Growing Plums

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March 21, 2006
Two Ripe Plums on a Tree

Planning Tips:

Plums are related to cherries and peaches, and many of aspects of their growing and care are similar. The key to growing plums is to select a variety that is suitable to your zone. There are two major types of plums-European and Japanese. European plums are hardy to zones 5-9 and Japanese plums to zones 6-10. Certain American plums and hybrids are extremely cold and drought tolerant and hardy as far north as zone 4.

Select disease resistant trees that are 1 to 2 years old. Most European and American plum varieties are self-fertile, but produce much better yields if planted with other cultivars. Japanese plums must be cross-pollinated, either by American or other Japanese cultivars. A mature, full-size tree will produce about 50 pounds of plums every year.

Site Preparation:

Select a planting site with full sun exposure and average to rich, well-drained soil that has a slightly acidic pH (6.0 to 6.8). Avoid low-lying areas prone to frost or standing water and sites where cherry, peach or plum trees have been grown before. Japanese varieties prefer well-drained soil rich in nutrients, while European varieties are more tolerant of heavy clay soils.


Plant plum trees in the spring or fall (avoid fall plaiting in zones 4-6). Trees should be set to that the graft union is higher than the soil line. Space standard-size trees from 20 to 25 feet apart and dwarf varieties from 15 to 20 feet apart. Bare-root plants are preferable to potted plants.

Care & Maintenance:

Plum trees are relatively pest-free fruit trees, but check them regularly for signs of fruit pests and disease.

Harvesting & Storage:

Plums can be left to ripen on the tree and harvested when they reach their mature size and color. If they are rich and sweet to the taste, and fee slightly soft when squeezed they are ready to be harvested. Store them for a few days in the refrigerator or from 2 to 4 weeks at cooler temperatures (31 to 32 F) depending on the variety.
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Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

October 23, 2008
plum on tree


Why do the plums fall off the tree every year before they are ripe. I do everything I was told to do but nothing helps. Opening it, spraying it, etc., I think I'll cut it this fall, unfortunately.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Mike from Mercier Quebec, Canada



Don't give up yet. With a little detective work, you can figure this out. There are many possible answers to your question, so it's up to you to try to decide which of the following factors apply best to your situation:


  • Depending on what kind of Plum tree you have, fruit drop can be a normal biological occurrence. This self-thinning habit is sometimes referred to "June drop" and is how a tree gets rid of excess fruit when it produces more than it can sustain. Self-thinning is most common in young trees. Thinning some of the tree's fruit mechanically (removing some of them by hand as the fruit starts developing) can help prevent this.

  • Cold temperatures. How has your weather been? Spring frosts can cause developing fruits to drop off prematurely. Spraying the fruits with water right before an impending frost can help prevent damage.

  • Early fruit drop can be due to a nutrient deficiency in your soil. Contact your country extension office to find out how to have your soil tested.

  • Inadequate irrigation. A lack of water at critical times during fruit development can also cause premature fruit to drop. Try to keep the soil around your trees consistently moist (not waterlogged). Adding mulch to the base of your trees will help conserve water and prevent big swings in soil temperature.

  • Inadequate sunlight. Do your trees get plenty of sun? A lack of sun causes poor fruit development. As a result, even a mild breeze can come along and cause the fruit to be sloughed from the tree.

  • Disease. Are the fruits that fall misshapen or are they of a normal size and color? Do you see signs of insect damage like crescent-shaped scars, or small holes on the fruit? This could be a sign of plum curculio, oriental fruit moth, or other insect damage.

Here are a few resources to help you determine exactly what the problem is.

Good luck!



By (Guest Post)
June 27, 20080 found this helpful

It's just nature's way of thinning the fruit out. All fruit trees do it. It enables the tree to put most of it's energy into the maturity of the remaining fruit, so they'll be bigger and better. Just make sure the tree gets plenty of water so it's not stressed.

By McMillan968 (Guest Post)
July 7, 20080 found this helpful

Sounds to me like they aren't being pollinated and dropping off. Just like zuchs and summer squash do! Don't give up JUST YET!


Also you don't mention it's AGE. A baby tree won't hold for a few years!


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October 30, 20080 found this helpful

Good heavens, you have a tree already bearing fruit and you want to cut it? Hard times are coming friend, figure out the problem and think of the tree as your health friend...

November 6, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks for all the good advise but I decided to cut down this trouble some tree this fall. It gave too much shade in the the place and it nearly poked my eye out when I tried to trim it. So this was it for me. Cutting it down I realised this plum tree was a hardest wood I ever cut in my life. (Maybe it was too wet?!) I used a gasoline chainsaw. Again thank you all.

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May 8, 2011

I have a plum tree that I got from a friend. He now has bugs in his tree and does not know what to spray it with. He got it from a lady friend who called the plant a Texas Plum. Would you please tell me what to use before they get into my tree.

By John


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 109 Feedbacks
May 8, 20110 found this helpful

In our county there is a guy in the city hall building that can advise you regarding all plants, bugs, pesticides, etc. I just can't think of what his office title is other than it starts with a C... I think. :(

Well there is a resource probably in your city or county government that knows what you need to know. He may have you bring a leaf to him to verify it really is a plum tree. OUR he may ask you to get one of the bugs from your friends tree so he can see it and advise you properly.

Okay, I was wrong and my dad just told me he is the Agricultural Agent for the county. Look yours up and talk to him. Ours is a pleasant chap who could talk your ear off. Good luck.

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Check out these photos.

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July 28, 2020

We took a little day trip to explore parts of Arizona we hadn't been to before. Near Yarnell, Arizona (an old mining town), I saw these plums growing on the side of the road. Imagine that! Plums near the Arizona desert!

Pretty Purple Plums - purple plums on a roadside tree in Arizona

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