Plum Tree Species: A World of Drupes

Plums are some of the most valuable plants in the home orchard. The plums ripen between May and September, depending on the variety and zone, and have a sweetness and tartness that grimaces and makes the taste buds dance with joy. Home gardeners and epic homesteaders looking to add a plum tree to the garden should find a variety that is right for their area and growing area.

There are three main types of plums. Some of the most common plums found in the United States are European plums, but Asian plums are quickly catching up with varieties as juicy as the Santa Rosa plum. Equally impressive is the American plum, a sturdy bush or small tree native to North America that is the most disease- and pest-resistant variety of them all.

Depending on your garden area, you should choose trees with the characteristics you want. Plum trees can be broken down by growth zone, fruiting season, size and color, whether they need cross-pollination and whether the fruits are eaten ripe or either preserved by canning or drying. All types of plums are suitable for trellises, so that people with limited space can also grow plums!

European plums are known to have firmer flesh and are slightly smaller than Asian plums. European plums are great for pickling and turning into plums. There are several varieties that are great for both fresh consumption and storage, whether dehydrated or canned. Asian plums are slightly larger and their trees are known for their rapid vertical growth. Because these plums take fewer hours to cool, they are becoming increasingly popular in warmer climates.

While most plum trees bear within 3-5 years, many plum trees need another plum friend nearby to get any harvest. This is a relationship known as cross-pollination, where the pollen from one flower crosses with the pollen from another flower on another tree. This reliance on cross-pollination is a good reason to have multiple varieties in your garden. Possibly even varieties that grow at different times of the year.

European plum trees

The Golden Drop plum tree from Coe is a very old variety. Source: trickypup

There are dozens of European plum varieties that have been domesticated here in the United States. Although many of them have been grafted onto native rhizomes to prevent diseases common in the United States, they still retain their classically European taste and properties. These prunes are also the only prunes that are usually dried to make prunes.

Coe's golden drop

This well-known plum is a medium to large elongated fruit with a golden to reddish-red exterior and a golden interior. This well-known plum is the most popular of the European plums. With its intense flavor when eaten ripe, it's easy to see why. Particularly famous in its native Europe, this variety does well in zones 5-9 and ripens late, usually in October. Like many of the older plum varieties, it needs a nearby flowering plum for cross-pollination. Growing to a height of about 10 feet in full sun, with a spread of about the same, makes this a great option for a smaller home garden. With white flowers in spring and beautiful autumn colors, this can also be grown as an ornamental plant.


The Stanley plum is a great option for home cooks. Although often enjoyed fresh, this large plum with its purple-black skin and yellow flesh is great for canning and drying. It's a sweet and juicy mid-season crop that grows best in zones 5-7. As a self-fruiting variety that grows up to 18 feet with a spread of only 10 feet, it's a great option for a smaller garden.


The Italian plum or Prunus domestica & # 39; Italian & # 39; produces a beautiful, classic, medium-sized, dark purple fruit. This slightly oval tree with yellowish-green flesh is particularly beautiful because it produces continuously from late summer to autumn. Because this strain also blooms late, it's a great choice for gardeners looking for fruit trees that can withstand a late frost.

This strain is also known for being a relatively low maintenance option, with the added benefit of having fruit that will store well after harvest. It's also known for making some of the tastiest, meatiest plums!


Another traditional variety, the fruits of this tree look almost pear-shaped. However, with the traditional dark purple exterior and amber colored flesh, they can never be mistaken for anything other than a plum tree! This variety has long been grown to make plums. Eaten fresh, canned, baked, dried or cooked into chutneys, this French variety was once valued almost as much as salt for its versatility and importance in fruitless winters. This option grows best in zones 5-9 with a late harvest time and is a delight for any home reader.

Seneca plum

This variety is a very large plum and has adapted very well to the northeastern US climate. This late producer grows in zones 5-9 and produces a Freestone plum (i.e., with the classic purple exterior and yellow interior, this plum is known as a disease resistant variety, but needs a nearby plum for cross-pollination.


The President plum is the last fully grown plum. It has a blue shell with a yellow inside and is quite large for a plum. A great choice for fall, with ripe fruits ripening in September, is great for the last ripe fruits of the year and also for processing for winter and the following spring. She needs a pollinator and produces well when blooming near Empress or Italian varieties. Often sold on myrobalan plum backing in the US,

Asian plum trees

Blue plum treeBlue damson plums are easy to spot around the world. Source: Girl stopped eating

Although often referred to as "Japanese plums," Asian plum trees are often Chinese plums imported through trade with Japan. These fruit trees grow across much of Asia and have a long history as beautiful and delicious plants. Asian varieties as a group are particularly vigorous breeders and need more pruning in winter. Japanese plums make up most of the fresh plum market around the world.

Blue damson

This sweet and juicy plum is a self-fruiting, small edible fruit with a purplish-black exterior and a yellow interior. Some may think of it as a completely different species from a plum (P. insititia). Called Blue Damson because of its links to the ancient city of Damascus, it has been passed down through generations for thousands of years because of its sweet and tart tastes and large late harvests. A resilient grower who can tolerate most types of soil will do best in zones 5-7.

Red beauty plum

With a dark red, almost magenta colored exterior and a yellowish interior, the Red Beauty Plum is a wonderful early variety plum to add to the orchard. It is sweet and sour and therefore very aromatic. An evenly round fruit that is usually the first plum variety to show life and ripen in spring. Growing well in zones 5 to 9 and bearing fruit in around 3 years, this is an all-round favorite.

