Plum trees are great additions to any landscape not only for the added beauty, but also for the delicious fruit crop that adds a tasty bonus to every spring. Plums are delicious when consumed fresh from the tree, baked in pies, and even made into jelly. With the proper knowledge of taking care of plum trees, they can prove to be easier to grow than any other fruit tree, making them a favorite among novice arborists.
Whether you are thinking about planting a new plum tree in your yard or have inherited an older one, there are some important steps to follow for proper care.
Make a plan before you plant a plum tree. This will help you avoid future issues with disease and ensure a healthy and fruitful tree year after year. If you are planting a new plum tree, you should start by choosing a variety that will thrive where you live. European Plum trees are hardy and do well in most regions of the U.S., whereas other plum trees do best in warm climates.
Once you choose a variety that fits your climate, you should plan out where you will plant your new tree and prepare the land. Plum trees do best in full sun and well-drained locations. While they can grow in most types of soil, plums thrive in acidic to neutral soil with pH levels between 5.0-6.5. It is a good idea to test your soil to make sure you do not need additional fertilizer to get the pH level right.
Feeding your plum tree with all-purpose organic fertilizer may be necessary to promote healthy growth, but there are a few things to consider. First, regularly test your soil to make sure you choose the correct fertilizer if any is needed at all. Over-fertilizing can cause unwanted growth and decrease the amount of fruit production.
In the first year of planting a new plum tree, fertilize only once in the early spring before the leaves appear. Then, fertilize twice in the second year, once in the early spring and then again in early autumn.
In addition to fertilizer, it is a good idea to apply mulch around your plum tree, but make sure to avoid the trunk. Mulch is a layer of organic material typically made of leaf debris, bark, or compost. This step, in addition to fertilizer, will help enrich the soil, prevent weed growth, retain water in dry months, and provide warmth in the winter.
You should apply mulch annually in the first four years of your new plum tree and its best done in mid-spring. To help protect your tree from the winter, apply another layer of mulch in the fall. When taking care of plum trees, providing the proper nutrients is essential in promoting healthy fruit production.
Just as important as feeding your plum tree, it’s equally important to provide adequate water. Young plum trees need to be watered at least once a week to promote healthy root growth. Once the tree is established, it requires regular watering, especially in the dry summer months.
Deeply water your plum tree once every two to four weeks. This ensures that the soil is saturated down to the root line, but also has time to dry out a bit.
Watering too much or too little can cause stress-related diseases, so always make sure you are checking for dry or waterlogged soil. Properly feeding and watering your plum tree is crucial for a strong root system, which will help increase the tree’s drought resistance and prevent against disease and infestation.
Regular pruning is a key responsibility that will help promote the overall health of your plum tree. It may sound intimidating, but pruning plum trees is less demanding than many other fruit trees and itis necessary in maintaining the shape and fruit crop.
It’s important to know what to look for when pruning so that you are not removing more than necessary. Only trim branches that are diseased, broken, or dead and make sure to trim back to undamaged wood. Also, remove any suckers or shoots that grow at the base of the trunk; these can compete for water and nutrients and negatively affect the health and crop of the tree.
When taking care of plum trees, avoid pruning in the off season. Trimming in the summer, fall, or early winter can be detrimental to the health of your tree and make it more susceptible to disease. Late winter or early spring is the best time to prune because your tree is dormant. The cuts heal more quickly and diseases are less active in these seasons. You can always call one of our arborists if you don’t want to prune your own tree, but nevertheless, it is an important part of taking care of plum trees and should not be neglected.
Because they produce a large fruit crop, plum branches can break due to excessive weight. Pruning in the late winter or early spring will help ensure a healthy and strong tree, but you may need to perform fruit thinning as well. Fruit thinning is when you remove fruit right when they begin to show on the tree. Ideally, you want to remove smaller plums so that the remaining fruit have 4-6 inches between them. Fruit thinning reduces damage that could lead to infestation or disease.
Taking care of plum trees doesn’t require a lot of work or time. With a little attention, your plum tree will gift you with beauty and fruit for years to come.