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How-to grow and care for plum trees

Popular for their beautiful purple foliage, plum trees create a beautiful backdrop in a landscape as well as being one of the easier fruits to grow. Plums are simply a variety of peach without the fuzzy skin. Some fruit trees like peaches are self-pollinating and therefore only require one tree. Plum trees however, require two different varieties to pollinate each other. Since peaches and plums are both in the Prunus family, you can pollinate a plum with a peach if you choose to.



Because not all plum tree do well in all climates, you will find the best varieties for your climate at your local Home Depot store. Plum trees prefer slightly acidic, well-drained, fertile soil. Plums grow well between zones 5 and 8 just like peaches.


Time to harvest


Plums are ready to be picked in the late summer to early fall. You will want to let the fruit ripen on the tree. Give the fruit a gentle squeeze and if it is soft then it is ready to be picked. The fruit will come off with a slight twist. Plums do not store well therefore must be eaten fairly quickly. You can put plums in the refrigerator and they will store for 10 to 14 days.




Pruning fruit trees is necessary in order to keep fruit trees healthy and to promote healthy yields. Pruning opens the tree up to sunlight, which in turn produces larger, sweeter fruit. Thinning out trees also helps with air circulation, which prevents diseases like powdery mildew. Healthy trees are also less prone to insects. Look at our article titled Pruning fruit trees.



Like all crops, fruit bearing trees can deplete a soil of certain nutrients. Specialty fertilizers are great for fruit bearing trees. Not only do they have Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, they also have essential micro-nutrients like Iron, Sulfur, Calcium and Magnesium to help alleviate such deficiencies. At Home Depot, you can also find a wide variety of organic fertilizers for your fruit trees.


The two basic types of plum trees are simply European plums and Japanese plums. European plum trees typically grow taller while Japanese plum trees are wider and slightly shorter. If you are limited on room, some varieties are self-pollinating, therefore they do not requiring a second variety. These would be the European “Damson” and “Stanley” and the Japanese “Santa Rosa” and “Methley”. Any other varieties will need a second variety.


Planting site and spacing

You will want to find an area drenched with at least 6 hours of sun but full sun is ideal. Plum trees need a nutrient rich well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Different soil types need to be amended differently. A soil test is a great idea before planting to determine nutrient deficiencies and what nutrients you will need to add. Mulch around your tree with pinestraw in the fall once all leaves have fallen off and in the late spring before the summer heat arrives.


Dwarf varieties of plum trees can be spaced 15 to 20 foot apart to pollinate and larger varieties should be spaced 20 to 25 foot apart. Spacing needs to be close enough to pollinate optimally but also allow air circulation to prevent disease and insects. Never space trees beyond 100 foot apart for pollinating.

Planting Guide

STEP 1: Digging the hole

  • Find a location that has suitable sun exposure for your particular type of plant.
  • Dig your hole an inch or two shallower than the rootball of the plant.
  • Dig the hole twice the diameter of the rootball.
  • Scuff up the sides of the hole with a shovel to help roots break through the native soil.

STEP 2: Putting plant in hole

  • When removing the plant from the pot, check to see if the roots were circling the pot.
  • If the plant is rootbound, gently break up the roots with your hands until loosened up.
  • Set plant level, in the center of the hole.
  • Make sure the top of the rootball is just above soil level.

STEP 3: Amending the soil and filling in the hole

  • Amend the soil with proper amendments for your soil type. 
  • Incorporate 50% native soil with 50% amendment soils like garden soil, composted manure or soil conditioner.
  • Make sure dirt clods are broken up or removed from hole along with rocks.
  • Fill the hole with soils to the soil level and pack down. Do not cover top of rootball with dirt.
  • Water in thoroughly to remove air pockets.

STEP 4: Mulching and fertilizing

  • Cover the planting site with at least 2 inches of the mulch of your choice (pinestraw, cypress mulch,etc.)
  • High Phosphorus root stimulator fertilizers like Quick Start from Miracle Gro are great to use at time of planting.

Other Related Articles:


Which fruit trees are self pollinating and which require a cross pollinator?

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How to grow and care for apple trees

How-to grow and care for pear trees

How-to grow and care for fruit bearing cherry trees

Growing Peach Trees

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Posted 2018-02-14T19:35:06+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL