When do plums bloom?

Food Storage – How long can you keep…

Tips

  • How long do plums last? The precise answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – after purchasing, keep plums in a dry area.
  • Properly stored, plums will become fully ripe in about 2 to 3 days at normal room temperature.
  • How can you make plums ripen faster? To hasten ripening, put plums in a brown paper bag, close it and leave on the counter.
  • Do not refrigerate plums until they are fully ripe – allowing to ripen at room temperature will result in more flavorful, juicy plums.
  • To extend the shelf life of fully ripe plums, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate; for best results, bring the plums back to room temperature before using.
  • How long do plums last in the refrigerator? Fully ripe plums will last for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.
  • Can you freeze raw plums? Yes: (1) Wash and leave whole or cut in halves or quarters and remove pit; (2) In a saucepan, combine 2 3/4 cups sugar and 4 cups water, mix until the solution is clear, and bring to a boil; (3) Cool the syrup and pour over plums; (4) Place plums and syrup in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
  • How long do plums last in the freezer? Properly stored, they will maintain best quality for about 10 to 12 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – plums that have been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How to tell if plums are bad or spoiled? Plums that are spoiling will typically become very soft, develop dark spots and start to ooze; discard any plums if mold appears or if the plums have an off smell or appearance.

Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please

A ripe plum is rich and seductive, but also ornery. A dried plum is, well, the maligned prune. But plums have a passionate fan base, from Eastern Europe, Asia, and beyond.

As cookies go, triangular hamantaschen are generally terrible. But they’re a hell of a ritual.

The Purim story in the Book of Esther, in a nutshell: Mordecai, an adviser to the Persian king, insults a new viceroy named Haman by refusing to bow in obedience. Upon learning Mordecai is Jewish, the incensed Haman decides to kill not just him, but all the Jews in the kingdom. Mordecai discovers this plot and assists his niece Esther, the king’s bride and hero of the story, in thwarting the genocide. As recompense, Esther convinces the king to arm his Jewish subjects so they may slaughter his sons and soldiers. And Haman? She gets him hanged.

Today, Jews celebrate this victory by drinking, partying, and eating hamantaschen to spite the man who’d have us dead. In Hebrew, the cookies are called ozney Haman—Haman’s ears.

Modern hamantaschen are filled with everything from raspberry jam to chocolate, but I only have eyes for those with a nugget of lekvar in the center. A preserve made from cooked-down prunes whipped into a paste, lekvar is dense and chewy like caramel. My grandparents spread it on their morning toast and smeared it into buttery tarts; as a kid, my mother skipped the filler and ate it directly off the spoon.

Lekvar is just one of the many ways that plums fall into the Eastern European Jewish kitchen. We also stew the fresh fruit into sauces for dessert, or into braising liquid for brisket. And from our goyishe friends and neighbors we learned to bake plums into dumplings, cakes, and tortes—relishing the twangy, almost electrifying effect their tannic skins have on the tongue.

Like my ancestors, the Prunus genus of flowering plants, which includes plums and all other stone fruits, was born around Eastern Europe. And like the Jews, the plum is itinerant; dozens of varieties have laid down roots from Korea to California.

Here is the thing about plums: You can pick them in every color of the rainbow, but no matter the kind, they are a challenging fruit. A ripe plum is rich and seductive, but also ornery. Sweet, to be sure, but with an acidic spark and an astringent bite. Peaches are puppy dogs—sugary and desperate for your love. By contrast, plums are goats that won’t stop chewing on your clothes. They’re complicated fruits that take work to understand and must be appreciated on their own terms.

In synagogues and around the table, Jews learn from a young age that sweetness comes at a price: sacrifice in adversity, remembrance of the past, education for the future. Which is why I consider the plum to be a quintessentially Jewish fruit, a reminder that sweet tastes don’t come easily. But every culture learns this from the plum, one way or the other.

Technically, Prunus mume—the feisty, bracingly tart plum of China and Japan—is closer to apricots than other plums. But it’s called a plum by pretty much everyone and shares the brooding personality of its P. domestica relatives. Japanese cooks tend to salt-cure it into a piquant pickle called umeboshi, but in China, there’s wu mei, an intensely smoky and savory prune that’s at once snack, cooking ingredient, and medicine.

You can find wu mei—black and shriveled, redolent of smoldering coals—in the dry goods section of Chinese groceries and herbalist shops. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll happen on a concentrated syrup of wu mei with osmanthus, hawthorn berry, licorice, and rock sugar, made for diluting with water into suanmeitang, a cooling, salty-sweet drink served like lemonade in China and Taiwan.

Jonathan Wu, the chef of Nom Wah Tu in New York, grew up eating sour salted plums coated in licorice powder as a snack and is drawn to the Chinese plum as a source of acidity in his cooking. But his big obsession is that concentrate. “It’s like barbecue sauce,” he says in an almost conspiratorial whisper. He mixes it with hoisin, rice vinegar, and soy sauce to braise lamb until it collapses, then piles the meat over wheat noodles, which he tops with fried pickled peanuts and loads of dill. It tastes the way I always wished my grandmother’s brisket could and summons the full power of the plum: warm and familiar yet explosively multifaceted, tinged with an antediluvian darkness.

For Wu, that smoky languor is what makes wu mei taste so good. He’s not the only one who thinks so. In Szydłów, a Polish village known for exceptional plums, smoked prunes are a local delicacy, crazy good when roasted within the body of a duck or goose. And across the Atlantic, Sioux chef, educator, and cookbook author Sean Sherman has some turn-of-the-century photos of folks drying plums and other fruits by a smoldering log. “A ton of smoke flavor is going into the fruit that way,” he explains.

