When Does A Plum Tree Produce Fruit?


If you recently planted plum trees in your yard, you may not have any fruit on the trees just yet.  In that case, you are probably wondering when plum trees bear fruit, and if there is anything you can do to help them along.

So, when does a plum tree bear fruit?  A plum tree will produce fruit between June and September, after blooming in late winter to early spring.  A plum tree will produce fruit 3 to 6 years after planting, and dwarf varieties will produce fruit 2 to 5 years after planting.

Of course, depending on the variety of plum tree you plant, it may take a longer time for your tree to begin producing fruit.  Other factors such as improper pruning, over fertilization, and environmental conditions can all delay the growth of fruit on your plum tree.  Let’s take a closer look at plum trees, when they bear fruit, and the factors that can affect your harvest.

When Does A Plum Tree Produce Fruit?

Depending on the variety, a plum tree (Prunus domestica) can bear fruit as early as June and as late as September.  The pink or white flowers on a plum tree will appear in late winter to early spring.

plum blossoms
Plum blossoms can be brilliant pink, as shown here, or white.

Some varieties of plum trees are self-pollinating, and others are not.  Keep in mind that self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination – more on this later.

Do Plum Trees Produce Fruit Every Year?

No, plum trees do not produce fruit every year.  Most plum trees will need 3 to 6 years after planting before they grow to maturity and start producing fruit.  Dwarf varieties may start producing fruit 1 year sooner than standard varieties of plum trees.

red plums
Some varieties of plum trees will yield red fruit when they are mature enough.

Remember that problems like frost injury of flowers, over pruning of branches, and over fertilization of the tree can delay fruiting on a plum tree by a year or more.

Also remember that if you plant a seed harvested from a plum tree, you may end up growing a tree that will never bear fruit.  To ensure production on plum trees grown from seed (stones), choose an established tree from a nursery.

For more information, check out my article on the difference between organic and heirloom seeds and my article on the pros and cons of hybrid seeds.

Remember that in some cases, you will see what is called “biennial bearing” in your plum trees.  This means that they will only flower and produce fruit every other year.

Often, this will happen after a year of very heavy fruit production.  Essentially, the tree’s resources are exhausted from using so many nutrients to produce a large harvest.  The tree then takes a year to recover its strength and prepare for production the following year.

If you want to avoid biennial bearing, use fruit thinning on your plum trees.  Fruit thinning is when you cut off fruit in the early stages, so that there is one plum every 4 to 6 inches along a branch.  This practice also helps to avoid broken branches on your tree due to the weight of excessive plums.

Generally, Japanese varieties of plum trees will need fruit thinning, but European and American Hybrid varieties do not.

Biennial bearing is more common in younger trees, and it may mean that you miss a year of fruit here and there.  Of course, there could be other reasons that your plum harvest is poor or nonexistent – more on this later.

For more information, check out this article on time to fruit for trees from the Stark Brothers website.

How Much Fruit Does A Plum Tree Produce?

Generally, a mature Japanese variety plum tree can produce 2 to 4 bushels (100 to 200 pounds, or 45 to 91 kilograms) of fruit per year.  A dwarf Japanese plum tree can produce 1/2 to 2 bushels (25 to 100 pounds, or 11 to 45 kilograms) of fruit per year.

yellow plum
Standard varieties of plum trees can produce up to 300 pounds (European) or 200 pound (Japanese) of fruit per year. Dwarf varieties will produce less fruit.

Generally, a mature European variety plum tree can produce 3 to 6 bushels (150 to 300 pounds, or 68 to 136 kilograms) of fruit per year.  A dwarf European plum tree can produce 1 to 2 bushels (50 to 100 pounds, or 23 to 45 kilograms) of fruit per year.

Note: a bushel of plums weighs 50 pounds.  For more information, check out this article from the Stark Brothers website on estimated yields for fruit trees.

The fruit on a plum tree can be red, yellow-green, or purple with sweet or tangy flesh and plenty of juice.  Plum trees can live for 20 to 30 years, and grow to a height of 18 to 25 feet for standard varieties (dwarf plum trees can grow to 8 to 10 feet tall, with a similar width).

For more information, check out this article on Dwarf Plum Trees on the Stark Brothers website.

