Growing plum trees is one of the simplest fruits to cultivate. It takes less effort to grow plums than apples or cherries. Additionally, numerous varieties of plums adapt to a wide range of conditions, so there is probably one that will flourish in your area.
They provide a plentiful harvest even on tiny trees since they are resilient and productive. Let’s not forget growing plum trees give you beautiful blossoms in the spring. They have all white and pink blossoms!
Like apricots and peaches, plums are stone fruits commonly referred to as drupes. They taste well straight from the tree, in savory dishes, or baked into desserts.
I recommend growing a variety of trees on your homestead. You can find a full list of my recommendations here!
Different Varieties of Plums
European plums thrive in many soil types, including dense clay. They have an oval shape and tender, delicious flesh. They are popular for use in preserves and for eating fresh. The European is probably one of the most popular for growing plum trees.
Sadly, they aren’t as resistant to low temperatures as hybrid kinds. Additionally, European plums don’t live as long as other varieties. The good news is that they are resistant to fungi, black knots, and brown rot. In zones 4 to 8, they thrive.
Self-fertile plums are grown in Europe. But growing a different type can increase pollination rates and provide more harvest windows. Observe the following types:
- Stanley: The most well-known of the European types is perhaps Stanley. It is a versatile plum that tastes great, both fresh and canned. They are medium-to-large oval fruits with wonderfully sweet yellow flesh. The plum that is normally dried and turned into prunes is this one. The highly productive Stanley tree often begins giving fruit in three years.
- Green Gage: Because this delicious plum is the queen of sweets, Green Gage is the best variety if you want to prepare plum pudding and preserves. The semi-freestone greengage, also known as Reine Claude, has skin that is yellow-green in color. Over 500 years ago, Armenia was the origin of this style. It doesn’t last as long as some others.
Japanese plums are spherical. They are widely used in savory cuisine. The Japanese plum thrives where peaches do, even though it is not as cold tolerant as some other types. The Japanese plum is the most savory kind for growing plum trees.
- Methley: Of all the Japanese kinds, Methley is arguably the most well-known. Its upright, compact shape makes it the ideal tree for small yards. The height of a dwarf is 8 to 10 feet. Medium-sized Methley fruits are excellent for eating fresh since they have delicious crimson flesh. It thrives in zones 6 through 9.
- Shiro Plum: Shiro plums have wonderful golden hues contrasting beautifully with their olive-green leaves. They are susceptible to cold yet very productive. Zones 6 to 9 are the greatest for them.
- South Dakota: The South Dakota plum tree is one of my favorites. Mine is a lovely, sturdy, productive tree that is only six years old. Despite the fruit’s modest size, it has an outstanding flavor. The flesh is rich and sweet, with a yellow/red tinge to the skin. It’s a true freestone, making things simple during canning season because the flesh doesn’t adhere to the pit. Its lengthy bloom period makes it an effective pollinator of other hybrid plums. Plums thrive in zones 3 through 8.
- Pipestone: Another great and resilient kind is pipestone. The flesh has a deep yellow tint with beautiful red skin. Your family will enjoy the great fresh eating flavor of this clingstone.
- Bruce: This tree was a little sapling that I purchased from Tractor Supply during the year-end sales, and I’m pleased I did. It provides slightly acidic juicy fruit, which is great for producing jam.
American plums, sometimes known as wild plums, are found naturally in wooded areas throughout the country. They do a great job of pollinating hybrid plums. Additionally, they are exceedingly hardy and flourish all over the American continent.
The American plum is a superb pollinator and a stunning ornamental tree with brilliant white blooms in the spring and vibrant red fall leaves. I recommend the American plum for anyone that is growing plum trees for the pollination benefits!
Although certain plums will grow in a wide range, plums typically thrive in zones 3–10.
Requirements for Sun
Plums require a place that receives full sun for 6 to 8 hours daily.
