Beach plum trees are similar to most other plum trees, with the significant difference that their fruit is not borne on spurs, but on one-year-old wood. This tree is a lovely addition to any landscaping plan. Prune your beach plum tree annually to maintain its shape and growth and to maintain its health by removing damaged, diseased and infested branches. The size of the tree will determine which tools you need. You may not need ladders and pole pruners for young trees, for example. After you finish pruning it, your beach plum tree should have a scaffold appearance with a main trunk or leader and branches that are perpendicular to the trunk. An effective pruning regimen can keep your tree healthy for years to come.
Perform an assessment of the shape and size of the tree. Plan what shape the tree will have, such as round or pear-shaped, and follow that plan to prevent over- or under-pruning. Work to have an open center in the tree. Trim from the ends of the branches, stepping back every so often to evaluate the progress of your shaping.
Situate the ladder safely under the tree to reach upper sections, if necessary. Adjust the base of the ladder so it rests against something sturdy and arrange the top against the trunk with sturdy branches to either side to prevent slipping. If branches are not available, the ladder can be secured in place with rope. Pinch off new growth at tips to control the size of the tree.
Cut odd any dead or damaged branches with hand shears for branches less than one inch diameter. Use lopping shears or pruning saw for larger diameter branches. Remove any branches with black knot six inches below the gall. Sterilize shears between each cut when pruning for black knot with 10 percent bleach-to-water solution.
Snip any 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.
Cut cleanly, 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 intact since a cut too close to the trunk can damage the tree.
Evaluate the tree from 10 to 15 feet away to discern if branches have approximately two 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 one-fourth of an inch above a bud or lateral branch.