How to grow a plum tree

How to grow a plum tree

Juicy treasures from compact trees

Plum trees thrive when planted in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil and will reward you with a magical show of deep pink to white blossoms in spring as well as sweet-tasting, juicy fruit in summer or autumn.

European plum trees are well-shaped trees with dark shiny bark and can grow as tall as 6 meters. The dwarf varieties, which are a bit harder to find reach only 2-3 meters. Usually the European plum doesn’t need cross-polination, but seem to produce more plums when another is nearby.

There are many varieties of European plums which are delicious to eat straight from the tree or cooked. These include: Greengage, Brooks, Mt Royal, President, Reine Claude and Golden Drop. The tree is well suited to colder regions and the fruit is sweet with a beautiful assortment of skin and flesh color. The skin color ranging from yellow-green to purple-black to blue black and the flesh ranging from yellow to amber to red.

There is also the prune plum which is another form of European plum. The fruit’s sugar content is very high which makes it ideal for drying, thus the prune. But it is still delicious eaten fresh or cooked.


Step 1

Preparing the tree

Soak the roots of the bare-root tree overnight in a tub of water prior to planting. Dig a hole in a sunny location with good air circulation twice as big as its root system reserving the soil by piling it up beside the hole.

Step 2

Preparing the soil

A plum trees thrive in well-drained soil, mix one part compost with two parts soil then add one cup of granular fertilizer. Make a small mound in the center of the hole with the prepared soil mix and place the bare-root tree in the hole on top of the mound. Splay the roots our nicely and make sure the tree is in the hole at the same depth as it grew in the nursery. Back fill with the soil mix.

Step 3

Finish off the planting hole

When you have finished filling the hole with the prepared soil mix, create a basin around the hole edge to catch water around the tree trunk. Water the tree, soaking the ground thoroughly.

Step 4

Prune the branches

Once planted prune all the branches by one-third. Mulch with a generous amount of shredded bark in a two foot (60cm) radius around the tree trunk being careful not to have the mulch touching the trunk. Further prunings can be carried out annually in late winter to early spring to encourage larger fruit. Remove any thick, damaged or old limbs. Cut the branches right back to another limb or the main trunk, leaving no stubs to rot. Then fertilize and mulch well.

Step 5

Spring maintenance

In spring, before growth starts, spray with dormant oil to kill any insects. After the petals have fallen apply an insecticide. Fruit borers can sometimes be a problem attacking where the branches join the tree. Remove any webbing and look for borer holes. Poke the hole with wire and inject a few drops of kerosene to kill the insect.

Step 6

Summer maintenance

In early summer, thin the tiny fruits so they are 4 inches (10cm) apart. Use an all-purpose organic garden spray to control brown rot and leaf spot, if needed.

Step 7

Autumn maintenance

You may need to protect the fruit from bird damage. This can be done by covering the tree with netting or hanging noisemakers in the tree. Do not allow the fallen fruit to rot on the ground. Rake it up and remove it.

Things Needed
• Gardening gloves
• Spade
• Secateurs
• Bareroot plum tree
• Granular fertilizer
• Compost
• Mulch
• White oil
• Insecticide
• Kerosene
• Netting

Tips & Warnings
• Purchase bareroot plum trees that are two-year old or older in early autumn.
• Avoid trees less that one year old as they will not bare fruit for several years.
• Harvest fruit when slightly soft to touch.
• If plum skins crack while still on the tree, it is probably caused from sporadic watering. Avoid this by watering regularly during a dry spell and easing off after rainy periods.
• For a crop of large fruit, pinch off developing plums so they are no closer than 4 inches (10cm) apart on the same branch.
• Plum trees are ideal candidates for espaliers, but if planted against a wall they will need extra watering.
• Annual pruning and thinning of young fruits will prevent overbearing and promote good annual yeilds.


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