In plum-growing regions, Native American cooks pounded prunes into pemmican—an ancient power bar of dried fruit, nuts, and animal fat. Sherman adds prunes to the dough of toasted wild rice flatbreads, and even grinds fully dehydrated plums into a powder to use as a seasoning and flour.

Sherman’s a fan of the indigenous P. Americana that grows on Minnesota’s Red Lake Reservation, but for my money the greatest plums on the continent come from Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood, California, where Rebecca Courchesne and her husband, Al, grow a dozen-odd plums and plum-apricot hybrids. Their Santa Rosas, a native Californian variety developed by Luther Burbank in the early 1900s, are intensely sweet with moody undertones of earth and spice, but with skins tart enough to snap your eyes and heart to attention.

“I would never skin a plum,” Rebecca Courchesne tells me. “The skin is part and parcel of the fruit. But home cooks underestimate how bitter and aggressive it can be.” As the farm’s chef, she’s learned to pay plums their due respect. Instead of blasting them with sugar, which would cause their watery flesh to weep liquid everywhere, she uses plums to add verve to other fruits, such as blueberries for conserve and nectarines for galettes.

We learn to appreciate plums in our own ways, but the ancient fruit’s greatest lesson is the necessity of reinvention. A raw plum is best transformed into something else, and it in turn transforms us. “The plum is one fruit better cooked than raw,” says Marian Burros, whose plum torte recipe was famously published every September in The New York Times from 1983 to 1989, to mark the start of Italian plum season. “And that dish is part of my DNA.” To make the classic German dessert, you nestle plum halves into a simple cake batter, then bake until the torte rises around the plums, which soften into jam.

“Better to think of in their more decadent old-world iterations,” Anca L. Szilágyi writes in a cultural and personal history of the fruit. “Dumplings, jam, brandy—the sort of products that elicit both rabble-rousing and decorous ritual.”

Szilágyi’s family came to the U.S. from Romania. Mine is mostly from Poland. And despite the plum’s many colors and varieties and global instantiations, I’m still convinced that our ancestors understood it best. They’re the ones who baked hamantaschen, and who drank plum brandy to soothe their souls. Often called slivovitz, the potent fire water is the purest expression of the plum, with the most vivid sense of place.

Slivovitz tastes best when poured from a plastic bottle by a hairy-armed guy who distilled his own in a shed. It should be a touch sweet but not sugary, expansive in the throat and warming in the belly, and vicious in its bite, both toxin and curative.

“Into her suitcase it went,” Szilágyi recalls of her grandmother restocking her supply on a trip to the Old Country, “carefully transported back to the States so that it might properly ‘disinfect’ us before each dinner.”

Back in the Balkans, plums and plum brandy remained a vital marker of identity. In the early 2000s, an enclave of Serbs in the city of Mitrovica rankled under a looming American presence following the Kosovo War. A slogan of resistance arose, in defiant English for all to hear, and it was soon printed with artwork on postcards, flyers, and T-shirts.

In the painted illustration, a mustachioed man in a traditional cap stands beneath a bundle of plums on the tree. In one hand, he holds a circular bottle of plum brandy. In the other he grasps a glass filled to the brim. “Fuck the Coca, fuck the pizza,” the slogan reads. “All we need is šljivovica.”

I saw these babies at the market a couple of years ago and couldn’t resist taking them home:

So cute! And they looked great for quick snacking. Unfortunately, though they were called French Sugar Plums, they weren’t very sweet, and the lack of juiciness was unexpectedly disappointing. They tasted so nondescript that I didn’t know how to respond – they weren’t bad, but that’s because they weren’t anything. They didn’t even really taste like plums, just like they were some generically labelled Fruit.

But because I’d bought a whole pound of them anticipating snacks to last us at least a week, I started surfing the Internet for how I could use them up. They’re also known as Italian Prune Plums, so there were suggestions for turning them into homemade prunes, but that seemed a lot of trouble for a food I didn’t really love anyway. And then I found The Cake.

Apparently, I’m slow to a whole bunch of trains, because this recipe was published in the New York Times every year for about 20 years, but I only found out about it recently. But it’s what these plums were made for. Their tiny little oval shapes wink at you as the syrupy topping settles into the crevices left by their big, fat pits (you don’t see syrupy topping in the link? That’s ‘cuz I changed the recipe. Scroll down.), and the heat of the oven transforms their blah generic flavor into something layered, complex, concentrated with sugar but not overwhelmingly sweet. In short? It’s the best coffee cake in the history of the universe.

Except it wasn’t. I mean, it was clearly delicious and was clearly what these plums were made for (being baked, broiled, roasted or otherwise made delicious by the magic of fire), but I found it a bit dry. So finally I decided to fiddle and futz, and now, if I do say so myself, it is the greatest coffee cake in the history of the universe. It’s amazingly easy, moist, beautiful, and easily swappable with apples, pears, or other fruits that are not particularly juicy – I wouldn’t use peaches or overly ripe pears or something along those lines because the juice runs out underneath the seam of the pan and makes you have to clean your oven afterwards. But feel free to swap out another liquor or flavor of your choice as well – I’m not a fan of orange myself, but I think cranberries or pears and cointreau might be very nice…

Modified Plum Cake adapted from Marian Burros
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
14 tbs softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (can reduce slightly)
2 eggs
1/2 cup 2% or higher Greek style plain yogurt or European-style yogurt (thicker kinds with no sugar or flavorings added – you could probably sub in sour cream if you can’t find either of these, but I haven’t tried it)
15-20 prune plums depending on size of fruit and your pan
1-2 tbs brandy, amaretto, or other liquor
1 tsp cinnamon for tossing, 1 tsp cinnamon for batter
2 tsp sugar
almond extract (could use vanilla or combination of the 2)
springform pan, lightly sprayed or lightly buttered

Preheat oven to 350. Halve the plums (over the bowl to catch the juices). The easiest way to remove the pit is to simply cut in half, and twist:

Then remove the pit.

