Plums Garden Guide

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Plums Care At A Glance

  • Plums must have proper cross-pollination to produce fruit.
  • Trees grow to an average size of 10-15 feet. Size varies by variety.
  • Plums typically reach bearing age 3-6 years from planting.
  • Well-drained, organically rich soil in a full sun location is best.

Planting Instructions

Follow the same planting instructions, as you would for other bareroot trees.

  • Amend existing soil appropriately with organic material to help improve drainage.
  • NOTE: Proper drainage is critical for fruit-bearing trees to do well long-term. Do not use potting soil.

  • Soak roots for 8-24 hours prior to planting.
  • Tip prune the top of the main leader by 1/3 to 1/2, immediately after planting.
    • With clean pruners, cut at a slight angle, just above a visible bud.
    • Any side branches should also be pruned back by 1/2 their length.
  • Properly water newly planted trees using the 1 inch per week rule for the entire first growing season.
    • 1 inch of water equates to about 2.5-3 gallons every other day.
    • Remove competitive grass & weeds to form a 3-4 feet tree well and add 2-3 inches of compost or mulch.
  • Cage or wrap tree trunks to prevent predation from deer or rodents.

    NOTE: DO NOT rely solely on rain events to provide enough moisture to newly planted trees.

Varieties & Distinctions

European plums - Prunus domestica

  • Old-world domesticated plums.
  • Most are self-fruitful but benefit from cross-pollination.
  • Tend to be longer-lived than Asian-American hybrids but take longer to mature to bearing age (4-6 yrs).
  • Fruits are meatier which makes them the best choice for drying.
  • Do not cross-pollinate Asian/American Hybrids.

'Mount Royal'

  • Sturdy, semi-dwarf trees grow 10 to 12 feet high and wide.
  • Round fruits with dark purple skin and sweet yellow-green flesh.
  • Freestone fruits have thinner skin than 'Stanley'.
  • Fruits ripen earlier than other named varieties in late August to September.
  • 'Stanley' or 'Green Gage' are suggested pollination partners.

Asian/American Hybrids - Prunus spp. or Prunus hybrida

  • Japanese and American highly adapted plum hybrids with excellent fruit qualities.
  • Japanese breeding stock contributes fruit qualities of size and sweet flavors.
  • American breeding stock offers hardiness, durability, and disease resistance.
  • Many named cultivars came out of the breeding program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls under Dr. Brian Smith.

'Black Ice'

  • Popular named cultivar from Dr. Brian Smith's plum breeding program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
  • Typically early and reliable fruiting variety. (Heavy cropping should be managed to prevent biennial bearing)
  • Trees grow at a moderate rate to 8-10 feet tall and wide.
  • Large-sized, semi-freestone fruits with dark, nearly black skin and yellow to red-purple flesh.
  • Fruits ripen August to September.
  • Requires cross-pollination. Plant with 'Waneta'. ('Black Ice' is not great as a pollinizer for others)


  • Old University of Minnesota hybrid released in 1942.
  • Trees grow in upright form to 12-15 ft. tall & wide.
  • Medium-sized clingstone fruits with red skin and yellow flesh and mild sweetness.
  • Fruits typically ripen in August.
  • Requires cross-pollination, plant with 'Toka'.


  • 100-year-old variety released by South Dakota Experimental Station.
  • Adaptable trees grow rapidly to 12-15 feet tall with a full canopy that needs proper pruning.
  • Good pollinizer for other hybrid plum varieties.
  • Freestone fruits have bronze-red skin with yellow flesh with a flavorful, "candy-sweet" taste.
  • Fruits typically ripen in late August.
  • Requires a pollinator. Plant with 'Pipestone', 'Waneta' or 'Black Ice'.


  • 100-year-old variety released by South Dakota Experimental Station.
  • Adaptable, productive trees with good growth habits and disease resistance.
  • Good pollinizer for many other hybrid plums. (Due to potentially heavy fruit set thinning may be needed)
  • Clingstone fruits, with dark red skin and yellow flesh with juicy sweet flavor.
  • Fruits usually ripen from late August to September.
  • Requires a pollinator. Plant with 'Toka' or 'Black Ice'.

Pruning After Planting

Start pruning as needed from the second year after planting, while trees are dormant in late winter to early spring. Follow basic fruit tree pruning techniques, such as properly timed pruning, selective pruning, excellent sanitation, and fruit thinning as needed to limit heavy fruit loads that can lead to limb damage.


Light fertilizing can be done with balanced 10-10-10 all-purpose food or an organic 3-5-3 fertilizer starting the second season in the ground. Apply once annually in early spring. Excess nitrogen can lead to problems with heavy foliage growth but little to no flowers or fruit production.