Canada Red ChokecherryPrunus virginiana 'Canada Red'
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Prunus virginiana 'Canada Red'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Canada Red Chokecherry is a small tree with brightly colored leaves that are red-purple throughout summer and fall. It grows to around 25 feet tall, with a rounded crown and one or several main stems. The leaves are green when new and turn red as they mature. In spring it is decorated by hanging bunches of small white flowers, followed by clusters of purple-black fruits that are attractive to birds. The fruit also makes healthy juices and preserves. This tough tree is perfect for difficult locations, thriving at low temperatures and in heat and drought.
Full sun will give the best leaf color and fruit crops with the Canada Red Chokecherry, although it will tolerate some partial shade. It is hardy everywhere, from zone 2 to zone 10. It grows in all kinds of soils, including rough urban conditions, dry soils, and clays. Avoid sites that are regularly flooded. It generally has no serious pests or diseases, and once established it is drought resistant, thriving with virtually no care.
Up in Canada the weather gets tough, so they need trees that can take it. That’s why the Canada Red Chokecherry exists, because this has got to be the toughest tree around. Able to take the numbing minus 50 of zone 2, and yet reported as growing well in the Mojave desert (admittedly with an occasional drink), this is a tree for all zones and all climates, thriving anywhere except in swamps. You might think such a tough tree wouldn’t look like much, but there you would be wrong. This small rounded tree features vibrant red leaves all season, hanging clusters of white flowers in spring, and black berries in fall, that make great preserves or juices – if the many songbirds that love them don’t get there first. This tree is not the same as the chokeberry, Aronia, which also has black fruits, and has become very popular for healthy juice drinks and preserves. Both plants have large amounts of anthocyanins in their berries.
The Canada Red Chokeberry is a small, rounded deciduous tree with one or more main trunks, growing over 20 feet tall, and possibly reaching 30 feet. The crown spreads a little less, around 15 feet across, or possibly up to 20 feet. The dark-gray bark is smooth, turning rough and scaly as the tree ages. The young stems are reddish-brown, with small horizontal lenticels (areas of rougher bark) typical of Prunus trees, but these disappear as the stems mature. The lustrous leaves of this tree are between 1½ and 3 inches long, rounded with a pointed tip and small serrations along the edges. New leaves in spring, and as the tree grows through the summer, are dark green, but they become very dark purplish-red as they mature. By June the leaves of the tree are almost all red, except for any that are still developing. This striking color remains all summer, even in hot conditions, and into fall as well. This ‘reverse change’ is unique, since most colored leaf trees start red when young, and become greener as they mature.
Between April and June, depending on your local climate, the Canada Red Chokeberry will bloom. The flowering is often profuse and attractive, with hanging bunches of white blooms in clusters. Individual blooms are just ½ inch across, but they are packed in clusters up to 6 inches long, making a great show. The flowers turn into small cherries, at first green and then ripening to dark purplish-black. Berries ripen between July and October, again depending on your local climate.
As their name suggests, chokecherries are not very tasty when eaten raw. Most people find them sour and bitter. But made into juices, cordials and preserves they are tasty and appealing, as well as being rich in anthocyanins, compounds that are believed by some people to protect against serious illnesses and generally stimulate the immune system. They are comparable in many ways to the juice of the chokeberry, Aronia, which has become an important healthy crop. If you don’t harvest your chokecherries, they will look attractive on the tree for a few weeks, before becoming a valuable food for local songbirds, attracting them into your garden.
This is the perfect tree for a smaller garden, and its resistance to urban conditions make it ideal in city gardens. Plant it on a lawn or in a corner, alone or in a cluster of 3 trees for an attractive look. It can be planted as a screen, and even incorporated into a natural garden, since it is derived from a native tree.
The Canada Red Chokecherry is amazingly hardy, surviving in zone 2, but also growing well in hot zones, all the way into zone 10.
Full sun is best for growing the Canada Red Chokecherry, but it will tolerate some partial shade too. It adapts well to almost any kind of soil, from clay to sand and in most types of acid or alkaline soils as well. It is remarkably drought tolerant once established, and it will grow in harsh conditions, and everywhere except in soil that is frequently flooded.
You can trim your tree as it develops to create one central trunk, several trunks, or even maintain it as a large shrub with low branching. Frequent trimming of the branches will reduce flowering and fruiting, so create a good framework and then let it grow naturally. It is normally unaffected by pests or diseases, and a very easy tree to grow anywhere.
The chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is one of several similar trees found across much of North America. It grows wild from Alaska to Newfoundland, and much of the USA, even growing down into parts of Mexico. Native Americans have used the fruit, dried and powdered, as a valuable winter food. In 1943 the nursery of Oscar H. Will, in Bismark, North Dakota, introduced a purple-leaf form of this plant, which is called ‘Schubert’. It has been a popular tree in cold regions ever since then. There is some confusion about the name ‘Canada Red’, but it is possible it originated as an unusual branch on a tree of ‘Schubert’, with leaves that were a little more red and less purplish than on the main tree. Its exact origins are not known.
For hardiness and the ability to survive in difficult conditions, the Canada Red Chokecherry cannot be beaten. It is also handsome, with attractive foliage and flowers, plus valuable fruit for those who love unusual and healthy fruit crops. It always sells quickly, and we will soon have no more available, so order right away.