Plums are cultivated widely and thought by some to be one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees. The fruits don’t keep for very long so are best harvested fresh – a perfect excuse for growing your own! Plus you get to enjoy the beautiful spring blossom.
Like most fruits, plums prefer full sun and are hardy, however beware of late frosts which can damage flowers and therefore fruit. They prefer fertile soils which are slightly acidic but will do well in most soils providing it’s free draining.
Plums are typically grafted onto rootstocks which control size, encourage earlier fruiting and even help with disease resistance. For more information on plum rootstocks read this Orange Pippin article Plums are often trained as open-centred trees anywhere from 3-5m high. If you don’t have room for a tree that size, they also respond very well to training. Keep an eye out for suckers, particularly if you have one of the more vigorous rootstocks.
If you only have room for one, best to get a self-fertile variety, otherwise you’ll need a pollinating partner.
Plums generally don’t require pruning as strictly as apples, however there are some important rules to consider. Usual pruning etiquette applies: remove dead, damaged, diseased and crossing branches. Importantly, don’t prune plums in winter as this increases the chance of infection with silver leaf. Young trees are best pruned spring and established trees in summer.
Kea plums developed around Kea, near Truro, and were an important source of revenue in the area. These plums are generally smaller (about damson size) and sharp, so great for jams.
‘Czar’ – popular variety, good in tricky conditions including shade & damp, good for cooking, self-fertile
‘Victoria’ – old favourite dessert type, self-fertile
‘Blue Tit’ – self-fertile dessert type, one of the most compact plums