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in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

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Growing Capulin Cherry: Prunus salicifolia

Botanical Overview

Capulin Cherry (Prunus salicifolia), a member of the Rose family and the Prunus genus, is closely related to apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, and almonds. Some nurseries sell a Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium) cultivar named 'Capulin'. That is not the species discussed here.

Description

Form: Semi-deciduous tree with umbrella shape.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen except frost-deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 30' high and 15' wide.
Flowers: Five white petals, conspicuous tuft of stamens, in pendulent clusters.
Bloom: Late winter to early spring. Under favorable conditions, the tree may have a second bloom late summer.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 3 from seed.
Fruit: Round, 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter, deep glossy maroon to dark purple, thin, tender skin. The flesh is pale green, firm, juicy and sweet, with astringency varying by cultivar from none to overmuch, with a large pit. The fruit are bad tasting until very ripe.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-5.
Storage after harvest: The fruit can be refrigerated 4-6 weeks in an uncovered container.
Leaves: Aromatic, slender, serrated edges, deep glossy green above, pale grayish-green beneath. New leaves can be reddish.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Its normal roots are shallow, so it may be grafted onto a more vigorous rootstock.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees. The fruit attracts birds and mammals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts of the plant are poisonous except the ripe fruit.
Origin: Mexico.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 9-10. This tree withstands 19°F with only small branch damage.
Chill hours: None, unusual for a Prunus species.
Heat tolerant: Extra water is needed above 90°F.
Drought tolerant: No.
Sun: Full sun.
Planting: Locate this tree in well draining soil where it will receive full sun above 4000' elevation. It may need afternoon shade at lower elevations. It will do better near a pond or other water source if it is not in a high rainfall area. This tree does not perform well in a container.
Soil: Well drained, low organic content, pH 5.6-6.5 (acidic to slightly acidic). The tree is not salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Apply organic fertilizer late winter.
Water after becoming established: Deep water weekly when fruiting. Abundant water improves the flavor of the fruit.
Mulch: Spread organic mulch inside the drip line and 8" away from the trunk to minimize moisture evaporation and heat stress.
First Year Care: Deep water frequently to develop a strong root system. Protect from frost. Stake carefully to prevent damage from strong winds.
Prune: This tree can be pruned into a fruiting hedge. Remove damaged branches after the danger of freezes is past.
Litter: Low except unharvested fruit and seasonal leaf changeover.
Propagation: Hardwood cuttings. Seed, cold stratified for 3 months. Seed does not breed true and the seedling may not produce quality fruit.
Pests: This tree is less prone to disease than other stone fruit trees, especially sweet cherry.
Uses: Ornamental, edible fruit.

Comments

This plant is popular where it grows naturally in Mexico and South America between 4000 and 9000 feet in elevation. It is considered difficult to establish below those altitudes.

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Prunus salicifolia leaves and fruit

Prunus salicifolia fruit

Prunus salicifolia trunk and bark


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Latest update: June, 2020