Plum Tree

Plum blossoms


There are more than 200 different varieties of fruiting plum trees which can be broken down into 3 main types, European, Japanese and American (sometimes referred to as native). Japanese plums are best for fresh fruit, while European plums are great for jams and prunes and can be eaten fresh. American plums are great for preserves but are too tart to eat fresh unless they are a hybrid with Japanese plums. Non-fruiting or ornamental plums are referred to as Flowering plums.

Plum trees are eligible for a $50 Tree Rebate as long as they’re not dwarf varieties or saplings.

Common Name

Latin Name

Plum trees have deciduous leaves which are simple, alternate, and ovate with serrated edges and a pointed tip. Flowering plums have red leaves all year, while the fruiting plums have green leaves.

Japanese and American plums require cross pollination, while European plums can self-pollinate. Plums have simple, five-petal flowers, which can be white or pink and can cover the entire tree.

Plums can be round, oval, or heart shaped and range from sizes as small as a grape and as large as an apple. Japanese plums are purple, black, red and yellow. American plums are red and yellow. European plums are dark blue, purple, and red.

The twigs and branches of plum trees tend to be weak, and if plum fruit is not thinned out, breakage can occur.

Plum trees have a dark and smooth bark.

Plum trees have a rounded vase shape with a dense canopy.

Plum trees can grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide.

Native Range
Plums have different native regions depending on their variety but their hardiness zones are 5 through 8.

Seasonal Colors
Depending on your variety, plum trees will typically have white or pink blossoms in the spring and bronze or purple foliage in the fall.

Plum trees tolerate most soils but need good drainage

Plum trees prefer full sunlight

Best Cultivars
Shiro (Japanese); Stanley (European); Allred Purple Leaf (American)

Harvesting Time
Japanese plums can be harvested in May through August. American plums can be harvested during midsummer. European plums can be harvested in the fall.

Management Practices
Because of the abundance of the fruit produced by a plum tree, it’s recommended to thin (cut out the fruit when they’re the size of a dime, in order to give 2- to 4-inch spacing between each fruit) for the overall health, branch stability and taste of fruit. Approximately a quarter of the plums may need to be thinned.

Plum trees are susceptible to late frosts, which can kill an early bloom and prevent fruit production. Japanese plums are the earliest bloomers and most susceptible to late frosts. If a late frost is suspected while the tree is beginning to bloom, wrap the tree in burlap or another breathable fabric to protect the blooms.

Plum trees are very susceptible to the female plum cucurlio and brown rot. The cucurli is a 1/4-inch weevil-like insect that can deposit an egg on up to 400 different fruits in a season. The best defense to cucurli is to spray an edible clay/water mixture called Surround on the fruit beginning at bud break. This will create a barrier that prevents the cucurli from laying eggs. Spray once a week for the next month, until the egg laying cycle is over. Helping avoid cucurli damage will also increase the chance of survival against brown rot. Brown rot is a powdery brown fungus covering the fruit just before it ripens. The fungus is airborne and can spread easily from fruit to fruit. Rain and humidity help the brown rot survive. Pruning the inside of the plum tree to allow more sunlight and oxygen to dry out moisture will help to prevent brown rot. Remove any infected fruit as soon as possible. Surround will also help to avoid brown rot if sprayed once a week a few weeks before the ripening period. Plum trees can produce a lot of fallen fruit and will need to be cleaned up as soon as possible to avoid pest problems.

Rebate Eligibility
As long as the plum tree is not a dwarf or a sapling it is eligible for a $50 rebate.

Photo Credits

Changhai Travis
Dendroica cerulea