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PRUNUS besseyi

Image of Prunus besseyi

JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University



Botanical Name

PRUNUS besseyi

Plant Common Name

Bessey's Cherry, Sand Cherry

General Description

Sand cherry gets high marks for its good looks, tough constitution, and delicious fruits which are relished by humans and wildlife alike. It produces a medium sized, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub, whose branches are densely laden with finger-length, silvery-green, shiny, serrated leaves which turn bright red in the fall. Its woody stems are covered with reddish-brown bark, which darkens to gray as it ages. In late spring, sand cherry bursts into a cloud of white flowers, followed by a crop of small, tart cherries, which are edible and excellent for use in pies and jams. The plants also provide food and nesting shelter for many kinds of birds, who relish the tasty fruits and seeds.

Native to sandy soils and sunny, exposed sites of northern Colorado and the western plains of North America, sand cherry can stand up to harsh environmental conditions. It is adapted to withstand the buildup of windblown sand, which collects around the base of the plants without risk of crown rot. These hardy plants should be grown in full to part sun and well-drained soil. They grow more quickly with some supplemental water, but are not suitable for poorly-drained, clay soils. Once established little care or additional water is needed.

While this species has remained relatively unused in the past, recent breeding has produced sand cherry varieties with improved ornamental attributes. These include ‘Select Spreader’, which features a broad, horizontal habit, and ‘Pawnee Buttes’, a low-growing, groundcover form. All are beautiful, low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly, waterwise choices for sustainable landscapes and gardens.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 8

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    4'-5' / 1.2m - 1.5m

  • Width

    5'-6' / 1.5m - 1.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    Western United States

Growing Conditions

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


Special Characteristics