Plum trees are not fruits Florida gardeners typically think of planting. The state’s warmer winters and humidity create growing problems for cultivars not specifically developed for Florida. These cultivars do not receive adequate chilling hours. However, the University of Florida has developed varieties of plum cultivars tolerant to the state’s growing conditions. Fruit production is good, as is disease resistance.
Florida Plum Regions
Plums grow well throughout all regions of the state. Cultivars suitable for growing in Florida have the prefix Gulf. These varieties require fewer chilling hours than standard types. Florida plums start ripening in May and require a second variety of plum for proper pollination. In South Florida, blooming occurs in late January. Central and North-Central areas experience blooming in the middle of February. Northern and Northwestern areas experience blooming from the middle of February through early March.
Gulfbeauty is a vigorous plum with good fruit set and flowering. Fruits ripen earlier than other cultivars. Plums are reddish-purple, sweet and approximately 1-3/4 inches in diameter. Gulfbreeze is a medium-sized plum with fruits approximately 2 inches in diameter. Plums are semifreestone, darkish red to purple with midseason ripening. Gulfrose is an early season plum with dark, purplish-red skin. Its inner flesh is deep red. Fruits are approximately 2 inches in diameter with a sweet taste. Gulf Ruby is a midseason plum that is short lived, due to its susceptibility to disease. Red fruits are approximately 2 inches in diameter and yellow fleshed. Gulfgold is another short-lived, midseason plum. Fruits are yellow with a reddish blush and the sweetest of all Florida plums.
Florida plums grow best when planted in full sun. The trees are most productive grown in sandy loam soils that drain well and have a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant bare-root plums in late winter and containerized trees year-round. Plant them no deeper than the tree’s original depth. Space multiple trees 20 feet apart for adequate air circulation. Water them twice weekly. Irrigate small trees with 2 gallons of water in each watering and give mature trees approximately 8 gallons. Fertilize the plum trees in January, June and August. Use a 10-10-10 blend spread under the tree’s canopy. Prune the tree’s canopy after harvest. Keep the trees pruned to approximately 7 feet in height. This creates a fuller, stronger tree with less breakage.
Insects and Disease
Weevils, scales, mites and borers sometimes bother Florida plum trees. Treat pests with insecticide, such as pyrethrum, lorsban or imidan. Spray the foliage and fruits and repeat the application every 10 days if needed. Spraying the plum tree with an application of 3 percent dormant oil treats scale and mite problems before they occur. Apply the solution during dormancy. Diseases; such as bacterial spot, bot, brown and oak root rot, and leaf scald; are sometimes problematic. Control brown rot by applying a fungicide to the plum tree. Apply the fungicide while the tree is still dormant or when the problem occurs. Select cultivars not prone to developing the other diseases when choosing a tree for your home garden.