Sprite cherry plum

The Prunus salicina x Prunus cerasifera, a cross between a cherry and a Japanese plum, this small and fertile variety is known for its exotic qualities. It has a very cute black exterior and an amber interior. While delicious straight from the tree, they can also be canned or used in cooking. Viable in zones 4-9 and ripening in midsummer, this exotic strain can really wow diners at dinner!

Myrobalan plum (also known as cherry plum)

The Myrobalans are very large growing trees that are mostly found on homesteads or large properties that use trees as a hedge between the farm and nature or other neighbors. They are known for their beautiful purple blooms, wild nature, and tiny plums. They bloom in late winter and early spring. Cherry plums are like the crab apples of the plum world. They are quite an old variety and are often overlooked in favor of a more popular and larger variety. Although less sweet than other strains, they make fantastic jams and jellies and produce huge harvests when they are mature. While a little tricky to prune, some give up pruning and find that they still get big harvests. They grow best in zones 5-8.


The simka plum is a delicious and dark black plum. Although self-fertile, it has an improved crop size when grown near another plum. They are loved for the heart-shaped plums, which range in color from green to yellow to bright red. While it is a very beautiful tree in and of itself due to its attractive flowers and leaves, it has the added benefit of bearing edible fruit!

This fruit is larger than many of its juicer cousins ​​and is mainly used for ripe fruit. This tree, which grows in zones 5-9, needs a harder pruning than many are used to.

Santa pink

Despite its name, this variety is domesticated from a Japanese plum! It was domesticated in Burbank, California by the famous gardener Luther Burbank. It has a deep, rich taste with a slight acidity in the skin. The beautiful dark red skin is offset by the amber interior and relatively small size. While not often found in grocery stores due to the plums' small size and inability to hold during transport, it is widely a favorite among Zone 10 gardeners (including me! ) famous. A midsummer producer that does well in zones 5-10.


The Wickson plum tree is a US-made hybrid that was crossed from Prunus salicina and Prunus simonii, making it a Japanese variety. With a long-lasting harvest in the mid-season, this greenish-yellow fruit has a mild taste and a firm yellow interior that is excellent for preserving. A self-pollinating variety that does well in zones 6-9 and ripens in midsummer.

Autumn pink

A late ripening plum, similar to the famous Santa Rosa, this large, purple and self-fruiting plum bears in August and September and is therefore the later version of the Santa Rosa. Best in zones 5-9, this tree grows 15-20 tall and wide and is usually eaten freshly picked rather than preserved. Although prone to some diseases, it does well in sandy soils and has attractive and fragrant flowers.


The Satsuma or Prunus cerasifera is most commonly eaten straight from the tree. This juicy crop is deep red in color both inside and out and is extremely popular for its flavor. A semi-dwarf strain that is great for growing in containers. This is a smaller tree that only grows to a height of about 3.2 feet by 3 feet wide. With attractive flowers and leaves, this tree can also be grown as an ornamental plant. When planting a Satsuma plum, find a location without strong winds and in full sun. This tree can lose its flowers in strong winds and not fully mature if it lacks the sugar-producing sunlight. Another option for growers with a garden in zone 10, this tree will thrive in zones 5-10.

American plum trees

Prunus americanaPrunus americana, the wild American plum, is also a beautiful tree. Source: Matt Lavin

The elusive American plum is no less interesting than its continental cousins. Although the American plum is not as well known, it has a long history of hearty growth and excellent taste.

Chickasaw plum

Chickasaw plum trees do well in the warmer climates of the American South. This Florida native Prunus angustifolia thrives where others need more cold. Blooming on last year's wood, this impressive specimen can grow up to 25 feet tall with a width of 12 feet. Great for growers in zones 5-9.

American plum

The American plum or Prunus americana is native to the American east coast. A great option for people with long cold spells and those who live on the prairie, this strain will tolerate almost any soil. At an impressive 30 feet tall, if not pruned, this plant will form thickets more often than the traditional single-stemmed tree. Very resistant to diseases, with wonderfully fragrant flowers, this plant needs a cross-pollinator. Depending on your zone, you can expect plums from late July to September.

Blooming plum trees

Prunus atropurpureaPrunus atropurpurea is a stunningly blooming specimen of plum. Source: bradywahl

Not all plum trees are grown for their food. Many plum trees have particularly colorful blooms. While some produce edible fruits, others are grown almost entirely for their showy flowers and beautiful leaves. The most popular is the Prunus atropurpurea, commonly known as the flowering plum.

Prunus atropurpurea

This plant is a small deciduous tree that reaches a height of about 20 feet and a width of 15-20 feet. This plant can be seen from afar! With showy white and pink flowers in early spring, this variety then produces dark purple leaves that turn red in autumn. This tree is incredible in color and is widely used as an ornamental plant. While the blossoms of this tree eventually turn into small red fruits, the fruits are edible but not very coveted in taste.

frequently asked Questions

Q: Where do plum trees grow best?

A: Plum trees grow best in USDA Zones 4-10 with abundant soil and plenty of cool hours for their particular variety.

Q: How long does it take to grow a plum tree?

A: On average, it takes 3-5 years for a tree to produce plums, but a few more years before a ripe harvest is possible.

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