Plums are juicy, sweet, and just the right amount of tart. They’re one of the easier fruits to grow and produce large harvests each year. Learn how to grow plums and how to have a great, healthy plum harvest.
Why I Grow Plums:
**Plums are a good fruit crop for a home gardener. They have few problems, grow on small trees, come in many sizes/shapes/colors, etc.
**There are both large, juicy, but more delicate Asian plums and hardy and small European varieties. I have loved every type I’ve tried. With many varieties available, you will need more than one variety for pollination. Although most European ones are self-pollinating, you still need other varieties to produce a better crop. Consult your local greenhouse expert to make sure you get plum trees that are pollinating-compatible with each other.
**Since they’re relatively small, plum trees work really well in an orchard of other fruits. Here are my other posts about fruits I love to grow.
Where to Grow Plums:
**Plant plums in full sun and away from any frost pockets. Since plums bloom early, it is best to plant them where the soil will warm up slowly in spring. That way, flowers will not appear so soon that they will be destroyed by frost. Allow about 20 feet between each tree for standard sizes, less for dwarf sizes.
**Plums are not fussy about soil, though a slightly heavy soil will suit them better than a light, sandy soil. Blue-skinned plums need deep soil. All types prefer well-drained, fertile soil that is well supplied with organic matter. Their ideal pH level is about 6.5.
Plant your Plum Trees:
**Plant 1 year old dormant trees in early spring (late fall in mild climates). Cut back to about 3 feet tall. Plant trees at the same depth they grew at in the nursery, or slightly deeper. Apply a mulch to keep moisture balanced but keep the mulch away from the trunk.
**I love planting basil, nasturtium, and lavender under my fruit trees because they grow well, repel pests, and look nice. I buy my seeds at True Leaf Market. My plum trees also have beautiful pink flowers.
Plum Tree Maintenance:
**Top-dress plums annually with compost or well-rotted manure. Make sure the trees have adequate water at the time they are flowering and fruiting.
**Prune young trees to three strong lateral branches, allowing the trees to develop multiple trunks only if, as some plums do, they have a bush habit. Asian plums are pruned to an open center in a similar way as peaches. The more upright European varieties do better with the central leader system. As a rule, plums do not require a lot of pruning, but you should let light into the tree to promote more fruiting and ripening.
**Remove water sprouts which are weak, nonfruitful stems that shoot straight up from the branch. Some moderate pruning will also encourage the tree to bear annually. Red plums need more pruning than blue ones, because they fruit on wood formed the previous year as well as on older wood. Pruning some of the year-old wood will help to prevent the tree from over-bearing. The fruits of red plums are also heavier than others and so are more apt to needing thinning.
How to Harvest Ripe Plums:
**Blue plums generally start to produce in about 5 years, red ones somewhat sooner. The yield is 2-3 bushels from a productive tree.
**Plums are ripe when they come off the branch with a slight twist. Red ones should be ripe when you pick them. Most of the others will ripen off the tree and so can be picked when they are a bit firmer.