Requirements for Soil
Loamy, sandy soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is what plums need. The ideal soil for plums is fertile and well-drained. However, plums are fairly tolerant. Before planting, incorporate some compost.
It’s vital to get a young tree off to a great start.
Dwarf trees should be spaced 10–20 feet apart, and semi-dwarf trees should be spaced 15 feet apart. Standard trees require 20 to 25 feet of space. Trees should not be planted more than 50 feet apart to allow cross-pollination.
For better pollination and yield, Fedco advises establishing a group of plum trees, which works very well for hybrid and American kinds. When you plant trees in a cluster, you place them closer than usual. Plant trees in a group 3 to 6 feet apart so that their branches contact. Additionally, plant one American plum for every four hybrid plums to maximize your harvest.
Establishing Plum Trees
Plums grow best in a protected area with south or southwest-facing exposure.
Remember to consider the graft while planting. Most fruit trees you buy will be grafted, whether balled and burlapped or bare roots. On the bark, the graft union will appear as a hump. Your tree should be planted with the graft union a good inch above the soil line.
With plums, pollination is crucial. Verify that the kinds you are planting are compatible by looking at their bloom times. A helpful pollination chart can be found at Washington State University.
Bees are a tremendous asset when it comes to plums. If you don’t maintain bees, you can still attract native bees to your orchard by offering them a place to live and a small water dish.
Caring for Plums
Fertilizing Your Plums
Plums benefit from fertilization since they require a lot of nitrogen. In the fall, I surrounded my trees with a substantial layer of organic compost. I apply the fish emulsion on freshly emerging leaves in the spring.
Growth is a good indicator of a tree’s health. During the growing season, a young plum tree should add 3–4 inches of new green growth each year.
I highly recommend using this fertilizer stick that you can put near any fruit tree! It will slowly release nutrients into the ground for your trees… and you’ll get more plums!
Your plums need around an inch of water every week for their first two seasons. Give them a good washing with the hose if mother nature doesn’t grant you that. Deep irrigation around every ten days is preferable to frequent, superficial waterings.
Pruning encourages your tree’s growth and shapes it to improve fruit yield.
European plums are upright trees that are pruned with the central leader technique. A central leader will resemble a pyramid with one sturdy trunk rising in the middle. Encourage lateral branches to grow off the sides by pruning.
Pruning Japanese plumes should resemble a vase. Choose three main limbs to help the scaffold take on a full upright structure.
Set up a regular organic spraying regimen for your plum trees, with a minimum of three sprays per year. Spraying is frequently done in the spring when the buds first appear, late winter when the plants are dormant, and summer when the fruit is developing. Neem-based sprays, Surround, and Spinosad is a few top-notch organic sprays.
Common Problems with Growing Plums
Crown gall, which affects many fruit plants, is brought on by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. You’ll see galls on the tree roots and crown resembling warts. By restricting the tree’s access to water and nutrients, these galls can inhibit growth.
The easiest technique to stop gall from taking hold is to handle your plums with extreme caution because the disease enters the tree through wounds in the tree.
You’ll observe limb dieback and cankers on your tree in the spring when bacterial canker often manifests. A sap with an amber hue may also be seen. It is spread by water and is most prevalent in garden areas where water collects.
Maintaining the health of trees is crucial since these bacteria prefer to attack stressed trees. Maintain proper nutrition and water for your tree, and keep nematodes under control.
The general term for various fungi that attack the fruit and leaves of developing plums is powdery mildew. In the spring, you’ll notice patches of powdery white fungal growth on fruit; in the summer, it’ll spread to the leaves.
To suppress it, a fungicide should be sprayed on trees during the flowering period. It is too late to remedy mildew if you discover it in the spring or summer after the blossoms have withered, so get ready to fight it the following year.
Powdery mildew is the target of various fungicides. Neem oil is a different option. Neem is effective as a fungicide and insecticide and boasts a tree’s natural defenses.