Toss with approximately 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, splash of almond extract, and generous splash of liquor. Let sit while you make the batter.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Cream butter, yogurt and sugar and blend with well-beaten eggs.

Add in flour mixture just until combined without flour streaks. Spread into the bottom of springform pan (it will be very thick).

Press plum halves skin side down in concentric circles (if you want it to be pretty)

so flat sides of plums are level with batter.

Messy plums before cooking

Messy plums after cooking

If your plums were overripe and fell apart while you were taking out the pit, that’s okay. It won’t look as glamorous, but will still look nice and taste just the same.

Spoon remaining syrup in bowl over the top of the cake. Bake at 350 for 40-50 mins or until set in the center and pale golden. Separate the edges from the sides of the pan with a knife while the cake is still hot and let sit for about 5 more mins before removing the sides. Serve warm or room temperature.

For French Sugar/Italian Prune Plums:
Look for small, oblong, slightly plump fruits. They should have a little bit of give when you squeeze them, but not be soft. Wrinkled skin means they’re on their way to prune-town; too soft means you’ll definitely need to cook them (but these should really be cooked when fresh for best flavor anyway, and if you’re making cake or sauce, the wrinkled ones will plump right up with a little liquid…) Small bruises and brown spots can be easily cut out; large scales are a bad sign. The fruit is too small to save when it gets a large blemish. They don’t smell like much of anything when ripe -at most, a slightly acidic, plum-like scent.

Peel? No.
Edible seed? No. It’s a stone fruit. Less ripe plums will actually pop off the pit very nicely; as they start to overripen they will hang on, so stick with fruits a little on the firmer side if you want them to look pretty when pitted.
Edible when raw? Yes. If you’re just eating them plain, let them ripen a little more so that you get the maximum juice possible.
Worth the price of organic? Probably. Imported plums are high on the lists for pesticide use, though domestic aren’t bad. If you don’t know where yours come from, I’d err for organic. If you know your farmer, you could probably get away with conventional.
In season: Late Summer into Early Fall. (In L.A., all the way into early January.)
Best with: Heat. Cook them to concentrate the flavor and bring out the juices. Otherwise, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond, vanilla, cream (and creamy substances – yogurt, sour cream, pudding, etc.), and orange all go nicely for sweet uses. Because of their small size and subtler sweetness, they’re also ideal for use with dark meats or game, like chicken thighs, rabbit, lamb and duck.
How to Store: In the fridge, they’ll keep as long as 2 weeks or more. If they start to shrivel and get prune-looking, they’re still great for baking though less tasty for eating raw.

Bruce Plum Tree

If you have hot, dry summers and occasional frost in low lying areas where you live, try the tasty Bruce Plum Tree (Prunus salicina x angustifolia ‘Bruce’). Introduced by A.L Bruce of Donley, Texas in 1921 this American hybrid has become one of the tastiest, hardiest and easy-to-grow plums available to the home grower today.

Bruce is a hybrid cross of the Abundance plum, a Japanese type cultivar (which was a Luther Burbank introduction in 1888), and the common American Chickasaw plum varieties of North America. The Bruce Plum tree gives you the best of both its parents.

Bruce Plum performs like a champ in the dry heat of the West, and higher humidity heat of the South. It can handle occasional frost in low lying areas without any problem.

First noted in Texas for its disease resistance, the Bruce gained in popularity throughout the country. It has really been a star in the home garden market.

One of its most prized qualities is its early ripening, especially in milder climates. This variety also is a heavy setting selection. It’s very rare you’ll have a year without a crop.

As you can imagine, Bruce is easy to grow and easy to love.

Particularly well suited for the Northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Northern New Mexico regions, where hot dry summer climates favor early harvesting varieties.

Please note, Bruce is generally not self-fruitful. For the best fruit set, be sure to plant a Japanese type cultivar for cross-pollination. Methley Plum ripens a bit later than Bruce and is a good partner.

Place your order now, this variety is in high demand!

How to Grow Bruce Plum Fruit Trees

Bruce starts blooming in early spring with an abundance of beautiful, paper-white flowers. Around the start of June, the fruit has grown and is ready to pick and eat!

Bruce will give you especially large plums that feature rich red skin. Deep yellow/orange flesh has a sweet, mellow flavor. Together with the sweet-tart zip of the skin, the flavor is nicely balanced.

You can eat this delicious fruit straight from the tree. Or, use it in your favorite plum recipes. Jams, preserves, cobblers, you name it.

Bruce stays small, so it is great in urban orchards or even in big pots on a patio or balcony. In general, you can expect two or three bushels of plums from every Bruce Plum tree every summer fruiting season! Your neighbors will be wondering where you’re getting all of the fruit, since you’ll have an abundance to share.

Tell them you got them from your friend, Bruce.

#ProPlantTips for Care

Give your Bruce Plum tree a spot in full sun. It prefers well-drained soil that has been amended with compost.

If poor drainage is suspected, elevate your planting 12 to 18 inches above the soil line by planting in a mound or raised bed. Mulch your tree to 3 to 4 inches deep to 3 feet outside of the canopy.

While young, give the tree an even amount of moderate water. Once it’s established in your soil, it is largely drought tolerant.

Keep Bruce pruned in a vase shape. Pick three main scaffold limbs to encourage a full, upright shape.

Thin out heavy crops by at least 50%. This will help increase the size of mature fruit.

Bruce is an easy care plum that is productive and disease resistant. Let it color your world with spring blossoms and flavor your world with an abundance of sweet fruit. Order today!

What Pollinates a Bruce Plum Tree?

