In this article you will find out how to prune plum trees. One of
several articles on how to prune fruit trees. Pruning plum trees
is straightforward, once the trees are established, and consists
mainly of thinning out overcrowded wood. Some rather more
detailed pruning is, however, necessary in the early years, in
order to build up a suitable framework.
How to prune plum trees - Maiden tree
If a maiden tree is planted, that is, a tree within one year of
budding or grafting, pruning may be carried out in the Spring,
after deciding on tree form. Generally plums will be grown as
half-standards having a main stem about 4 ft. in length, before
the branch system.
An open centre is aimed at, the main branch system forming the
outside, with young wood filling in the interior. This method of
forming the half standard tree can also be used for Apples and
Assuming a maiden tree has been purchased, this would be planted
in the Autumn and, later on, when the tree has settled down, and
you are wondering how to prune plum trees, it should be pruned to
a bud, 9 to 12 inches above the height of the lowest branch
In the following season shoots will grow from buds below the top,
and the most suitable are left, ensuring that they are well
spaced and at a wide angle to the stem. Other shoots are removed,
leaving about 5 or so which will form the main branch system.
The top bud will grow strongly; this can be offset by making a
nick below it with a knife, forcing more growth into the lower
buds. Wide angled branches can be encouraged by making small
notches in the bark above selected buds; the topmost shoot can be
removed later. Any growth arising below the position of the
lowest branch should merely be shortened for the first year or
two before removing, as they assist in thickening the stem.
The selected branches are subsequently pruned to a suitable
outward pointing bud, during the first year or two, one third to
one half of the new wood being removed; afterwards this is
reduced to mere tipping which is discontinued altogether
eventually. The tree will consist of 6 to 7 well-spaced main
branches, growing from them and lateral growths which will form
the bulk of the fruiting wood.
How to prune plum trees - 2 or 3-year-old
If the tree has been purchased as a 2 or 3-year-old, it is advisable to defer pruning
for one year after planting. The branch system of such a tree will already have been formed. After the framework of the tree has been formed, subsequent pruning will consist of cutting out dead and diseased wood, badly placed wood crossing, or too upright growth, and ensuring that the growth remaining is well spaced.
How to prune plum trees - Drooping varieties
Certain varieties have a drooping habit. Although during the
early years this factor need not influence pruning unduly, as the
tree becomes established the drooping tendency will be more
It will be necessary to prune branch leaders to an
upward-pointing bud, and not to an outward one, as in upright
growing varieties. Similarly, lower branches will hang down, and
may have to be shortened eventually to a more suitable subsidiary
How to prune plum trees - Silver Leaf Disease
This serious disease of Plums enters the tissues through open
wounds and cuts. It is able to do so during the winter and most
readily infects wood through large cuts which expose the heart.
During the formation period of the tree, pruning can be carried
out in the early Spring, as cuts are relatively small.
On established trees, however, it is better to defer pruning
until late Spring or Summer, and to perform this operation during
dry weather, especially where large wounds are made.
The natural gums exuded at this time assist healing. Broken
branches should be sawn off neatly, and all large wounds
protected with white lead paint. Always use a sharp, curved blade
knife, or a good pair of secateurs, for pruning. Avoid "jagged"
cuts, which can lead to damage, and do not cut too closely to the
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