Plum trees are magnificent from spring to fall, and offer abundant harvests of plums.
Main Plum tree facts
Height – 16 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich enough
Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – March-April
Harvest – July to September
Planting, pruning and care are important to avoid diseases and ensure that your plum trees develop well.
- Plum – health benefits and therapeutic properties of plums
- Plum – history, cultivation and how to cook them
Planting a plum tree
Favor planting in fall or in spring but avoid freezing temperatures.
Remember that for all fruit trees, the best period for planting is fall, because this season has the highest success rate for root development in spring.
- Plum trees prefer locations with a rather high exposure to sunlight to give good plums.
- Think ahead: your plum tree will grow to its adult size within a few years, and it needs space to grow.
- Over the first weeks, water regularly as long as it doesn’t freeze.
- It’s better to water during the day, since nights tend to be much cooler.
- To ensure good development for your plum tree, refer to our guidelines for planting.
Pruning a plum tree
For a plum tree, pruning fulfills two functions: caring for the tree itself, and enhancing fruit harvest.
General pruning principles
It’s recommended to prune only what is strictly necessary because plum trees are delicate and wounds make it vulnerable to diseases.
After each cut, apply pruning paste like pine tar to protect the wood from fungus and other diseases.
Nonetheless, you may perform directional pruning in the first year to shape the structure of the tree.
- Directional pruning is performed in winter but not during freezing weather.
- The goal here is to thin out the shoots from the trunk to end up with 3 or 4 main branches facing outwards.
- Like all pit trees, especially the cherry tree, pruning is performed at the end of the summer or in the beginning of fall.
After having harvested the plums
Maintenance pruning is performed in winter but not during freezing weather.
- Once you have harvested the plums, remove dead wood and fragile branches.
- Remove fruits that haven’t fallen from the tree – they are often diseased – and destroy them.
- Also, remove suckers, which are those shoots that emerge at the base of the tree. These suckers draw sap from the tree and will not produce any fruits.
After pruning, using pruning paste helps avoid infection due to fungus and diseases.
Diseases and parasites that attack plum trees
Plum trees, like most fruit trees, are vulnerable to multiple diseases and parasites.
Again, aphids are the plum tree’s most common enemy. Here is how to fight aphids efficiently.
As a deterrent, several organic treatments are available such as spraying fermented stinging nettle tea or fermented horsetail tea since both help reinforce the plum tree’s defense mechanisms and avoid certain types of fungus.
- Here is how to react in case of rotting fruit on the tree.
- Here is how to react in case of yellowing leaves that take on deep yellow or red-orange hues before falling off.
Harvesting and keeping plums
When purchasing plum trees, try to select varieties that are adapted to your local climate. This will guarantee that you will have a great harvest at the right time.
It is important to not let the fruit ripen for too long on the tree because it starts rotting and falls to the ground.
- The earliest plum varieties can be harvested at the beginning of summer. Among them is the Golden Japan, which many love for its delicious yellow flesh.
- Mid-early plums are harvested in August. Among these is the famed ‘True Reine-Claude’ greengage variety.
- Mid-late plums and late plums are harvested at the end of the summer. Within this group is the ‘Reine-Claude de Bavay’ greengage variety.
Sadly, it is very difficult to keep plums for very long. That’s why it is often recommended to eat them quickly.
- Shelf-life can be slightly extended by keeping the fruits in the refrigerator.
- Avoid handling them too much and don’t stack them since plums are very fragile.
Learn more about plum trees
Plum trees are fruit trees, and their fruits are both eaten fresh as plums or preserved in various manners such as jams, liquor, pastries or simply desiccated as dried prunes are, a specialty in the French region of Agen.
Plum trees are also grown as ornamental plants since their blooming is generous at the beginning of spring and their foliage stays appealing until the leaves fall off.
Fruit-bearing will be greatly enhanced if manure is added at the base of the tree in fall, and if fruit tree fertilizer is added in spring.
Which plum variety produces nice fruits
All plum trees, be they ‘Mirabelles’, ‘Damsons’, ‘Valor’, ‘Miraclaude’ or ‘Thames Cross’, give fleshy fruits with high vitamin C, calcium, and mineral content.
Yellow-orange ‘Mirabelles‘ stand out from blue-colored ‘Damsons‘. These varieties are often cooked for dessert.
The plum used to prepare the famed Agen dried prune is the ‘Prune d’Ente‘.
Mix different varieties in order to enhance pollination and hence productivity. This is called cross-pollination.
If you only plant one plum tree, choose a self-pollinating variety such as ‘Prune d’Ente’, ‘Mirabelles’ or ‘Damsons’.
Smart tip about plum trees
Mulch the foot of the trunk to avoid weeds, protect roots from the cold during winter and retain moisture in the summer.
Read more about insects and diseases that attack plum trees:
- Rust – brownish-orange lesions appear on the underside of leaves.
- Aphids – leaves lose their original color and curl themselves into tube shapes.
- Scab – brown spots appear on fruits and leaves.
- European brown rot – plums rot while still on the tree.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Violet plums by Del Green under Pixabay license
Green plums by Hans Benn under Pixabay license
Yellow plums by Pavlo under Pixabay license