HOW TO PLANT A PLUM TREE
By David Marks
Plum trees are extremely hardy plants and can be grown in all areas of the UK. The previous page has helped you select the correct plum tree for your garden, this page will help you to plant your tree at the correct time and in the best place.
The first factor to consider is where to plant your plum tree. They tolerate a wide range of conditions but some soil conditions are better than others. Timing is not crucial but again, some times of the year are better than others. The method of planting is important especially the depth.
WHERE TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
Plum trees prefer a soil with lots of body in in it, loam or clay soils are best. If your soil is sandy and / or light then add lots of organic material prior to planting. This will fill out the soil and help it retain moisture and nutrients. Avoid water-logged soils, they are cold and damp in winter and your plum tree will not provide its best in those conditions.
The site of a plum tree is less important than the soil conditions, but they will do better in an open and sunny site. Having said that, some varieties such as Belle de Louvain will tolerate partial shade very well. Protection from strong winds is good, especially at pollination time. The reason for this is that insects, bees in particular, stay well-tucked up when strong winds are blowing, and you need lots of bees and other insects to ensure good pollination.
WHEN TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
Any time of year is fine to plant your plum tree as long as you can provide it with a good supply of moisture for the first year while it is establishing a good root system. There is a best time however and that is in the early winter. At this time of year the soil will still be warm from the summer and autumn months but at the same time the soil will be naturally moist from the early winter rain.
Natural rain water is best for your plum tree and in winter you don’t need to be continually thinking if your newly planted plum tree is loosing too much moisture from hot sun.
HOW TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
It’s a good idea to prepare the soil a month or so in advance although this can be done at the time of planting. Dig over the area adding as much well-rotted organic material as you can. A few handfuls of bonemeal or blood, fish and bone fertiliser worked into the soil will also provide a long-lasting supply of nutrients.
To plant a container grown plum tree dig out a hole slightly larger than the pot and plant the tree so that the soil on the tree is level with the soil on the ground. Fill in with soil around the root ball and firm it down. Water well.
If planting a bare-rooted tree then dig out a hole large enough to take the roots spread out. Then place the tree roots in the hole and start to fill round with soil. The tree should be planted to the same depth as it was previously – a soil line should be visible on the main stem about 5cm to 10cm below the join (see here for picture). Never plant the tree with the join below the soil level.
All newly planted plum trees will need a stake to support them in the first three years of their life. Drive the stake into the ground about 15cm / 6in from the main trunk and then tie the trunk securely to the stake. The “ties” are best bought from a garden centre. If string or thin ties are used these may well cut into the bark of the plum tree and this can be a site for fungal infection.
When your plum tree is planted it is best to read the instructions which came with it and follow those as far as first year pruning is concerned. If you have no instructions we suggest pruning a one year old plum tree to a height of about 1m / 3ft. When you do this it is very important to make sure that at least two buds (preferably three) are left below the pruning point. It is from these buds that the main branches will grow. If there are no buds below the 1m height (unlikely) then prune to a higher point so that the buds are present.
If your new plum tree is a two year old then the main branches will already have developed significantly. For both one and two year old new trees see our page specially devoted to pruning both new and established plum trees for much more detail and some useful pictures.
TRANSPLANTING AND MOVING PLUM TREES
Not much is written about transplanting established plum trees, probably because most people never do it. However, if you are moving house then you may well want to move your plum tree with you.
Our experience shows that a three year old plum tree on either Pixy or St Julien A rootstock can be successfully moved. We did this a couple of years ago and the tree is now producing plums. We moved the tree in December when it was dormant (essential) and although all the plums dropped in the first year after moving, the plum tree re-established itself and produced plums in second and subsequent years after moving.
Dig out the soil to contain as much of the root-ball as you can carry and ensure the soil stays on the roots. If the tree is three or more years old then inevitably you will need to cut through some roots but take as large a root-ball as is possible. Replant to the same level in the soil as previously and water well if the soil is dry.
COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS
We have moved the Plum Tree comments and questions section to its own page which can be visited by clicking here. On that page you can view all the previously asked questions / answers / comments and also ask any new questions of your own.
The questions and answers page contains a large amount of additional information about plum tree problems.