What Kind Of Plum Tree Should I Plant?

When selecting a plum tree, make sure to choose one that you can grow in your climate!  For more information, check out the USDA Zone Hardiness Map to see what zone you are in.

There are a few basic types of plum trees: Japanese, European, and American Hybrids.  Plum trees can also be classified according to whether they are self-pollinating or if they require cross-pollination.

Some plum trees are self-pollinating, meaning the flower contains both male and female parts.

purple plums
Some plum trees are self-pollinating, meaning the flower contains both male and female parts.

The first three plum trees on this list require cross-pollination, and so they need more than one tree to produce fruit.  The last three plum trees on this list are self-pollinating (more on this later).

Do You Need Two Plum Trees To Produce Fruit?

It depends on the plum tree you choose.  For self-pollinating varieties of plum trees, you only need one tree to get fruit on the tree.  This may be preferable if you have limited space in your yard.

bee on blueberry flower
Bees can help to cross-pollinate self-unfruitful plum trees in your yard.

For self-unfruitful varieties of plum trees, the trees need cross-pollination with another plum tree of a different variety to produce fruit.  This means that if you choose to plant self-unfruitful plum trees, you will need two plum trees, each of a different variety, in order to get fruit.

For more information, check out this article on plum trees from Wikipedia.

What Other Factors Affect Fruit On Plum Trees?

The quality of care that you give your plum trees will help to decide how much fruit you get each year.  Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

Temperature

Most varieties of plum trees can survive winters up to Zone 5.  They can survive as far south as Zones 7, 8, or 9 depending on the variety.

The reason plums may not survive further south is because they require a certain number of chilling hours in the winter.  Plum trees may require between 500 and 1000 chilling hours in the winter.  A chilling hour is an hour between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 degrees Celsius).

If a plum tree does not get enough chilling hours, it will not break dormancy in the spring. This will lead to a complete lack of flowers and fruit that year.

One other hazard to your plum harvest is a late spring frost.  A cold snap after plum tree breaks dormancy in the spring can kill all of the flowers on the tree.

This may be frustrating if you live in a warm area, but it is nature’s way of protecting the tree.  If the tree flowers too early during a mild winter, a late spring frost can kill all of the flowers and destroy any chance of a plum harvest that year.

Before purchasing plum trees online, make sure that your climate gets enough chilling hours in the winter to produce fruit, while also staying warm enough to keep the tree alive.

Watering

Avoid letting the soil get too dry for too long if you have young plum trees.  If you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on preventing dry soil.

On the other hand, over watering can spell death for your plum tree, due to root rot or fungal diseases.  For more information, check out my article on over watering.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your plum trees!

You can also check out this article from the Stark Brother website on watering plum trees.

For older plum trees, give them deep, infrequent waterings.  This stimulates the root system to grow deeper and wider, rather than remaining shallow and staying near the surface of the soil.  This will help the tree to survive periods of drought or neglect.

Fertilizing

Before you plant a plum tree or stone, add some compost to your soil.  It will provide organic material and nutrients for your tree as it grows.  The best part is that you can make compost yourself from ordinary yard and kitchen waste!

compost bin
Compost is a great way to add organic material and nutrients to your soil, without risking fertilizer burn.

For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.

It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement to compost, in order to provide extra nutrients if you soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.

For more information, check out my article on soil testing.

Finally, remember that it is possible to harm or kill your plum trees by over fertilizing them.  For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your plum tree from producing any fruit.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Generally, you will want to fertilize no later than July.  For more information, check out this article on fertilizing plum trees on the Stark Brothers website.

Pruning

Heavy annual pruning is recommended for plum trees.  Fruit thinning can help to prevent broken branches or biennial bearing (fruit every other year).

Pruning should be done in spring or summer.  When pruning, use 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock pruning angles.

Pruning needs may vary depending on the variety of plum tree (Japanese or European).  For more information, check out this article from the Old Farmer’s Almanac on pruning plum trees.

You can also check out this article on pruning plum trees from the Stark Brothers website.

Conclusion

By now, you have a good idea of when plum trees are mature enough to produce fruit, and what time of year to expect fruit (June to September).  You also know a bit more about how to take care of plum trees and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions or advice about plum trees, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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