In the botanical world of the birds and bees, some plum trees (Prunus spp.) need only a pollinator to help them set fruit, while other plum trees need both a pollinator and a pollenizer. ‘Bruce’ plum trees (Prunus salicina ‘Bruce’) need both to successfully bear fruit.

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are distinctly different:

  • Pollinators are agents that transfer pollen grains from male flowers to female flowers, such as birds and insects.
  • Pollenizers are plants that lend their pollen to other plants for cross-fertilization.

‘Bruce’ Pollinators

The ‘Bruce’ plum tree, which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9, relies primarily on honeybees as pollinators, although other agents, including the wind may also pollinate its flowers.

‘Bruce’ Pollenizers

  • The ‘Methley’ plum tree (Prunus salicina ‘Methley,’ USDA zones 4 through 9) is the primary pollenizer for ‘Bruce’ plum trees.
  • Sand plum, also called Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia, USDA zones 5 through 9) is also a suitable pollenizer for ‘Bruce’ plum.

No Fruit On Plum Tree – Learn About Plum Trees Not Fruiting

When a plum tree fails to bear fruit, it is a big disappointment. Think of the juicy, tangy plums you could be enjoying. Plum tree problems that prevent fruit range from age-related to disease and even pest issues. It is important to identify why your plum tree isn’t fruiting. Once you know what’s wrong, you can take steps this season to ensure a bountiful harvest next year.

Plum Trees Not Fruiting

Plum trees begin to bear when they are three to six years of age. You can tell right after bloom if your tree will set fruit. Inspect the terminal ends after blossom drop. The ovary should be swollen with the beginning of the new fruit. If these are absent, there was a problem with initial fruit set.

This may be due to insects (such as aphids), weather-related, or even due to poor tree health. The colony collapse disease that is affecting our honeybee population may also be responsible. Fewer bees mean less pollination, a necessity for fruiting.

Reasons Plum Tree not Fruiting

Fruit trees require exposure to cold temperatures, a period called dormancy; then warm temperatures signal the end of the dormant period and the time to begin growth and fruit production. Extreme cold during flowering will cause the blooms to drop too early, and a plum tree fails to bear fruit.

Freezing temperatures before blooms open will also kill the flowers. Without flowers, you will have no fruit.

Insects that chew the terminal ends, shoots and flowers will also cause no fruit on plum trees.

Excess nitrogen fertilizer promotes leafy growth and can diminish fruiting.

One of the most common causes of plum tree problems is the lack of a co-pollinator. Plums are not self-fruitful and need another of the same species nearby for pollen transfer. This is done with bees, moths and other pollinator’s help.

Pruning at the wrong time removes the buds necessary for flower and then fruit.

Fixing Plum Trees with No Fruit

There are steps you can take to prevent the problem of no fruit on plum trees.

Keep weeds and grass away from the base of a tree.

Provide good irrigation and a fertilizing program appropriate for fruiting trees. Fertilizers higher in phosphorus will help with blooming and fruiting. Bone meal is a great source of phosphorus.

Prune trees when young to create a strong scaffold and minimize upward growth. Pruning is done when the tree is still dormant and before buds have formed.

Do not plant where the tree will be shaded or has competition with other tree roots for resources. Plum trees are one of the least winter hardy plants and should not be grown in zones where temperatures may be -15 F. (-26 C.). Such cold temperatures kill flower buds and are a reason plum tree fails to bear fruit.

Heavy bearing trees may not produce fruit the next year. The plant’s reserves are depleted and you will just have to wait a year for it to rally. Fixing plum trees with no fruit sometimes just requires patience and good stewardship and you will soon be enjoying the glorious sweet fruit again.

News

Is your plum tree not producing fruit? Or are you wondering why there are no plums on your tree?

You can usually tell if your plum tree will yield ripened plums by examining the flowers immediately after the petals fall off. The ovary (which will become the fruit) is located at the base where the petals were. It should be swollen and enlarged. If it isn’t, there was a problem with fruit set which could be due to poor pollination, unfavorable weather, insect pests, or poor health of the tree.

Another plum tree fruit problem could be if the tree did not flower at all. It could be because of inclement weather, insufficient chilling hours, or the tree was too young. If your tree flowered, then started developing small fruit, but the fruit aborted, the problem could be pests or plum tree diseases.

Here is an updated list of plum tree problems that may arise:

Is the tree mature enough?

Has your flowering plum tree been in the ground long enough to be well established? Plum trees typically begin to bear fruit when they are three to six years of age. Fruit develops earlier in some varieties and you even see baby plums begin to appear earlier in age. The fruit will continue to get bigger and bigger until it reaches maturity.

Adequate pollination?

Bees and other pollen collecting insects help cross pollinate plum tree varieties within 50 feet of one another

If plums form and begin to enlarge but then drop to the ground before they mature, it could be because the flowers were not pollinated. If the aborted plums lack a seed (stone) this was the problem.

Many plum trees are self-incompatible; that is, they require cross-pollination from a different variety of plum tree before they will set fruit. Even the plum varieties considered self fertile tend to produce more fruit when they are cross-pollinated. For a plum tree to produce at its best, there must be another variety of plum tree blooming at the same time within 50 feet or less, and some willing pollinators to do the transferring.

The main pollinators for plum trees are insects, especially bees, and particularly honey bees. If there are no bees around, there will be little cross pollination. You can encourage pollinating insects by growing nectar plants and avoiding the use of insecticides.

If the weather is rainy or cloudy or exceptionally windy for several days during the bloom period, bees will be less active, and this can diminish pollination and result in fewer plums.

Japanese plums fruit will ripen in summer to produce a beautiful yellow pink flesh

There are two main groups of cultivated plum trees: (1) Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) and their hybrids and cultivars; and (2) European plums (P. domestica) and their hybrids and cultivars. Both types bloom in early spring and the plums produced ripen in summer. Both types are self-incompatible or partially self-incompatible; that is, their flowers require cross-pollination from a different variety for maximum fruit production.

