Plum fruit trees are popular in the home garden. Early spring blooms grace the landscape and the tree bears three to five bushels of fruit in the fall. Only routine care is required to keep the tree healthy and under control. In some varieties, two different cultivars are required to allow for cross-pollination and produce fruit.
Plant plum trees in the late fall while the soil is still workable. Dig a hole slightly larger than the spread out roots. Add a handful of bonemeal to the bottom of the hole and mix organic compost into the loose soil.
Soak the roots of the bare-root plum tree in water for an hour before planting. Remove the container of container grown trees. Spread the roots out in the hole. Fill in around the roots so that the tree is planted at the same depth that it was previously planted. Firm the soil and water the tree.
Mulch around the base of the plum tree with wood chips, straw, or similar organic mulch to help conserve moisture and protect the tree from weeds. The mulch should not touch the tree trunk.
Water the plum trees during dry weather. Plum trees like moist soil, but do not allow standing water or wet roots.
Stake young plum trees to protect them from strong winds. Tie the tree loosely to a sturdy stake with cotton twine. Check the ties every fall to be sure they are not too tight.
Fertilize plum trees every year with one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each year of tree age. A 3-year-old tree would get 3 cups of fertilizer.
Protect plum trees from late frosts. The plum tree is hardy and can withstand frosts, but frost after the buds appear will damage the flowers and fruit. Cover the plant with fabric whenever a late frost is expected.
Remove suckers that sprout at the base of the tree to prevent the tree from spreading. Prune plum trees in June to remove damaged and diseased wood and create a pleasing shape. Prune only old wood and new growth that is not producing fruit. Apply a sealing compound to pruning cuts.
Thin fruit when it is about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Thinning protects the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit and also encourages larger fruit. Remove the smallest fruit, leaving plums about 5 inches apart. Provide extra support for branches that are overloaded with fruit.
Place netting or screening over plum trees to protect the plums from animals.
Pick ripe plums by hand or by gently shaking the tree. Remove fruit damaged by animals or pests immediately along with any fruit that appears diseased.