply applications of ammonium phosphate fertilizer in early spring to encourage flowering and fruiting. The tree is highly susceptible to Texas root rot and is usually short-lived.