European and Japanese varieties cannot cross pollinate each other. In general, any two varieties from the same group can pollinate each other as long as they are blooming at the same time.

Insufficient chilling?

A map of Florida’s chill hours by region

Plum trees require a specific duration of cooler temperatures in winter, (called chilling hours) before they will bloom the following spring. Chilling hours are the total number of hours that the temperature is between 32°F and 45°F. (The hours do not need to be consecutive.)

If a plum tree’s chilling hour requirement is not met, the tree may not even produce flowers, or it may bloom too early and the blossoms get destroyed by frost. Most Japanese plum varieties need 500 to 900 chilling hours. European plum varieties often require 700 to 1,000 chill hours, but there are varieties adapted to warmer climates.

Plum trees with low chilling requirements of 150-300 hours, suitable for southern locations, include Santa Rosa Plum, Burgundy, Mariposa, Methley Plum, Shiro, and Satsuma. Chilling requirements are usually provided on the nursery’s label, and do not equate directly with USDA hardiness zones. Use this interactive source to get the average chilling hours for your location: http://agroclimate.org/tools/chill-hours-calculator/

Bad weather?

Exceptionally high winds or drenching rains in spring can damage buds or flowers, causing them to fall off and not produce fruit. Flower buds can be killed by an extremely cold winter. Choose plum trees adapted for your climate zone.

Unusually extreme cold or frost during or immediately before the blossoms open can cause them to wither and fall off. If this happens, there will be no fruit. Covering the tree with a lightweight fabric (such as Reemay®) can protect the blossoms from frost. To protect from extreme cold, you will need to cover the tree with something more substantial (like a blanket) and include a heat source such as an electric light bulb.

Plum curculio infestation?

Typical infestations render D-shaped or crescent malfunctions on the fruit of the plum

Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar), is a small beetle that
lays eggs within developing fruits, causing them to drop prematurely. The skin of infected fruit will have small
crescent-shaped blemishes, and the plum will be hard and misshapen. Look closely, and tiny beetle larvae can be seen near
the spots.

If you have a plum curculio infestation, eggs or larvae will be developing within fruit lying on the ground. Clean it up. If you had infested plum trees last year, cultivate the soil around them to destroy larvae that may be overwintering in the ground.

This photo taken by the Missouri Botanical Gardens represents an up close and personal view of the devastating beetle that can wipe out a whole plum crop

If you have only a few infested trees, plum curculios can be physically shaken out of them. Early in the day, when the beetles are sluggish, spread paper or cloth underneath the trees, and shake the trees vigorously. The adult beetles will fall out of the tree onto the cloth. Dump them into a pail of soapy water.

If you have a severe infestation of plum curculio beetles you can apply carbaryl (Sevin ® spray), phosmet, malathion, pyrethrins, or the organic fungus Beauvaria bassiana. Delay application of any pesticide until after flower petals drop to avoid harming beneficial pollinating insects. Reapply pesticides two more times, at 10–14 day intervals, but not right before harvest. Always follow label instructions.

Other insect pests?

Plum sawflies, mites, scale insects, aphids, various moths, and other insect pests can infect plum trees and fruits, reducing or eliminating a crop. Many of these insect pests can be controlled by spraying the trees with dormant oil or neem oil in late winter. Dormant oil and neem oil are accepted organic pesticides. They work by smothering insects and their eggs. As always, follow manufacturer’s directions.

Brown rot?

If the blossoms, fruit, and/or twigs and branches of your plum tree are covered with a dark brown slime, it is probably infected with the fungus known as brown rot (Monilinia fructicola). Brown rot will cause the plums to become soft and shriveled, and eventually drop off the tree. Remove and destroy infected fruit in late summer or fall. Remove and destroy diseased branches in winter. It could also mean infected leaves which will also need to be picked off.

Fungi like it humid. Keep your plum trees pruned to maintain good air circulation. When watering the tree, water the soil, not the foliage. If brown rot has traveled down to the soil level, you might need to talk to an expert.

If brown rot continues to be a problem, you may have to resort to chemical fungicides. Apply a copper based fungicide in early spring while the trees are still in their pink bud stage (before blossoms open) and again three weeks prior to plum harvest. Always follow label directions.

Tree vigor

Plums should be kept well circulated to help maintain fungus and rot.

Plum trees should get at least eight hours of full sun a day. Do not plant your plum trees where they will be shaded or get root competition from other trees.

Plum trees should get about an inch of water each week from rain or irrigation; otherwise they may drop blossoms and/or abort fruit. If rainfall is insufficient, water enough to soak several inches into the soil once a week.

Fertilize fruit trees with a balanced formula like 10-10-10 or one that is higher in phosphorus (the P in N-P-K), as this is the element that most encourages blooming and fruiting. Our Bulk 360 day slow release fertilizer will work well! Bone meal is a great way to augment a plum tree’s supply of phosphorus.

Prune your plum trees to create a strong scaffold, eliminate crossed branches, and keep the tree at a manageable size. Cut out suckers that sprout from the base of the tree and watersprouts that shoot up from branches. Prune in winter when the tree is dormant but before buds have formed. Learn more about basic pruning for trees and shrubs.

Maintain an area free of weeds and grass for about three feet around the tree. A soil amendment such as our Fruit Tree Planting Mix will help poor soils come back to life!

Excess Nitrogen Fertilizer?

Nitrogen fertilizer promotes leafy, vegetative growth and can diminish flowering if applied in excess. Do not over-fertilize and always follow label directions when fertilizing your plum trees. All About Fertilizers here.

Alternate bearing?

