How To Prune A Plum Tree?

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Once we're in the specifics of this topic, which is all about how to trim a plum tree, let's briefly discuss the many reasons why pruning is important. When you prune trees, you are not only helping to preserve their health and keep them in good condition, but you are also allowing more sunlight to reach the leaves on the ground level, which will make it simpler to harvest the fruit.

    You are undoubtedly curious at this point about the kinds of tools that are necessary for carrying out this task. Both a lopper and a hand saw are excellent options for removing branches from your plum tree; since they both perform equally well, you can pick whichever one you prefer. Let's talk about when this project ought to be completed now that we've gone over why and how it ought to be done.

    In the following paragraphs, we will discuss how to prune a plum tree. The process of removing branches, leaves, or blossoms from a plant in order to control its size and maintain its shape is known as pruning. In addition to this, it helps to avoid overgrowth, which is important since it can lead to diseases and restrict sunlight, air circulation, and the production of fruit. When plants are still dormant in the early spring, the end of winter is the ideal time to perform this kind of maintenance work because it comes before the start of the new growth season. Check this list of affordable Perth Arborist  to help you decide which services to choose.

    Plum trees are an excellent choice for the first fruit tree to be planted in a home orchard. They are not only attractive but very prolific and simple to prune. You have already accomplished the difficult task of locating the ideal plum variety and planting it in the ground. Now, the information in this article will prepare you to prune a plum tree from its first year until it reaches full maturity.

    Why To Prune A Plum Tree

    In the absence of adequate pruning, fruit trees that bear fruits such as grapes, blueberries, or even peaches would become unproductive. On the other hand, plum trees can be successful even if the pruner is inexperienced and makes a few blunders.

    The appropriate response is that pruning plum trees is well worth the effort. A plum tree that has not been pruned will, in general, be smaller and produce a smaller amount of fruit than one that has. A plum tree should be pruned for the following four reasons:

    • It is possible to prune a plum tree into a shape that is more manageable and allows for increased flow of air and sunlight. No one enjoys a struggle with their plum tree every time they prune it.
    • It is necessary to prune a plum tree in order to establish a robust framework of scaffold branches that will not break under the weight of the fruit.
    • It is important to prune a plum tree so that diseased branches and damaged wood are removed.
    • It is important to prune a plum tree in order to stimulate optimal fruit production of plums of the highest possible quality as well as strong and healthy new growth.

    There is not just one method that should be used when pruning plum trees. Don't be afraid to try several methods of pruning until you find the one that gives you the greatest results. Your tree shouldn't have any problems as long as you don't prune it excessively, though.

    Everything You Need To Prune A Plum Tree

    Getting the necessary tools together is the first step in the process of pruning a plum tree. Considering that you can use all of these products to prune several other kinds of fruit trees, you should make an investment in high-quality pruning equipment.

    The following items are necessary for the proper pruning of a plum tree:

    • Shears for pruning: hand shears for cutting soft shoots and water sprouts, as well as twigs and leaves.
    • Orchard loppers are heavy-duty shears that are designed to cut through harder branches.
    • A curved saw used for pruning, in the event that you need to remove a diseased branch from a tree.
    • A pole tree pruner is a type of pruner that has a long handle and is used to reach the highest branches of a tree without the need to mount a ladder.
    • Garden gloves: gloves are an absolute necessity for protecting your hands from the thorny growth that can be found in gardens.
    • Sealer for pruning wounds and stumps is not required but can help avoid infection of pruning wounds and stumps. Grafting is another application that may be performed using pruning sealer, which means that you can attach an apple branch to your plum tree.

    Plum Tree Growth Habits

    Keep in mind that the development patterns of a plum tree are distinct from those of an apple tree or a grapevine before you prune the plum tree. In addition, the growth patterns of the plum tree will differ depending on the type of plum tree you are cultivating.

    European Plum Tree Growth Habits

    Plums native to Europe bear fruit on spurs that can be anywhere from two to tens of years old. Consequently, European plum varieties such as the Cherry plum and yellow plums such as the Mirabelle or Green Gage are particularly forgiving. Cherry plums are also quite forgiving. Even if you trim back wood from the current season, they will continue to blossom and produce fruit even after you do so.

