The Q&A Archives: Culture of Native Plums

Question: I am interested to find out what conditions "native" plum trees prefer: what type of soil, drainage, sun/shade requirements, that sort of thing.

Answer: Native American plums include Prunus americana and Prunus maritima (beach plum), as well as others. If you are going to transplant beach plums from the coast, they will grow larger than the typical 3-6' size, since they won't be buffeted by steady winds. If you wish to harvest lots of fruit from native plums, plant them in full sun on a rich, moisture-retentive soil that drains well (a slightly clayey soil with good subsurface drainage is better than a sandy, droughty soil). If you're going to transplant wild seedlings, there may be a lot of variation in the resulting plants in terms of mature height, fruit flavor, size, color and quantity. Plant 1-2 year old whips in sping, and space them at least 20' apart. Don't let the soil dry out, watering moderately and consistenly throughout the season. Provide a couple inches of compost as a mulch around the young plants, and cover it with straw or other mulch. Pruning is a skill that is best explained with diagrams - it's safer for the trees, too! But I can tell you a in words. Pruning in the early years of a plum tree's life should be focused on training it to a strong modified-central-leader form. What you are aiming for in pruning is strong, lateral branches that are well spaced for sun and air exposure and have a sturdy branch angle from the main trunk (between 50-80 degrees). I can recommend the
Cornell University website where you can order a low-cost bulletin that covers cultural and pruning basics for plums and other fruit: Hope this helps!

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