How to Prune a Flowering Plum Tree

Overview

Flowering plum trees are popular additions to a landscaping plan. It is recommended that they be pruned annually to maintain their shape and growth. It also is vital to maintaining their health, as damaged, diseased and infested branches are removed as well. The size of the tree will determine which tools are needed. Ladders and pole pruners may not be needed for very young trees. After pruning, your flowering plum tree should have a scaffold appearance with a main trunk or leader and branches that are perpendicular to the trunk. A good pruning regimen can keep your flowering plum tree healthy for years to come.

Pruning

Step 1

Assess the shape and size of the tree. Decide what shape the pruned tree should have, such as round or pear-shaped, to prevent over- or under-pruning. Snip from the ends of the branches, stepping back every so often to evaluate the shaping progress.

Step 2

Place a ladder safely under the tree to reach the upper sections. Adjust the base of the ladder against something sturdy and settle the top against the trunk with sturdy branches to either side to prevent slipping. If branches are not available, the ladder can be bound in place. Pinch off new growth at the tips to control the size of the tree.

Step 3

Amputate any dead or damaged branches with hand shears for branches under one inch in diameter. Use lopping shears or a pruning saw for larger diameter branches.

Step 4

Snip any branches that cross over one another or rub against each other. Use the pole pruners for parts of the tree you can't safely reach from the ladder. Extend the pole pruner to the desired branch and cut it off.

Step 5

Cut cleanly, leaving no stub. Do not leave jagged or stepped cuts--these allow insects and disease to gain access to the tree. Smooth out ends by cutting away any jagged edges with the saw. Leave the collars of branches intact, as a cut too close to the trunk can damage the tree.

Step 6

Evaluate the tree from 10 to 15 feet away to discern if the branches have approximately 2 feet of vertical space between them. This spacing permits adequate sunlight and air circulation to the lower limbs. Make any "heading back" or trimming cuts about 1/4 inch above a bud or lateral branch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use caution when using a ladder, especially when working with tools. Make sure the ladder is securely positioned and stable. It may be necessary to have a second person hold the ladder for additional support.

Things You'll Need

  • Ladder
  • Pole pruners
  • Pruning saw
  • Hand shears
  • Lopping shears

References

  • Department of Horticulture Purdue University

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota - Pruning Tips
Keywords: prune, plum, tree

About this Author

Theresa Leschmann has been writing since 2005. Her work has appeared in the "Southern Illinois Plus" and on numerous websites. She is a property manager who writes about gardening, home repair, business management, travel and arts and entertainment topics. She is pursuing an associate degree in English from Oakton Community College.