    Japanese Plum Tree Growth Habits

    Japanese plums fruit either on 1-year-old wood, much like peaches and on fruit spurs. For extremely fruitful varieties like the Satsuma plum and the Elephant Heart plum, it is necessary to cut as much as half of the year-old shoots in order to prevent the plant from producing an excessive amount of fruit. When it comes to varieties that produce light crops, like as the Santa Rosa, only one fourth to one third of the new shoots need to be trimmed out.

    When To Prune A Plum Tree

    In a manner analogous to that of peaches, Japanese plums can bear fruit either on wood that is one year old or on fruit spurs. Because extremely fruitful varieties such as the Satsuma plum and the Elephant Heart plum must have up to half of their one-year-old shoots plucked, it is necessary to take this measure to avoid producing an excessive amount of fruit.

    When it comes to varieties that produce light crops, such as the Santa Rosa, just one fourth to one third of the new shoots should be removed during the pruning process.

    Times To Prune A Plum Tree In Dormant Season

    Why is it recommended that you not prune a plum tree during the season when it is not producing fruit? The truth is that plum trees are susceptible to a variety of fungal infections, the most well-known of which is the Silver Leaf disease. When you prune in the summer, you reduce the number of fungal spores that are released into the atmosphere. In addition to this, the tree is better able to defend itself against diseases caused by fungi. On the other hand, there are a few circumstances in which dormant pruning is the most appropriate option.

    It is permitted to perform dormant pruning in the event that limb breaking occurs or while planting new trees. Even in the middle of winter, broken branches should be pruned away as soon as feasible. In order to avoid leaving a ragged wound in the tree, it is preferable to make a clean cut and then paint over it with wound paint.

    Ignore any advise on summer trimming if you reside in an area that experiences high humidity during the summer. It sounds like the late spring would be the greatest time for you. Because of the prevalence of fungal spores during the humid summers in Minnesota, for instance, orchard growers have found that latent pruning is the most effective method. Think about using fungicides that won't harm the bees if you want to help control the disease. Planning for a  tree lopping, pruning, wood chipping, mulching, palm removing & stump grinding? At Tree Amigos, you can find high quality and affordable arborist services for your needs.

    Pruning, also known as tree training, is something that should always be done to newly planted trees. You need to get a head start on developing the required tree form as soon as possible. Pruning whips at the time of planting is always important, but some providers may prune larger trees before delivering them to their customers. When pruning a plum tree at the time of planting, keep the following things in mind to reduce the likelihood of infecting the tree:

    • Your initial trimming should take place in the late winter or early spring, before the buds break dormancy. Pick a dry day when there will be less spores of mould and fungi floating about in the air.
    • To prevent water from building up on the wounds caused by pruning, make cuts that are clean and slope downward.
    • As the new spring growth emerges, be on the lookout for any signs of silvering or frost damage.

    Fruit Thinning


    Even while thinning fruit is not technically considered to be a pruning activity, it may be essential for producing high-quality fruit in the future. Before you begin thinning the plums, you should finish the annual pruning you've been doing, and in the spring, you shouldn't remove blooms that are still in bloom. It is possible that summer pruning is all that is required because it will remove fruit-bearing stems.

    Why may it be beneficial for plum trees to thin their fruit? Even the most sturdy scaffold limbs can be brought down by the weight of an abundant harvest of plums. In addition, fruit quality is improved when fruit trees are able to focus the sun's energy that has been collected by the leaves into a smaller number of plums that have reached maturity.

    Plum trees are well-known for their ability to bear fruit every two years. They will have a bumper crop of plums one year, and then they will rest and put away energy for the following year so that they can continue to develop. The output of fruit can be made more consistent from one year to the next by the use of proper pruning and fruit thinning techniques.

    The following are the steps involved in effective fruit thinning:

    • If there are too many plums on the tree in May or June, pluck the ones that are too little.
    • It is time to prune the plum tree.
    • During the early to middle of July, pick out and discard any plums that are bruised, damaged, or infested with pests.

    How To Prune A Plum Tree

    Any one of the primary types of plums will require a distinctive approach to pruning. Plums come in a wide range of kinds, the most popular of which being Japanese plums and European plums. Because of the diverse ways in which they grow, these trees do best when shaped differently.

