Japanese Plum Tree

Guidelines For Growing A Japanese Plum Tree


Prunus Salicina is the botanical name for the Japanese plum tree, but prunus is a more apt name for the European plum -- it is the one from which prunes are made (i.e. dried plums).  There is a 3rd type of plum tree related to the Japanese, known as a Japanese-American hybrid.  It is a cross with American wild plums, bearing smaller fruit and extremely cold tolerant, but not as easy to cross-pollinate as the standard Japanese plum.

Japanese plums are very juicy, and one of the largest of all plums, as well as the best for eating.  They have just the right sweetness, with some acidity. Grown in USDA zones four to nine, these plums are valued primarily as a fresh fruit, not for drying, canning, or making puddings or pies, however many of the over 26 varieties are used in cooking.

Of the many varieties, listed below are some that will fruit without cross-pollination,  followed by some that require a male and female to bare fruit.


Golden Nectar – extra large fruit and very sweet

Catalina, kelsey (a bit dry), and nubiana – all 3 have large sweet fruit, the nubiana is good for cooking

Burgundy – small, excellent for canning or fresh

Methley, Santa Rosa and autumn rosa - all of these do well without intense winter chill, usually bear medium size fruit.

Late Santa Rosa – flavor is both sweet and tart, fruit is medium size

Require cross-pollination (Next to each are the types it can cross-pollinate with)

Laroda (large and juicy)  - burgundy, Santa Rosa

Howard Miracle (more acid flavor than most Japanese plums, but still excellent for eating) – wickson or Santa Rosa

Friar (large, sweet, vigorous growth) – Santa Rosa

Wickson (used for jams and jellies) – beauty, Santa Rosa

Burbank (valued for greater resistant to cold than most Japanese plums) – beauty, Santa Rosa

Starting a Sapling:

Once you get your new plum tree home, follow these steps to get it established:

Site in a full sun location

Make a hole three times bigger than its root ball,  loosen dirt of root ball and put in the ground.  Fill with potting soil. 

Water weekly, or more if leaves are turning brown.

Japanese plum trees can be as tall as twenty feet.  They tend to get very tall and thin if left alone, so they must be pruned extensively once a year to remain healthy and productive. Don’t be afraid of pruning.  Mistakes in pruning technique will not kill the tree.  It will correct with new growth.  On the other hand, failure to prune could mean very small or no plums.

Generally, plums are so plentiful that the fruit must be thinned out  to keep the tree from breaking under its own weight.  These trees are not greatly troubled with fungus and insect invasions, as are peaches, but do need some attention. 

While dormant, treat with a mix of lime sulfur and horticulture oil; this controls both brown rot and pests. It will take some commitment to grow a Japanese plum tree, but the years of great eating, and the healthy nutrients in this fruit, will be more than worth it.



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