This plum should have been pruned in early summer to reduce the effects of alternate bearing

If a plum tree bears heavily one year, it may produce fewer plums or none at all the following year. Thinning the developing plums while still small (about the size of a marble) in early summer to one fruit every 4-6 inches along the branches will result in fewer fruits ripening, and may lessen the effects of alternate bearing. Remove the smallest fruits and keep the larger ones. Usually, there isn’t much we can do to eliminate alternate bearing.

Other plum tree diseases that may be affecting your tree

Your tree may show signs of black knot or powdery mildew. These are two very common plum tree diseases that affect plum trees and other fruit trees across the United States.

In black knot, abnormal growth on bark or wood near the twigs and branches swells to produce large cankers. This disease could be fatal and infest other trees in the area as it can overwinter and come back year after year if not taken care of.

Powdery mildew is a common disease among many fruit trees that will produce a white substance on infected leaves and branches. The leaves will curl upwards. You may see a leaf spot appear on the plum trees and others stone fruits.

Fungicides can offer protection from both of these plum tree problems. It is important to shield your trees from diseases like this to avoid infestation because it could devastate your fruit trees and could stunt growth at the expense of the fruit.

Plum trees are an excellent choice of fruiting tree for many gardeners! They can grow in a variety of climates and are cold hardy to some degree. Makes a good fruit tree for the Midwest states as well with harsh winters.

Happy planting! Please contact us with any questions you may have. Our experts will help with any issues regarding why your plum tree is not producing fruit. We are here to help!

Check out our Plum Grow Guide for more information on planting, growing, and harvesting these delicious fruits!

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When do plum trees produce fruit?

I would say that now your plum trees are old enough to fruit, you may have just been unlucky this year or last, due to other circumstances:
Do you know if they’re self-fertile? Having two trees helps a lot, but self-fertile trees are known to produce a larger crop (especially when there are two in close range) and somewhat easier.
There are a few things I can think of off the top of my head:
Has there been a significant dry spell/drought in your area, this Spring? If they were under-watered during times like these, it can cause the trees to go into a sort of “survival mode”, where they focus more on getting through the drought than setting fruit to reproduce.
Had you noticed any late, deep frosts, especially after the blossom/flowers had appeared? This can scorch the blossom, meaning that the fruit won’t set.
(The above two are less likely as you mentioned your cherry tree is fine, though it depends whether they flowered at different times?)
Have you been adding feed/nutrients to your trees? Overfeeding can cause plants to grow excessively, producing lush leafage and wood at the expense of your fruit-crop.
Have the trees been pruned at all in the last 5 years?
If you can rule out most things, you may be able to establish why your plum trees aren’t fruiting, and sort it for the next season. If it was a case of frost or drought, etc, the problem may fix itself and next year should be very bountiful!
Good luck; don’t forget to let us know how you get on.

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Monday – May 12, 2008

From: The Colony, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Natural lifespan of wild plum trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a small border of Wild Plum Trees in our yard. Every year it seem that one or two of the biggest trees die. Do they have a specific life span? We transplanted the trees/bushes from the panhandle area. They have been growing for about 15 years.

ANSWER:

First, we needed to establish which wild plum you have, so we looked at the members of the Prunus genus that are found native in Texas.

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum) is found in the Panhandle of Texas. It is a straggly, thicket-forming shrub that may reach 6′ in height, but is not usually that tall.

Prunus havardii (Havard’s plum) is found only in one or two spots in far West Texas. It is another thicket-forming shrub. Image

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) is native to a small section of the Panhandle and North Central Texas. It is actually a tree in shape, can grow from 12′ to 35′ tall.

Prunus rivularis (creek plum) is found in Central and North Central Texas; yet another thicket-forming shrub.

Prunus texana (peachbush) is found only in far South Texas, endemic to the Edwards Plateau and the Rio Grande Plains.

Since we don’t know which one of these you have or if, indeed, you have a hybrid that we wouldn’t even have in our Native Plant Database, we tried to find out what the average age of plum trees, whether actual trees or shrubs, might be. The best we could find out was that 10 to 15 years in the landscape was about the best you could hope for. Some orchards got as old as 30 years old, but that was not the usual thing.

We found this article from the Texas Gardener Magazine by Dr. Larry Stein “So what do we do with old fruit trees?” It has a great deal of excellent information about deciding when it’s time to give up on a fruit tree. His main point is that they will live and produce longer if they are properly cared for when they are first planted, in terms of water, keeping weeds away, etc. If your trees are at least 15 years old, show no insect damage or root disturbance, they are probably dying at about the expected age. If you would like to continue your hedge with the same plants, see this article from the University of Florida Extension Propagation of Woody Ornamentals by Cuttings.

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VICTORIA PLUM TREE

PRUNING VICTORIA PLUM TREES

All the normal rules for pruning plum trees can be ground on our page dedicated to this subject which can be found here. If you have an old or neglected Victoria plum tree then more information about pruning these trees can be found here.

Specifically for Victoria plum trees we would suggest the following pruning regime which will be better suited to their known weaknesses:

  • Pay special attention to thinning the fruits in mid June 2017. This will reduce the weight of the fruit produced and help to stop branches breaking under the weight of excessive fruit. It will also help the remaining fruit to ripen fully.
  • Prune in the first three years of your tree’s life exactly as described on our plum pruning page which can be found here. This will establish a good basic shape.
  • Only prune lightly in subsequent years but prune each year.
  • If branches break cut them back to solid wood as soon as possible whatever time of year the breakage occurs. It’s true that plum trees should best be pruned in June time but a breakage is an unavoidable type of self-pruning which will almost always result in damage which will let in infection. Far better to immediately prune back to solid wood and allow the tree to heal over the cut as quick as possible.

