Bark is often an overlooked feature of trees, but you certainly won't miss the stunning bark of Amur chokecherry. This ornamental tree's smooth, copper-colored bark has a burnished sheen that's especially noticeable in winter. Amur chokecherry is pretty in spring, too, when its 2- to 3-inch racemes of small white flowers burst into bloom. The small black fruits that follow in midsummer are readily gobbled up by birds. Amur chokecherry is amazingly hardy and grows best in cooler zones.
Common name: Amur chokecherry
Botanical name: Prunus maackii
Plant type: Small to medium deciduous tree
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: 20 to 30 feet
Family: Rosaceae, rose family
- Sun: Full sun.
- Soil: Average, well-drained soil.
- Moisture: Provide water during dry spells but don't overwater.
- Mulch: Apply 2 to 4 inches of coarse organic mulch such as wood chips or bark nuggets in a wide circle around the base of the tree, leaving a few inches of space between the trunk and the mulch.
- Pruning: Prune out dead, broken, or rubbing branches. Amur chokecherry often develops multiple leaders (main upright branches) and may require pruning to thin the crown and improve form.
- Fertilizer: Apply a balanced fertilizer once per year or as needed.
- Sow seeds in outdoor seedbeds in the fall. Seedlings should emerge in the spring.
- Root softwood cuttings taken in early to midsummer.
- Pests and diseases
- Trunk borers can damage trees, especially those already stressed by poor environmental conditions such as drought or soggy soils.
- Aphids and caterpillars are occasional pests.
- Crown and root rots can develop in poorly drained soils.
- Plant Amur chokecherry where it can be seen from indoors so you can admire its beautiful bark in winter.
- Combine with other small ornamental trees such as flowering crabapples, redbuds, dogwoods, and Japanese tree lilac for multi-season interest.
- Amur chokecherry is prone to developing girdling roots, which may eventually kill the tree. To help avoid this problem, untangle crossing roots and carefully spread them out when planting the tree. Make sure the tree is not planted too deeply (the first roots should be just at ground level), since deep planting can increase girdling root problems.
All in the family
- Amur chokecherry is one of the hardiest ornamental Prunus. The name Amur comes from the Amur River, which divides Siberia and Manchuria in northeast Asia. Other hardy plants from the Amur River region include Amur maple (Acer ginnala) and Amur corktree (Phellodendron amurense).
- More than 200 species of Prunus (both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs) are used as ornamentals and fruit-producing plants.
(Text by Nancy Rose, photo by Eric Agneessens)