Canada plum blooms early
Photo/Illustration: Nancy Rose
NAME: Prunus nigra ‘Princess Kay’
BLOOM TIME: early spring
SIZE: 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide
DESCRIPTION: blooms prolifically at young age
In many regions of the country native plums and cherries (Prunus spp.) are among the earliest woody plants to bloom in the spring. In the North, one of these early bloomers is Canada plum (Prunus nigra). The species itself is rarely used in landscaping, but the double-flowered cultivar ‘Princess Kay’ (Prunus nigra ‘Princess Kay’) makes a lovely specimen for gardens in colder zones.
Blooming in early spring before the leaves emerge, ‘Princess Kay’ is loaded with plump, multipetaled flowers of pearly white blushed with pale pink in the bud stage. Grown as a single-stemmed tree with striking black bark, ‘Princess Kay’ has an oval outline reaching 12 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Other seasonal interest is limited, though it may show some reddish foliage in early fall, and the dark, textured bark provides some winter interest.
This hardy native, discovered growing wild in northern Minnesota, survives frigid USDA Hardiness Zone 2 winters but is not that adaptable to heat; it rarely survives much beyond Zone 6. ‘Princess Kay’ likes full sun and well-drained soil; soggy conditions can kill the plant. Like many other members of the Prunus genus, ‘Princess Kay’ has its share of potential insect and disease problems, including plum pockets and borers. It has a fairly short life span, often declining after 10 to 12 years, though this flaw is offset by its prolific blooming at a very young age. This plant is a guilty pleasure for me, since it doesn’t conform to all the usual landscape plant ideals (disease resistance, year-round interest), but in my garden ‘Princess Kay’ earns its square footage just by providing such a lovely introduction to spring.