PESTS, DISEASES OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES

Victoria plum trees are susceptible to all the pests and diseases of which attack plum trees and for a comprehensive list of symptoms and cures see our plum tree pest and disease page. It is unfortunate however that Victoria’s do have a reputation, and quite rightly so, of suffering from the following problems in particular:

BACTERIAL CANKER

The classic signs of canker are:

  • Branches and stems have sunken and malformed areas on them. The size of the affected area can be as small as a two penny coin but can also spread over very large areas of the branches.
  • Damaged areas will often have a dark gum oozing from them which may harden to become almost solid after time.
  • Leaves turn prematurely yellow but do not shrivel. They drop off sooner than normal.
  • There may be small brown marks on the leaves which fall out leaving the leaves with small holes in them, this often referred to as shot hole.

For treatment and prevention of canker in Victoria plum trees read our detailed page here.

SILVER LEAF DISEASE of VICTORIA PLUM TREES

The classic signs of Silver Leaf Disease are:

  • A silver sheen to some of the leaves. Consider other causes if the majority of leaves have a silver sheen to them. A closer look at the affected leaves will show that they have nothing on their surface which might be the cause of the apparent colour change. See lower down for the reasons why the leaves turn silver.
  • Some branches may well die back. You may or may not realise it but affected branches will be those which were incorrectly pruned or damaged in the previous year(s).
  • Affected branches may have fungi on them. These look a bit like flat toadstools. They can vary in size and shape. Initially they are a purple coloured but they turn brown in summer.
  • If you cut through an infected branch which is greater than 3cm / 1in wide there will be dark brown marks in the wood. If these aren’t visible try wetting the wood which often makes the brown marks become more visible. These brown marks are the most positive sign of Silver Leaf disease and are rarely caused by anything else.

This disease is more common on Victoria plum trees because over-production of fruit often causes branches to break in late summer / early autumn and if not dealt with immediately the break points provide easy access for the Silver Leaf Disease fungus to enter the wood. For treatment and prevention of this disease read our detailed page here.

PLUM MOTH OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES

The signs of Plum Moth are:

  • Small pinkish maggots inside the plums
  • Dried drops of gum which form near the entry hole
  • Premature fruit drop and discolouration of the plums.

This is a pest which seems to particularly affect Victoria and Czar plum trees. It is not good news because it is particularly difficult to treat. See here for more details.

BROWN ROT OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES

The signs of Brown Rot are:

  • The skin of the affected plums will have grey, small raised bumps on it
  • If you cut into the plum, the flesh will be discoloured and rotting where the bumps are most numerous
  • The fruit will shrivel and fall off.

Brown Rot on a Victoria plum

The sooner you take action the better chance you have of minimising the damage. See here for more specific details about brown rot of plum trees.

POLLINATION PARTNERS FOR VICTORIA PLUM TREES

Victoria plum trees are self-fertile and will produce a more than adequate crop of plums on their own without any other plum trees nearby. If any fruit tree sellers tell you otherwise they will simply be trying to sell you two plum trees where in truth, a single tree of this variety will do fine by itself. However, this variety, in pollination group 3, makes an excellent pollinator for the following other plum trees:

  • Avalon – pollination group 2, partially self-fertile
  • Belle de Louvain – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Blue Tit – pollination group 4, self-fertile
  • Cambridge Gage – pollination group 3, partially self-fertile
  • Coe’s Golden Drop – pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
  • Czar – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Denniston’s Superb – pollination group 2, self-fertile
  • Excalibur – pollination group 2, partially self-sterile
  • Farleigh Damson – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Haganta – pollination group 3, partially self-fertile
  • Herman – pollination group 2, self-fertile
  • Jefferson – pollination group 2, self-sterile
  • King Damson – pollination group 2, self-fertile
  • Langley Bullace – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Merryweather – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Opal – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Reine Claude de Bavay – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Rivers Early Prolific – pollination group 2, partially self-fertile
  • Sanctus Hubertus – pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
  • Shropshire Prune – pollination group 3, self-fertile
  • Warwickshire Drooper – pollination group 2, self-fertile
  • Yellow Pershore – pollination group 2, self-fertile

SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTORIA PLUM TREE

USE: Cooking and eating
SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Deep purple when fully ripe
FLESH COLOUR: Golden orange
TASTE AND TEXTURE: Sweet and juicy when fully ripe
FRUIT SIZE: Medium
TREE SIZE: Average
REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Crops well and regularly
POLLINATION: Self fertile, does not need a pollination partner
POLLINATION GROUP: 3
FULL NAME: Prunus domestica ‘Victoria’
AWARDS: Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit reconfirmed in 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES: Heavy crops of good quality fruit. Good resistance to cold and frosty conditions
FLOWERING AND FRUITING TIMES:
The average flowering time (optimum time for pollination) and date when fruits are ripe in the UK for the Victoria plum tree are set out below. If you have set your home town we can give you a more accurate estimate, if you have not set your home town (do it now by clicking here) the dates below will be the average for the UK.

Your town has not been set, the average main flowering time for your Victoria plum tree in the UK is the third week of April. Fruit will be ready for picking in the third week of August. if you want to set the dates to your home town.

Flowering and fruit picking dates vary according to the weather in any particular growing season so the above dates may well change slightly from one year to the next. The flowering date above is when the plum tree produces the maximum number of blossoms, it will also produce blossom, although less, a week or two either side of the date given.

8 Ways to Use Plums

Plums are just coming into season and will stick around through early fall. When ripe, they’re juicy and sweet, usually with dark skin and pinkish flesh that makes them especially sexy in desserts. Underripe, they’re crisp and a bit puckery, making them delicious in certain savory dishes, from a sauce for meat to a tangy slaw. Here are eight ideas to try with plums.

1. Pickled. Pack plums in jars with a spiced vinegar brine to make pickles that are stellar in cocktails or with roasted pork.

