Prunus vs. Cercis

Want to Love Your Parkway? Exchange Cherry Plum for Western Redbud

Updated February 2022. By JT Wilkinson: More than money grows on trees. Love does too! The beautiful, ever-evolving heart shaped leaves of Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) can squeeze into tight spaces and expand your love for LA. The petite, blooming tree makes a great exchange for Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera).


Cherry Plum (Prunus Cerasifera)

Famed for its distinctive look – deep purple leaves and white spring blooms – Cherry Plum is often seen in parkways and patio containers. While it can squeeze into tight spaces, it may put the squeeze right back on you – and California. We consider him to be a heartbreaker, as he:

  • Gets fussy. Plum will need supplemental watering and nutrients to survive LA’s low-nutrient soils.
  • Makes a mess. Cherry Plum fruit may attract some berry-eating birds, but it litters hardscapes with sticky falling berries – it’s a real maintenance nightmare.
  • Hosts pests. Among others, scale and aphids enjoy Cherry Plum a little too much their home.



Western Redbud (Cercis Occidentalis)

Like the Plum amplified, Western Redbud evolves in every season to recapture hearts. In winter, his delicate yet sturdy branches let the sun shine through to warm your garden. Before long, they fill with candy pink blooms. As spring brings warmth, Redbud shows his appreciation with nearly translucent, lime-colored, heart-shaped leaves. Just as you get used to this charm and start to want a little more shade, Redbud deepens the opacity and green of his leaves to cool the summer breeze.

As the year ages, Redbud’s heart shaped leaves turn golden, bright red, rust and mahogany. If you thought you loved him in spring, just wait until his red hearts flutter and fly on fall winds or catch the rain for you.
It’s easy to focus on Western Redbud’s good looks, but he is also an incredible provider. He:

  • Hosts love nests. Western Redbud attracts birds, bees and other beneficials.
  • Is flexible. He tolerates drought and poor soils – and he can be pruned to take the shape of a shrub or small shade tree.
  • Will feed LA! Hummingbirds and bees love to drink from those delightful candy-pink blooms – humans find them to be crunchy and delicious too!

If you exchange a Cherry Plum for a Western Redbud, it may be worth creating an understory to love as well. We like plants that enjoy a little shade, add texture and complement Redbud’s extraordinary shifts in color. Alumroot (left), Spreading Rush, and Beach Strawberry make great Redbud companions.

For inspiration, visit The Forbes Mountain Retreat (Garden 15) on the 2022 Native Plant Garden Tour Saturday April 23rd or the Santa Monica Conservancy’s Preservation Resource Center.

More Information

  • Cal-IPC: Cherry Plum (Invasive Species) Profile
  • UC Davis: Cherry Plum Weed Management Strategies
  • Theodore Payne Foundation: Buy Western Redbud
  • FormLA Landscaping: Grow Money on Trees
  • FormLA Pinterest: LA Native Parkway Trees
  • FormLA Landscaping: More Plant Exchanges