    Remember these two things before you begin the process of pruning. Always prune to a healthy bud in the direction you want new growth to go, which is typically upward and outward. This is the first step in proper pruning. When pruning, make clean cuts so you end up with healthy stubs.

    Second, decide on the scaffold limbs that will serve as the basic structure of your tree. In a perfect world, the limbs of the scaffold should be at an angle of 45 degrees to the tree. When a mature tree is loaded down with plums, branches that have narrow crotch angles are more likely to break off.

    How To Prune Plum Bushes And Pyramid Plums

    The pruning process will look a little bit different depending on whether you have a dwarf plum, a plum bush, or a pyramid plum. The lateral branches of a young tree can be trained to spread out more evenly among horizontal wires using a technique called fan training. This not only makes the tree a more attractive component of the environment, but it also makes tree upkeep much simpler.

    The following steps should be taken while performing pruning on a pyramid plum tree:

    • In the first year, prune a newly planted tree such that its uppermost branches are about 2 feet above the soil level and directly over a bud. Check to see that there are at least four buds located below the cut.
    • After the first year, you should prune the main stem back around 12–20 inches. The buds that you left from the previous season will have resulted in the growth of lateral shoots. Remove all of these lateral shoots until you reach a bud that is approximately 10 inches long.
    • Remove any branches that are in front of or behind the central leader of your fan training system, and then tie lateral branches to the horizontal wires. If you are utilising a fan training system.
    • You may manage the height of the mature pyramid plum by pruning it by cutting back the central leader by 12–20 inches, and you should also clip back the lateral branches as needed.
    • Always take care to prune back any branches that are sick, dead, or in the way.

    How To Prune A Japanese Plum Tree

    It is recommended that Japanese plum trees be pruned into a vase shape. This will result in you having limbs of the scaffold pointing outward from around a central trunk that has a gap in the middle.

    The following is a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to prune a plum tree of any Japanese variety:

    • The first year, you will have what is known as a pruning whip or a young tree, which resembles a stick with buds in its appearance. Reduce the height of the stem so that it is just two or three feet off the ground. After the branches have developed a few inches, select healthy shoots to use as the lateral branches of your scaffold whorl. It is important to maintain a consistent distance between the tree's lateral branches.
    • The scaffold whorl should be pruned back after the first two or three years so that there is just one bud at the top and two buds at the bottom.
    • Remove any infected material, broken timber, or branches that are crossing each other. Be sure to make clean cuts.
    • Remove any suckers, water sprouts, and any shoots or stems that are developing towards the centre of the tree or on the trunk below the scaffold limbs, beginning with the lowest limb. Additionally, remove any secondary growth that may have developed on the scaffold limbs that are less than a foot away from the trunk. Keep the upright shoots that are pointing in the direction of the outside.
    • To prevent an excessive amount of fruit from being produced, cut off between one half and one third of the shoots that were one year old from the season before.
    • Reduce the height of the upright limbs and the scaffolding to a level that is more manageable. To facilitate harvesting of plums from non-dwarf plum trees, which can reach heights of up to thirty feet, prune the trees to a more manageable size. In addition, this stimulates the production of phytohormones, which will promote the growth of fruit on the lower branches of the tree.

    How To Prune A European Plum Tree

    Pruning European plum trees into the shape of a central leader should be done. When performing a pruning technique known as central leader pruning, scaffold branches are trimmed such that they encircle a single upright branch that is an extension of the trunk. During the summer, you will see that the tree canopy takes on the shape of a pyramid.

    The following is a step-by-step guide that can be used to prune any European species of plum tree:

    • During the first year, take a pruning whip and trim it so that it is between 28 and 36 inches above the ground. Choose a vertical branch to serve as the central leader, and then select a few other branches and space them out evenly to create the scaffold whorl.
    • Pick out sturdy and regularly spaced lateral shoots throughout the second and third years of the plant's life to develop into scaffold branches. Maintain these lateral branches by cutting them down to a length of around 10 inches or two buds. Because of this, growth is concentrated in the centre leader.
    • During the first two or three years, you should prune the scaffold whorl branches at the top of the tree to a single bud, and you should prune the branches at the bottom of the tree to two buds.
    • After three or four years, the tree should have started to reach its full height. It is recommended that the trunk be cut back by 12–20 inches at a bud each year in order to encourage the development of fruit and vegetative buds on the lower tree branches.
    • Remove any branches that are sick, damaged, or dead at the end of each year. Additionally, eliminate any unproductive sprouts as well as any branches that are crossing.
    • Suckers and watersprouts should be severed at their point of origin.
    • Remove any old growth as well as secondary branches that are growing inwards from the tree if it is still too tall or bushy. Straight branches have the potential to have their length reduced.