2. Caramelized. Brown plum wedges in a skillet with honey, then add them to a salad or serve over ice cream.

3. Poached. Cook plums in a sweetened wine (rosé is especially lovely), then serve chilled with ice cream or plain cake.

4. Grilled. Brush plums with a little olive oil and grill until charred. Add them to salads, serve them alongside grilled lamb chops or save them for dessert.

5. Sauce. Use underripe plums to make a tangy Georgian (yep, the country) sauce for grilled kebabs or puree them with a red pepper jelly to make a glaze for chicken legs.

6. Dumplings. Fold squares of store-bought puff pastry up and over plums to make a super-simple riff on a Danish.

7. Cake. Cut plums into bite-size pieces and fold into simple cakes, like this one, baked in a cast-iron skillet.

8. Salad. Add sliced plums to a light spinach salad or something more hearty, like couscous with smoked duck. Or thinly slice underripe plums for slaw.

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.

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What Do I Do With All the Plums From My Tree?

  1. Wash plums with water and fruit-wash spray.
  2. Prick the plums twice with the tines of a fork.
  3. Place the plums in 1-pint canning jars.
  4. Pour the boiling syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace — the amount of space between the surface of the food and the top of the jar — in each jar.
  5. Insert a clean plastic spatula or picnic knife into the canning jar between the side of the jar and the food, and turn the jar slowly as you push the implement in and out of the jar to release air bubbles.
  6. Wipe the lids and rims of the jars clean and place the lids, rubber gaskets down, on the jars, followed by screw-on bands to hold the lids in place.
  7. Insert a canner rack in a boiling water canner, fill the canner about half full of water and set it on a burner. Heat the water to about 140 F.
  8. Use a jar lifter to place the jars of fruit on the rack in the canner and add water till the tops of the jars are submerged by at least an inch.
  9. Place the lid on the canner and turn the burner up all the way, heating the water till it boils. Continue boilng for 20 minutes. Keep the canner covered during processing, adding boiling water as needed to keep the tops of the jar lids submerged.
  10. Remove the canner from the burner when the required boiling time is complete and set the lid aside.
  11. Wait five minutes, and then remove the jars from the canner using a jar lifter or wide tongs — ensure you have a good grip on the jars and avoid tilting them.
  12. Set the jars on a thick towel, cooling rack or trivet, and allow them to cool without touching or moving them for 12 to 24 hours. You may hear the lids pop as the jars are cooling, which means they’re sealed.
  13. After the jars have cooled completely, check the lids to make sure they’re sealed: A concave or cupped lid that doesn’t move when you press it with your finger is sealed.

Plum Fruit Thinning – When And How To Thin Plum Trees

When I was growing up, my neighbor had some beautiful old plum trees that he tended to like they were babies. He meticulously shaped and pruned them, and although I was a kid, the fruit was so plump, sweet, juicy and plentiful (yes, we regularly filched them), I couldn’t argue the logic of all his labor. So, why is plum fruit thinning a necessary part of maintaining the trees overall health and just how does one correctly thin plum trees?

Thinning Plum Trees

If you want to promote ample fruit set each year, thinning plum trees is imperative. There are three reasons for plum fruit thinning.

  • The tree will bear larger, sweeter and juicier plums if there are fewer on the tree maturing.
  • Secondly, the enormous weight of too many ripening plums often causes the branches to crack, opening them up to silver leaf disease.
  • Lastly, sometimes plum trees only fruit biennially instead of every year. This is due to the fact that the tree has produced such a copious crop that it’s just plain done and needs an extra season to gather its resources before it can fruit again. Thinning the plum eliminates this problem and promotes annual fruit set.

When to Thin Plum Trees

During the first two to three years, young trees should be trained to develop a branching system or tree canopy able to support the fruit crop and makes it easier to harvest too. Additionally,

it creates an aerated space with as much sunlight penetration as possible. Large fruit is the direct result of strong flower buds that have been grown in full sunlight.

Thereafter, adult trees from 3-10 years are pruned when they are dormant from December to February and during May to August. Now that we know when, the question is how to thin plum trees.

How to Thin Plum Trees

First year dormant pruning can be approached as creating either an open center of modified central leader system. In an open center system, exterior lateral branches are selected and the interior branches are pruned out. Sometimes spreader sticks and branch weights are used to widen the branch angles of the plum scaffold branches. If using a modified central leader system, prune all branches to about twelve inches from the trunk of the tree. The resulting new growth will force some exterior branches to grow laterally and the dense interior branches can be pruned out later.

At the end of May, gradually begin removing some of the immature fruit clusters. This increases the leaf to fruit ratio and removes smaller fruit that would never attain a greater size or quality and, in turn, increase the size of the remaining fruit. Then in July when the fruit is still hard, thin out the plums that are damaged, bruised or diseased as well as those that are too close together. In a perfect world, you should leave around 3 inches between plums.

Leave the identical number of fruit per branch but leave the large ones even if they are spaced a little too close together. Spacing evenly along a branch or leaving one fruit per spur is ideal, but more important is to leave the largest fruit on the tree. No matter how well spaced, small plums will never get as large as big ones no matter how well spaced. You will need to use your best judgment and prune methodically. This may take a couple of years of trial and error before you get it just right, but keep in mind that most home gardeners do not thin enough fruit off so you can pretty much “go for it.”

A final method for thinning plums is interesting. Apparently, you can bang the unripe plums off. Use a 4-foot length of flexible ½-inch PVC pipe or a broom handle with 1-2 feet of garden hose on the end and hit the limbs laden with unripe plums lightly, increasing your force until the unripe plums cascade down. The theory being that once the majority of the small, unripe plums are brought down, the rest will gain in size and ripen more evenly as they mature. As I said, interesting.

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