How to prune plum trees (2023)

plum trees aredeciduous,flowering trees. They can be grown in soils with average fertility and moisture. Plant them in a spot that drains well and isin full sun.

The European plum tree (Prunus Domestica) was chosen for this project. It is best to grow inSons5 to 9. It can grow to about 15 feet tall and should start producingfruitthree to five years after the first planting. European plums are sweet and aromatic. The fruit can be eaten fresh, canned, or dried with prunes. Proper pruning is essential for quality fruit production.

Why European plum trees are a good choice

There is more than one type of plum tree and their grademaintenanceThere is a consideration involved in choosing between the different types.European plum treesrequire less pruning than the more vigorous Japanese plum trees (P. salicina) making it a better choice for those who place a high priority onless landscaping.

There are two other reasons for northern gardeners to choose a European plum tree (instead of a Japanese plum tree) besides the lower maintenance requirements. The European plum tree flowers later, so there is less chance of frost damage, and is more self-fertile (but always check with the nursery before buying), eliminating the need to grow another tree to act as a pollinator.

Even European plum trees need pruning to get the best possible harvest. The good news is that such pruning is fairly easy, takes little time annually, and is quite affordable after the initial outlay of buying some cheap tools.

Why you should prune plum trees

There are many reasons to prune plum trees, and the relevance of these reasons depends on factors such as the age of your tree and the time of year. Pruning back in early spring encourages new growth. Prune in summer to limit the size of the plant and open up its interior (canopy). Again, opening up the tree's canopy (and limiting its size) by pruning helps in several ways:

  • It promotes good air circulation, which reduces the risk of illness.
  • Removal of dead, damaged, or diseased limbs also minimizes disease, as does removal of crossing limbs that are rubbing against each other (potentially opening wounds that are invitingIllness).
  • The fruit receives more sunlight, making it bigger and improving its flavor.
  • The increased sunlight also helps the newest branches to thrive.
  • The plums are easier for you to reach at harvest time because you are working with a tree that is shorter and has fewer cross branches to obstruct your reach.
  • Pruning to favor long, lateral branches will maximize fruit production.

Opening of the canopy is extremely important for older trees, but obviously not for young trees (which do not yet have a significant canopy). But in addition to stimulating new growth, young trees get one key benefit from pruning: shaping. Especially when a plum tree is young, care must be taken to prune it in a way that creates a framework of branches, which is conducive to the long-term health of the tree, the production of shapely fruit, and the ease of harvesting that fruit.

When to prune plum trees

When you prune a plum tree depends in part on the developmental stage of the tree. For young trees you are in the process of shaping, make only one pruning in early spring. Prune adult trees that you have already shaped into shape once in midsummer (prune lightly except on the rare occasion you need to remove one of the tree's main branches because it was damaged by an ice storm in winter).

There are specific reasons for timing young tree pruning in spring: it stimulates the formation of new branches early in the growing season and gives them the best chance of growing vigorously that year. The resulting wounds have less time to heal before the tree begins to grow vigorously in spring, during which time the tree's healing powers are in full swinghighestand small wounds heal relatively quickly.

The earliest pruning on a plum tree is usually already done at the nursery (check with them to be sure) before you buy it there in spring. When you get home, all you have to do is plant it. It is a radical pruning where the trunk (ladder) standsdecreasedto about 30 inches tall.

The concern for healing here relates specifically to a fungal disease to which plums are susceptible, known as "silverleaf" (Chondrosterium purple). Silverleaf uses lacerations to gain access to the branches of a tree. It leads to silvering of the leaves of the infected branch. It can eventually kill the branch.

(Video) How to Prune a Plum Tree


When pruning plum trees, spray sanitizer on your plums frequently (wiping with clean paper towels each time).cutting toolbetween cuts and keep your cutting tools sharp so you can make clean cuts. Messy cuts invite disease.

what you will need

equipment / tools

  • handle secateurs
  • Astschere
  • Ash saw
  • stepladder
  • Set of work gloves


  • Can or bottle of disinfectant
  • paper towels
(Video) How To Prune A Plum Tree


How to prune plum trees (1)

  1. Create the first skeletal swirl on the plum tree

    Next spring you'll need to do three different pruning jobs: remove all but the best branches, trim those "best" branches, and go back to the stabilizer.

    Look over the plum tree and determine which of its four best branches are at a height of about 18 to 24 inches from the ground. You will keep these, cutting back the rest almost to the trunk, leaving only the branch collar. The "best" branches point up at about a 45 degree angle from the trunk, are well formed and disease free, and are about equally spaced apart on the horizontal plane (think, for example, a north facing, an east facing, one branch pointing south and one branch pointing west).

    Also in the vertical, these branches should not be too close together; At this level, make sure there is 6 to 12 inches of space between them.

    Together they are said to form a "scaffolding vortex" because they are primary (scaffolding) limbs and form a circular array of equal parts.

    Reduce the length of each of the four skeleton branches by about half (but make sure to leave each with at least a few buds). Cut just above the outermost bud that remains. Reduce the hooklength height by a foot or two and make your cut just above a bud. From this top bud the new leader will emerge.

    (Video) How NOT To Prune an Apple Tree

    How to prune plum trees (2)

  2. Create a second skeletal swirl on the plum tree

    Pruning next spring will be similar. The idea is to create a second skeletal vertebra about a foot above the top branch of the first skeletal vertebra.

    Again, reduce the hooklength height by a foot or two and make your cut just above a bud. Also repeat the process of selecting the "best" limbs to serve as scaffolding branches, using the same criteria as for the first set. The difference this time is that you must also place this second set so that none of the four branches grow directly over a scaffolding branch from the first set.

    Cut the branches in the first whorl half back, as well as the branches in the second whorl. Since the latter are younger, this bisection still makes them shorter than the limbs in the first skeletal vertebra. The result is a Christmas tree shape.

    How to prune plum trees (3)

  3. Perform maintenance pruning on older plum trees

    From this point on, pruning is more subjective. Once the plum tree has reached the height you want it to stay at, retract the empennage (so it cannot exceed that height) and do not allow a new empennage to form.

    Prune as needed in summer to prevent overcrowding of the canopy. Make your cuts back toward the outward-facing leaf buds because you want new growth to radiate out from the center of the canopy to prevent overcrowding. Leaf buds can be distinguished from flower buds as follows: the latter being the larger and plumper of the two.

    Watch out for spurs. Spores are groupings of (mainly) flower buds on short, gnarled branches that protrude from older limbs. Spores older than a year are thesource of all your fruits, so make sure you don't accidentally cut them off.

    How to prune plum trees (4)

    (Video) Pruning a Plum Tree for Better Shape and Production

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