If you love the juicy sweetness of plums, and the plum season doesn’t last nearly long enough for you, consider growing your own. When you couple the beauty of a plum tree with the delicious, healthy produce, you’ve got an all around win. And speaking of health, plums are chock full of nutrients. From fiber and antioxidants to Vitamin C, plums are an easy to grow super-food.
Plums are available in European and Japanese varieties. European varieties are generally freestone which means the flesh of the plum isn’t adhered to the pit. No one is certain where the European varieties originated, but they most likely appeared on the scene from Asia. The French are credited with ultimately introducing plum trees to North America.
Japanese varieties are clingstone, so the flesh is often firmly attached to the seed. Japanese varieties probably originated in an area of Asia near the Caspian Sea. Japanese plum trees are similar in size and shape to European trees.
The fruits of both European and Japanese varieties range in size, shape, color and flavor. They are delicious when eaten fresh. European varieties are sweeter and perfect for freezing, drying (prunes), and canning. Japanese variety plums make yummy jams and jellies.
European varieties are hardy throughout most of the United States. Japanese varieties grow more successfully in warmer regions where other fruit trees, like peach trees, grow. There are newer American varieties developed in the U.S. that are suited for other colder and more northerly regions, too.
How to Grow and Care for Plums
Once you’ve decided you have to grow plums of your very own, you’ll want to grow more than one tree. A few varieties of plum trees don’t require cross-pollination, but most do. All varieties will flourish in full sun. Plum trees love well drained soil, too. Provide a sunny location with loamy soil for a happy plum tree.
To plant your tree, dig a hole a few inches deeper and wider than the root ball. Use clean shears to cut any roots that have circled around the root ball. Center the root ball in the hole, and gently tug the roots outward before filling around the root ball with soil.
Water your new tree heavily throughout its first growing season to encourage the roots to develop deeply. After the first year, water your tree regularly at the base of the tree. And make sure your tree has plenty of room to mature. Space your trees about 25 feet apart. If you plant dwarf variety trees, allow them about 15 feet of space.
After the first year of fruit production, feed your trees with an organic fertilizer specially formulated for fruit trees. Ease off the feedings during the late fall and winter to discourage premature budding in the early spring.
Pick your plums when they are at their tastiest. Allow them to ripen on the tree. Gently squeeze your plums to test for softness. Ripe plums will be easy to twist off their branch.
Plum Pests, Diseases and Problems
As with all fruit trees, plum trees are susceptible to pests and fungal and bacterial infections. Consider preventative fungicides and insecticides to protect your tree before disease sets in. If infection occurs, try your best to identify the particular pest or problem your tree is fighting. Contact your local extension agency or nursery for specific formulas to treat the problem.
For optimal fruit production, place your fruit tree in a sheltered location out of the wind. Protect your tree from frosts when it has blossomed. If you’re faced with freezing temperatures and you’ve got a tree loaded with blossoms, string large bulb Christmas light strands throughout your tree to boost the temperatures around your blossoms a couple of degrees.
Plum Varieties to Consider
A European variety ‘Stanley’ is a hardy variety that can be grown throughout most of the cold, northerly regions in the U.S. It works as a stand-alone tree that does not require cross pollination that makes it a great choice for a home gardener. The plums from are delicious fresh and canned.
For a delicious Japanese variety try ‘Satsuma.’ ‘Satsuma’ produces large deep-colored fruit perfect for canning and eating fresh.
An American variety that combines the hardiness of the European varieties with the flavor of Japanese varieties is ‘Superior.’ ‘Superior’ is a great variety to plant in extreme locations.
Want to learn more about growing plums?
Check out these helpful resources:
The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips (Amazon affiliate link)
When plums are plum plentiful from University of Missouri Extension
Fruit Cultivars for Home Plantings
Please note that links to Amazon from Gardening Channel are affiliate links.