Flowering plum trees lend a beautiful design element to any landscape. Suggested maintenance includes annual pruning at the appropriate time to prevent disease and pests. Pruning your flowering plum tree can control the growth and shape of the tree while enhancing the beauty of it. Depending on the size of the tree, you may not need all the recommended tools such as a ladder and pole pruners. When pruning is completed, your tree should have a scaffold appearance with a main trunk or leader and branches that are perpendicular to the trunk.
Evaluate the size and shape of the tree. Determine the shape (such as round or pear-shaped) desired after pruning to prevent over or under pruning. Trim from the ends, stepping back every so often to evaluate the progress of your shaping.
Place a ladder safely under the tree to reach upper sections, if necessary. Secure the base of the ladder against something sturdy and top should lean against the trunk with sturdy branches to either side to prevent slipping. If branches are not available, the ladder can be tied in place. Pinch off new growth at tips to control the size of the tree.
Remove any dead or damaged branches with hand shears for branches under 1 inch diameter. Use lopping shears or pruning saw for larger diameter branches.
Trim and branches that cross over one another or rub against each other. Use the pole pruners for parts of the tree you cannot reach safely from the ladder. Lift the pole pruner to the desired branch, positioning jaws around the branch to be cut. Pull down on the rope, which causes the jaws to close and cut the branch.
Make clean cuts, leaving no stub. Do not leave jagged or stepped cuts which allow insects and disease to gain access to the tree. Smooth out ends by cutting away any jagged edges with the saw. Leave collars of branches in tact as a cut to close to the trunk can damage the tree.
View the tree from a distance of 10 to 15 feet to determine if branches have approximately 2 feet of vertical space between them to permit adequate sunlight penetration and air circulation to lower limbs. Make any "heading back" or trimming cuts about 1/4 inch above a bud or lateral branch.