How to Care for American Plum

plums image by rosevits


Ripe, juicy plums are a delicious snack right off the tree. You can also dry plums, and make jams and jellies or fruit leather. The tree adds beauty to your landscaping with its bountiful white blossoms in the spring. These short, gnarled trees will produce more fruit than you can eat when properly cared for; be prepared to dry or preserve the fruit.

Step 1

Plant plum trees in areas where they will receive plenty of full sunlight. Plums do not do well in shady areas. Space trees at least 20 feet apart when planting to allow for growth and plenty of sun exposure.

Step 2

Plant more than one plum tree. While many varieties are self-fertile, trees will produce more fruit when accompanied by others for cross-pollination.

Step 3

Ensure that the soil is well-drained and that the plum tree receives lots of water. During the first season after planting, water the tree heavily at least once a week.

Step 4

Thin fruit early on if the branches appear to be overwhelmed. Depending on the variety of your tree, fruit may begin to fall on its own at a rate of up to 50 percent. Typically, this is fine as it ensures that the tree will be able to handle the fruit load.

Step 5

Prune young shoots to keep the tree from overbearing. This will increase the quality of the fruit and protect the tree from becoming undernourished.

Step 6

Apply a low-toxicity spray to your plum tree on a regular basis to avoid pests such as the plum curculio, a small beetle that bores into fruit as larvae and causes it to rot.

Step 7

Shake the tree to remove adult weevils. If you prefer not to use chemical sprays, or have a smaller infestation, you can manually remove adults once you see egg-laying scars on new fruit. Spread a sheet of plastic under the tree early in the morning, and shake it gently to see weevils fall. Repeat daily.

Step 8

Avoid pests by pruning trees regularly to keep them open and sunlit. Most pests grow in heavily vegetated, shaded areas of the tree.

Step 9

Harvest plums regularly as they become ripe. Gently twist the fruit from the branch. Plums can be harvested as they become slightly soft, then allowed to ripen indoors. Often, all the fruit on the tree will become ripe at roughly the same time, so be ready for harvest.

Step 10

Remove all leaves and mulch from around the bottom of the tree once all the leaves have fallen. Curculios will hibernate in these piles during the winter and be ready to attack the plum tree first thing in the spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Insect spray
  • Plastic sheet
  • Hose


  • National Gardening Association: Plums
  • Department of Agriculture Forest Service: Prunus Americana
Keywords: american plum, plum trees, growing plum

About this Author

Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.

Photo by: rosevits