    How To Prune A One-Year-Old Plum Tree

    The first year's pruning is quite simple; simply cut the stem back to a height of around 1 metre or 3 feet between the beginning and end of March (see below for why at this time of year). If you want your plum tree to develop into a half-standard bush, prune it to a height of 1.2 metres (4 feet), but if you want it to develop into a full standard, prune it to a height of 1.6 metres (5 feet).

    You should aim for the main stem to produce at least two branches, each of which should originate from a bud that is easily observable. Therefore, in the first year, you might wish to cut the main stem slightly higher so that a healthy bud or two is left on the main stem. This will ensure that the plant blooms well.

    It is essential to prune a plum tree that is one year old as soon as possible in order to assist it in developing a sound structure. To add insult to injury, trimming a tree in the winter leaves it vulnerable to fungus infestations. Keeping in mind these two opposing aspects, the optimal time to prune a tree that is one year old is around the middle of March.

    When you purchased your plum tree, the person who sold it to you should have provided you with information regarding its age. If you are unsure of how old your tree is, you can use the diagrams located above and below to determine whether or not your new tree is one or two years old.

    Use a pair of sharp secateurs and prune on a day when the weather is dry. In order to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface, the cut should be made at an angle. It is currently recommended that a pruning sealant not be used on the cut.

    Let's imagine that you planted your brand-new tree in January 2017 and pruned it for the first time in March 2017, so that we can get the timing right for the pruning in years two and three. The tree will have been one year old at this point. This day will serve as the foundation for the subsequent dates.

    How To Prune A Two-Year-Old Plum Tree

    This portion of the guide on how to prune a plum tree that is two years old pertains to the following two scenarios:

    In January of 2017, you made the purchase of a one-year-old tree and performed the necessary maintenance on it in March of that same year (see first year pruning above). This second-year trimming should take place around the middle of June in 2018.

    You purchased and planted a young tree in the winter, and you want to perform the initial round of pruning on it in the middle of June 2018.

    Reduce the length of the main branches to approximately 30 centimetres or 12 inches. Cut back any side shoots to a length that is 15 centimetres or 6 inches long. Remove any sprouts that appear to be unhealthy in their entirety, and cut back any stems that appear to be crossing. Use a pair of sharp secateurs and prune on a day when the weather is dry. In order to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface, the cut should be made at an angle.

    During the pruning process, clip the shoots and branches back to an outward-facing bud in order to attempt to obtain the goblet form with a clear and unobstructed portion in the middle. If an outward-facing bud can only be found further down the stem that has to be pruned, cut back to the point where it can be found.

    How To Prune A Three-Year-Old Plum Tree


    The process of pruning in the third year is exactly the same as in the second year. Reduce the length of the branches to around 35 centimetres or 14 inches using pruning shears. Cut back any side shoots to a length that is 15 centimetres or 6 inches long. Remove any sprouts that appear to be unhealthy in their entirety, and cut back any stems that appear to be crossing. Use a pair of sharp secateurs and prune on a day when the weather is dry. In order to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface, the cut should be made at an angle.

    Trim the shoots and branches until they end in an outward-facing bud in order to work towards achieving the goblet shape with a centre area that is clear of debris. If an outward-facing bud can only be found further down the stem that has to be pruned, cut back to the point where it can be found. A significant portion of the inside of the plum tree should be kept free of branches at all times. This requires special attention. This contributes to the overall health of the tree by allowing free air circulation, which helps prevent fungal infections from occuring.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Plums are a type of stone fruit that grows on trees. The skin of plum is smooth and can be eaten, but the pits need to be removed before eating. Plums come in many colours, including red, purple, and green. Some plums are tart, while others are sweet.

