Alternatives to Prunus in the Nursery and Landscape

In 1999, a new viral disease of Prunus was discovered in portions of Adams and Cumberland Counties, Pennsylvania. The disease, called plum pox or sharka, is widespread in stone fruit growing areas of Europe, and causes major economic damage. A successful effort was launched to eradicate this pest from Pennsylvania, so that our stone fruit and nursery industries would not face long-term loss in profitability from this virus. Landscape nurseries and home gardeners can help prevent the re-entry of plum pox virus by planting alternatives to Prunus in their landscapes.

This list of alternatives to Prunus is not an exhaustive list - you or your nursery stock supplier may have other good suggestions for alternatives to Prunus.

Prunus as a landscape plant is generally used for the foliage and flower display, and ranges from shrubs to small trees. As a rule, Prunus is not considered to be a long-lived landscape plant under most conditions and there are a variety of plants better suited for landscape situations.

Most plants on this "alternative" list will offer much more than Prunus in flower quality, summer foliage, and fall leaf and fruit color. Using the following plant materials instead of Prunus will introduce additional variety and seasonal color into the landscape.

Scientific Name Common Name Some Suggested Cultivars
Aesculus x carnea Red horse chestnut 'Briotii'
Amelanchier spp. Serviceberry  
Betula pendula European white birch 'Youngii'
Carpinus caroliniana American hornbeam  
Carpinus japonica Japanese hornbeam  
Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura tree 'pendulum'
Cercis canadensis Eastern redbud 'Alba', 'Forest pansy'
Chaenomeles japonica Japanese flowering quince  
Chionanthus virginicus Fringe tree  
Clethra alnifolia Summersweet Clethra pink cultivars
Cornus spp. Dogwood  
Cotinus spp. Smoke tree 'Royal purple'
Crataegus spp. Hawthorn  
Halesia tetraptera Carolina silverbell  
Hamamelis x intermedia Witch hazel 'Arnold Promise'
Koelreuteria paniculata Golden-rain tree  
Magnolia spp. Magnolia  
Malus cultivars Flowering Crabapple  
Ostrya virginiana American hop hornbeam  
Oxydendrum arboreum Sourwood  
Parrotia persica Persian parrotia  
Photinia villosa Oriental photinia  
Rhus aromatica Fragrant sumac 'Gro-low'
Sorbus aucuparia European mountain ash  
Stewartia pseudocamellia Japanese stewartia  
Syringa spp. Lilac  
Virburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk'  
Viburnum carlesii Koreanspice virburnum 'Cayuga'
Viburnum dilatatum Linden virburnum 'Erie', 'Iroquois'
Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Doublefile virburnum 'Shasta', 'Shoshoni'
Weigela spp. Weigela  

List compiled by:

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
The Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association
The Pennsylvania State University