Plum Essentials

By National Gardening Association Editors


  • Some plums are self-fertile but all plums will yield better if planted with a second variety for cross-pollination. Japanese plums need to cross-pollinate with other Japanese or American hybrid plums.
  • Order bare-root, rather than potted trees, if possible.
  • A well-established tree will yield up to 2 bushels of plums.


  • Select a site that offers loamy, well-drained soil in full sun.
  • Avoid frost pockets.


  • Set the tree in the prepared hole keeping the graft union an inch above the soil line.
  • Space standard-size varieties 20 to 25 feet apart, dwarfs 15 to 20 feet apart.


  • Water young trees heavily every week through the first season.
  • Train Japanese trees to an open center shape; train European trees to a conical shape with a central leader.
  • Japanese plum trees benefit from a moderate fruit thinning; do not thin European plums unless the crop is especially heavy.
  • Plums are relatively pest-free, but may be visited by the plum curculio, black knot disease, and brown rot. See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of these problems.


  • Harvest European plums when they are tree-ripe. They will be a little soft and should come off easily with a slight twist. Late maturing varieties should be near ripe with firm flesh for storing for a few weeks.
  • Pick Japanese plums slightly early and allow them to ripen in a cool place.

Other articles in this series:
1. Plum Essentials ← you're on this article right now
2. Plum Varieties
3. Planting and Pruning Plums
4. Plum Pests

This article is a part of our Fruit Gardening Guide for Plums.

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