Plum trees are small, fruit-producing trees that usually grow to about 15 to 20 feet tall. Native to North America, Europe and Asia, plum trees come in several different varieties, such as the burgundy, blue Damson, autumn rosa, Chickasaw, elephant heart, golden nectar, Satsuma and Santa Rosa plum trees. Despite these different varieties, most plum trees grow best in full sunlight in USDA Zones 5 through 9, where minimum winter temperatures don’t drop below -15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plum Tree Care Tips
Water your plum trees to supplement rainfall when the top 2 inches of soil becomes dry to the touch. Be sure to water your plum trees during times of drought or hot, dry spells.
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic compost on the ground around the tree’s root zone but not touching the trunk. Spread the compost layer around the tree once every year in early spring.
Feed your plum trees a slow-release fruit tree fertilizer once each year in autumn. Follow the directions on the label for proper dosage and application.
Prune away all suckers that grow near the base of the plum trees. Throughout the growing season, you can cut the suckers back to the soil level or gently dig them out of the soil to remove them.
Thin out the plums in late spring when the fruits are just emerging and again in mid-summer when they’re halfway grown. Remove the diseased or damaged plums first, and then remove the plums so that there is about 3 inches between each fruit.
Perform all heavy pruning of your plum trees in June, when they’re strong and actively growing to prevent damage from silver leaf disease.
Spray your plum trees with horticultural oils each year in early spring, just prior to new growth. The horticultural oils will help to get rid of scale insects, aphids and mite eggs that survived the winter season on the trees.
Step-by-Step Pruning Instructions
Prune back the main stem to 2 feet tall in June of the first year. Remove the bud that’s directly below the top bud, allowing a minimum of four buds below on the stem.
Cut back the main stem of the trunk about 18 inches in the second year, ensuring that the cut is just above a bud node and that there are at least three buds above the top branches. Prune back the branches to 10 inches in length, with each cut just above a bud.
Prune back the branches to 10 inches in length again in the third year. Cut back the main stem of the trunk by another 18 inches, just above a bud.
Prune to maintain the plum tree’s size after it’s about four years old. Keep the central stem to no higher than 3 feet above the top branches after the tree reaches 8 feet in height. Prune only new growth that isn’t fruit-bearing, as well as any diseased, dead or damaged branches.