    Most plum trees do not need to be trimmed, but they may benefit from pruning if they are overgrown or have dead branches. Pruning helps to promote new growth and can make the tree easier to manage. However, plum trees should only be pruned in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Trimming your plum tree at the wrong time of year may damage it or delay its fruit production.

    A plum tree is a beautiful addition to any garden; with proper care, it can produce bountiful crops of delicious fruit. Here are a few tips on how to take care of your plum tree: 

    • Plum trees need full sun to produce fruit, so choose a spot in your yard that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
    • Water your plum tree regularly, especially during the warmer months. The soil should be moist but not soggy.
    • Apply a layer of mulch around the tree's base to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
    • Fertilise your plum tree twice a year - once in spring and once in fall - with a balanced fertiliser.
    • Prune your plum tree annually to encourage new growth and prevent disease. Remove any dead or damaged branches, as well as any suckers that are growing from the roots.

    There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to plum trees:

    1. Choosing a location with plenty of sun is important. Plums need at least six hours of sunlight per day in order to produce fruit.
    2. Make sure the soil is well-drained. Plums will not do well in soggy soil.
    3. Be sure to fertilise the tree regularly.
    4. Water the tree deeply but not too frequently.
    5. Prune the tree annually to encourage fruit production.

    By following these tips, you can ensure that your plum tree will thrive and produce delicious fruit for years.

    Plums are a popular fruit that can be used in a number of different dishes. While they can be grown in small spaces, they do need some room to grow. Each plum tree needs about ten to fifteen square feet of space.

    This allows the roots to spread out and the tree to get the sunlight it needs. If you are growing multiple plum trees, you will need to space them out, so they have room to grow. In addition, you will need to prune the trees regularly to keep them from getting too big. With proper care, plum trees can produce a bountiful harvest for years.

    Radical pruning is a type of pruning that is typically used on fruit trees, such as plum trees. The goal of radical pruning is to promote growth and encourage the development of fruit-bearing branches. To do this, the tree is pruned back to a central leader or trunk, removing all side branches.

    This pruning can damage the tree if not done correctly, so it is important to consult with a professional before undertaking any radical pruning. However, radical pruning can produce a healthier, more productive plum tree.


    When To Prune Your Plum Tree

    In contrast to the vast majority of other types of fruit trees, plum trees should not be pruned until they have reached their mature size. Never prune a plum tree in the wintertime because that is when they are dormant; the best time to do so is in the middle of June. The reason for this is that you run the danger of infecting your dormant plum tree with Silver Leaf disease as well as other fungal infections if you prune it when it is not in active growth.

    Plum trees that are healthy and vigorously growing are better able to withstand diseases caused by fungi. In addition to this, there is evidence that the Silver Leaf Disease can be spread by spores, which flourish in the wetter circumstances that are characteristic of fall and winter.

    In general, you can prune your plum tree without running the risk of causing any damage at any point between the late spring and the end of July.

    There are two exceptions to this rule (as with any rule, there are always one or two exceptions!), and they are as follows:

    During the winter, a plum tree that had been just purchased and was only a year old was planted. The retailer from whom you purchased a new plum tree ought to have made it clear whether they sold you a plum tree that is one or two years old. If this is not the case, the two diagrams located further down in this page will assist you in determining the age of your tree.

    It is essential to prune a plum tree that is one year old as soon as possible in order to assist it in developing a sound structure. To add insult to injury, trimming a tree in the winter leaves it vulnerable to fungus infestations. When taking these two considerations into account, the best time to prune a tree that is one year old is towards the beginning of March. This article will help you make a decision about tree stumping and removal.  Here at Tree Amigo, we’re passionate about trees!

    Use a pair of sharp secateurs and prune on a day when the weather is dry. In order to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface, the cut should be made at an angle. For further information, see the section below on pruning a tree that is one year old.

    If one or more of the branches on an established plum tree breaks (the force of the wind and the weight of the fruit are two common reasons for this), it is preferable to cut back the broken branch all the way to excellent solid wood as soon as possible. When compared to a breakage in which the surface of the broken branch is exposed and ragged, a branch that has been cleanly cut causes less damage to the tree and hence less loss of life.

    Scroll to Top