This tiny, brownish-gray insect does a lot of harm. Inside the plum, adults lay their eggs. The eggs burrow inside the fruit after hatching. The plums frequently fall prematurely off the tree as a result of this.
Surround can be used to manage the plum curculio. Place large pieces of cardboard under your plum trees to make the pupae more uniform. To serve as a repellant, grow garlic close to the tree.
The use of surround (kaolin clay), which guards against other pests and plum curculio, is highly recommended. The surround gives the bark and foliage a layer of protection.
The black knot resembles a disgusting clump of black chewing gum spewed out upon your tree. These rough growths encircle the branches, obstruct fluid movement, and even cause the tree to die.
Make careful to buy disease-free stock as your first line of defense. As soon as the buds open and the time the petals fall, spray trees with a fungicide. The most effective method for controlling black knots is copper sprays.
All stone fruits are susceptible to the fungal disease known as brown rot. Brown rot affects the fruit instead of the tree’s growth like black rot. Developing fruit results in rotten areas that appear brown and moldy.
Regularly check your trees, and cut off any infected branches. Prune your trees well to improve air circulation. If these steps fail, spray trees with a fungicide.
Brown caterpillars with brown heads known as borer tunnel into trees, frequently at the crotch. A thick sap that will emerge from the tree will make you aware of its presence.
Apply a targeted insecticide to the trees near the entrance. Throughout the growing season, this should be done numerous more times.
The different leaf roller types can be categorized into single-generation and two-generation types. They are various shades of brown. The green larvae roll and knot together plum leaves to make a shelter. The fruits and leaves serve as food for the larvae.
Encourage predators like spiders and parasitic wasps, hand pluck any rolled leaves, and use neem oil or a kaolin spray to control them.
The main component of Monterey Garden Spray, Spinosad, is also effective at getting rid of fruit-eating caterpillars and moths.
This medium-sized beetle has orange legs and is light green to brown in color. From May to June, they consume plum trees, after which they lay eggs. It’s important to remember that while rose chafers might not harm your plum tree, the toxin they exude might be fatal to your hens or other nearby birds.
Pick out the beetles by hand and submerge them in soapy water if you only have a minor infestation. Trees should be pyrethrin-sprayed if there is a significant infestation.
Most stone fruits are susceptible to scab, a fungus that causes patchy fungal spots. Stunted, distorted, and cracked fruits might result from severe infestations. Pruning plants well to encourage air circulation, removing any damaged twigs, and watering trees at the base will help keep this insect under control. Because you can wash or peel the fruit, a minor infestation is not a major concern. If you get a severe infestation, you might want to use a fungicide.
Companion Trees for Plums
If you surround your plum trees with lavender plants, you can help keep the fruit-eating plum moths and other worm pests away. When growing plum trees, they will be more secure with a companion plant.
Comfrey is also a wise choice when growing plums. The plum’s lengthy tap root extracts the nutrients it requires from the ground and makes them available to the plant. Additionally, the flowers draw pollinators.
Plant plums alongside:
Don’t plant plums with:
- Walnut black
- White pine
Growing plum trees isn’t just about nurturing the fruit! By evaluating the hardness and flavor of your plums, you may determine when they are ready to be harvested. Give the plums a taste test if they feel a little soft. They are prepared if they are sweet.
Depending on the kind, you can also keep an eye on the plums’ hue. After your first season, this might be simpler after you’ve had a chance to feel the end color.
Not all of the fruit will ripen at once. Throughout the growing season, you must check on the development of each fruit every few days.
Plums can be kept in the fridge for up to a week or on the counter for a few days. Also possible is freezing fresh plums.
Cooking with Plums
There are a variety of tasty recipes you can cook with plums. Ever attempt to make fruit leather? Plum crisp is especially beloved by my family. The jam provides a good tart filling, and plum glaze is excellent for meats. Plum jam is especially delicious and a practical method to finish off a plentiful fruit.
What is your preferred method of eating plums?
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